When Cab Driving Isn't Even a Viable Option

When I took a cab from Taman something Melodies in JB, I allowed the cabby to quote me a price to take me to JB Sentral. The Malay man said, "10 Ringit," and I hopped on.

After some silence in the cab I finally broke the silence and asked, "Abang, why sometimes I take cab $6, sometimes $7 sometimes $10?" My driver was visibly slightly taken aback by my sudden question, which seemed like challenging his professionalism. So he replied, "Ah.... I asked you if $10 is ok or not only. You can say no if you find it too high." He seemed disturbed and showed it.

"Don't worry 'bang, I said $10, means $10. Just asking only."

Then he loosened up and began to fill me in with how hard life as a cabby was by throwing the statistics at me. I guessed there wasn't much difference between Singapore and Malaysia cabbies in this aspect. Abang's texsi rental was RM60 and his daily petrol cost was around RM100. I told him Singapore cabbies were not having it easier because their cab rental was an average of $110, though their daily petrol cost was significantly lower at around $40. They will both require about 10-12 passengers who pay about 10 bucks to break even for the day before any profit can be earned. At the Singapore side, cabbies rely on a complicated surcharge system make ends meet and at the Malaysia side, they cannot rely on the meter but their own haggling skills.

Then coincidentally I read an update from a friend that her dad, who drives a taxi, will see his rental rates increase from S$103 to S$163 soon, if not already. Wow. That's the 60% increase in rental. Seriously, I thought the housing rental rates in Western Australia has been rocketing through the roof at a ridiculous rate until this. If a Singapore cabby still clocks about 40 bucks on fuel per day, that will bring his total daily overheads to S$200. Since taxi drivers are not entitled annual or sick leave by their companies, they will be expected to pay rental every day whether they drive or not. That change makes the Singapore cabby worse off than their Malaysia counterpart for sure.

While that is a little better than slavery, the total outlay of S$6,000 per month in rental and fuel may offer Singapore cabbies better luck elsewhere if they bring that $S6,000 per month elsewhere to the regional countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia or the Philippines. One may even have a chance to own a humble fleet of taxis eventually. Even selling Char Kway Teow may have a lesser chance of getting bankrupted by your air-conditioned mobile money trap.

Most of us Singaporeans are already resigned to our fates if our careers take a wrong turn at the wrong age at the wrong time. An unemployed Singaporean man can only turn to the Big Four sources for jobs. Namely Security guard, Mc Donald's, Recycling scavengers and Taxi drivers or SMRT in short. Now, even the Big Four seems shaky and the feasibility or falling back on them is diminishing. Nothing, it seems, last forever. We gotta prepare ourselves and spend less on Hello Kitties.


  1. There's difference between sinkies & mudland cabbies. As a cyclist, taxis in sillypore are considered most dangerous. They drive fast to make $$ to cover the killer rent. I need to watch out for people near road curb waving for taxis as i know a taxi might be behind or suddenly cut in front of me to pick up the passenger.

    Taxi drivers in mudland have more pride as their names are written on the doors. Is like a sense of ownership. In Sillypore, drivers just display a small company driver pass - interchangeable drivers (where's sense of ownership?).

    Is a tragic scene where independent taxis close to extinction. Big taxi companies enjoying economies of scales yet gourging on public.

  2. We also encounter morally unethical passenger who cheated on their booking fees by cancelling their calls and then flag the taxis that were called by them. They will reap what they sow without fail. There are those who evade paying their fares and they are the serial perpetrators. Judgment will almost be certain. The police "push" these offenders to the taxi companies to handle and to the LTA/PTC etc. No where in the world that justice is being channeled to the citizens to uphold the laws. It pit the public against the public. The police has been successful in getting the insurance companies to handle accident cases that result in higher premium for motoring insurance. The police has also been successful in getting auxiliary police to shoulder many traffic violation like parking, industrial escort, crowd control etc. The authority fail to understand that responsibilities and ownership cannot be delegated to other except themselves who must personally shoulder. Law and order must only be done by and through the authorities and cannot be outsourced.