Following news that Amazon Prime Now’s private hire delivery drivers have been overworked due to skyrocketing demand since the service was launched in Singapore a few days ago, the organisation has now resorted to partnering with taxi services to make deliveries.
The new collaboration with taxi companies like ComfortDelGro and Transcab is expected to give a new lease of life to taxi operators who have not been doing well amid stiff competition from private-hire car services like Uber and Grab.
However, Land Transport Authority has stated that the use of taxis and private-hire cars may be illegal. Asserting that taxi and private-hire car drivers are not permitted to be couriers for goods if they do not ferry a passenger, an LTA spokesman said:
“Under our regulations, taxis and private-hire cars are meant to carry passengers for hire and reward, and cannot be used solely for the conveyance of goods. However, passengers who hire a taxi or a private-hire car are allowed to carry goods with them.”
According to mainstream media reports, LTA did not comment on the penalties for infringement, or whether any such driver has been penalised for delivering goods without passengers.
Taxi giant ComfortDelGro confirmed that its drivers do make deliveries on behalf of companies like Amazon Prime Now but denied that drivers flout rules by maintaining that delivery goods are always accompanied by a passenger.
Alhough Premier Taxi managing director Lim Chong Boo said they “remind our drivers that they are not allowed to perform courier services without anyone on board,” he acknowledged that it is “very difficult” for such regulations to be enforced since there are about 26,000 taxis and more than 40,000 chauffeured private-hire cars in Singapore.
Neo Nam Heng, chairman of Prime Taxi, boldly said that he encourages drivers in his fleet to take such bookings especially during off-peak hours: “I have encouraged all the drivers of my fleet of 1,500 taxis to take up such bookings.”
Drivers have expressed interest in making deliveries for companies like Amazon Prime Now, in spite of rigid regulations.
48-year-old taxi driver Henry Tay said:
“Previously, there was a fear that what we delivered would be contraband or drugs. But now, with an established company like Amazon, we feel it is quite safe. The taxi business is getting slow, so cabbies need to do something to supplement their earnings.”
Tan Ee Hsing, a 41-year old private-hire car driver said that while he has not made any deliveries himself, he has recommended about 200 local drivers to approach Amazon’s hiring agent Adecco for jobs:
“The rates these delivery companies pay are generally higher than what drivers make from passenger fares.”
It is unclear whether Amazon Prime Now’s delivery arrangement with taxi services is temporary or permanent as of now but it may prove to be one that allows the taxi industry an opportunity to adapt itself to the rapidly evolving consumer economy.