Friday, January 25, 2008

How much do cabbies really earn?

"It was a figure that raised eyebrows and drew incredulous reactions from some taxi drivers as well as commuters — leading ComfortDelGro to yesterday clarify a mistaken impression.

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Raymond Lim had said in Parliament that a study of 5,000 taxis by the largest taxi operator here revealed that each generated $318 in daily average takings, up from $307 after last month's fare hike.

On Internet forums, one netizen did the calculation that cabbies "earn $9,858 before expenses" each month, leaving some aghast, while others wondered if the data provided was correct.

And it was, but as ComfortDelGro has since clarified, $318 accounts for a taxi's takings over two shifts.

With most taxis shared between two drivers, to defray costs and working hours, the average daily takings for each cabbie — before deducting rent and petrol costs — would work out to $159. Minus expenses, this would mean the average driver pockets about $85 a day.

"We have over 30,000 drivers and there will definitely be drivers who earn more than the average and those that earn less," said ComfortDelGro spokeswoman Tammy Tan.

"It is still early days yet and we are still monitoring the situation closely to gauge demand."

Even so, some taxi drivers that Today spoke to thought the estimate was a tad too optimistic.

"It's tough to even make $70 a day now after we fork out rent and petrol," said Mr Maurice Goh.

"It didn't use to be like this before the revision."

Another driver, Mr Ong Eng Chuan, 72, insisted that his takings have dropped by as much as 20 per cent. "No matter what they say, people are still avoiding taking taxis, unless they really need to," he said.

Another taxi operator, however, told Today it had conducted its own survey and interviews with cabbies, and the results were not too far from ComfortDelGro's findings.

Premier Taxis' managing director Lim Chong Boo, who has a fleet of 2,400 taxis, said: "The results are close to what the Minister revealed".

While declining to be more precise, he noted: "We found out that some took home more after the revision, while some took home about the same as before but were making fewer trips."

There were also those who made less money because they spent their time "sitting in coffeeshops", said Mr Lim. "This is a time where you can separate the good drivers from the rest."

Singapore's second-largest cab company SMRT Taxis, with 3,000 vehicles on the road, declined to say if it had studied its drivers' takings. But spokeswoman said the company frequently meets its cabbies in dialogue sessions and will continue to monitor the situation.

At least one taxi driver that Today spoke to, however, agreed he has benefited from the fare revision.

Mr Ho Kin Hwa, 49, who has been driving for five years, said his takings have improved by $10 to $15 a day, even as he is now making fewer trips.

The father of two drives a 15-hour full shift daily, for five days a week. On Saturdays and Sundays, he drives nine hours a day and shares the vehicle with a relief driver.

For Mr Ho, the math is simple: "It's tiring but the more I drive, the more I earn."
"

Source, todayonline.com

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