Taxi operator SMRT will soon require new drivers to pass a practical driving test before they are given the keys to their vehicles

TAXI operator SMRT will soon require new drivers to pass a practical driving test before they are given the keys to their vehicles.

The 20-minute evaluation, to be conducted on a route around SMRT's Woodlands depot, will test taxi drivers on their ability to drive safely and defensively.

Assessment criteria include regulating speed, signalling early, and maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

This in-house practical assessment is part of a revamped training programme SMRT plans to launch early next year for its new drivers. While all taxi drivers in Singapore have to take a vocational licence course, each of the six taxi operators here have their own orientation courses for drivers. Putting drivers through a practical assessment, however, may be a first.

Mr Tony Heng, general manager for taxis at SMRT, said yesterday that besides getting taxi drivers to commit to driving safely, the assessment will also help them familiarise themselves with the car models they are renting.

Driving a taxi is also more demanding now, Mr Heng said. "In the past, they had only a taxi meter and a payment (system), but now they have cellphone apps," he said.

Under SMRT's new course for its drivers, which will be extended from one to two days, taxi drivers will be taught to use taxi booking apps such as Hailo and mobile payment systems such as Dash.

The Straits Times understands that SMRT is looking into opening its driving assessment to the drivers of other taxi operators.