LTA will work with operators and introduce measures to ensure the introduced courier service does not affect commuter services.
LTA to minimise impact of Grab couriers on commuters Following Grab's launch of its GrabExpress courier service, ComfortDelGro said it is in the early stages of exploring the same. PHOTO: ST FILE

A growing number of ride-hailing and taxi drivers are expected to take on courier jobs during off-peak periods, but commuters need not worry about this affecting the number of rides available.

Following Grab's launch of such a service, ComfortDelGro said it is in the early stages of exploring the same. SMRT Taxis, Gojek and Tada said they are open to all options that would help increase drivers' income.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) stressed that steps will be taken to ensure minimal impact on commuters.

Last week, it approved Grab's proposal for a six-month trial to tap its drivers to do courier services.

The LTA said it had taken into account the potential benefits that the additional services could bring to drivers, as well as the impact on the availability of point-to-point services to commuters.

The LTA said, "To limit the impact on commuters, the number of Grab vehicles allowed to deliver goods is capped at 2,500 taxis and private-hire cars in total at any point in time. Vehicles are also only allowed to carry out deliveries during off-peak periods on weekdays." There are no restrictions on deliveries on weekends. The LTA also said operators interested in starting similar trials can approach the authority to do so.

It said, "LTA will then work with operators to assess the feasibility of their proposed trial, scope the trial to ensure minimal impact on point-to-point availability and to safeguard commuter interests."

Drivers and observers said the move, if seen through, would help the former by reducing the problem of cruising in an empty car in off-peak hours. In response to queries about a potential courier service, ComfortDelGro, which operates the largest fleet of taxis in Singapore with about 11,500 cars, said, "This is something we are exploring but it is too early to say if we will be entering the market."

SMRT Taxis, which operates a fleet of about 2,200 taxis, said it will continue to explore market opportunities to help drivers improve their income levels. Grab's closest ride-hailing competitor, Gojek, did not comment on specific plans, but said it was open to exploring how it can expand its offerings.

Meanwhile, a Spokesman for ride-hailing firm Tada welcomed the option for drivers to double up as couriers. It said it has no immediate plans to roll out the service, but will engage drivers to find out if they would benefit from it. The Tada Spokesman said, "If their responses and our own assessment indicate that this is indeed feasible, we will then engage with the regulator to move this forward."

Part-time Private-Hire Driver Sujanto Lim, 50, is among those hoping the option to do courier service will become more common. He said, "It is a waste of time and petrol cruising around in an empty car... Having this extra option will help to increase my income."

Mr. Ang Hin Kee, adviser to both the National Taxi Association and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association, said the two groups have asked operators to consider taking up the courier services. But the Ang Mo Kio GRC MP noted that even if these operators do not do so, their drivers would still be able to sign up with Grab to take part in the programme.

The Ministry of Transport said last month that operators will be barred from offering drivers exclusive arrangements to stop them from driving for other operators. Said Mr. Ang, "It is an assessment of whether the other operators are going to be adding revenue streams for drivers or focusing only on their existing business model."