The four public bus operators here are looking to collectively hire a total of 1,200 Singaporeans as bus captains this year.
Public bus operators looking to hire 1,200 bus captains The four public bus operators here are looking to collectively hire a total of 1,200 Singaporeans as bus captains this year. PHOTO: ST FILE

After driving taxis for 19 years, Mr. Poh Kian Teck decided to make the switch to being a Bus Captain in April this year.

He wanted a more stable income and a job that allowed him to drive, which he loves doing, the 50-year old told The Straits Times in a recent interview.

Mr. Poh is among 90 Singaporean taxi and private-hire car drivers to have received training to become bus captains since the beginning of this year.

The four public bus operators here are looking to collectively hire a total of 1,200 Singaporeans as bus captains this year, said Transport Minister Mr. Khaw Boon Wan in an online dialogue with representatives from the public bus industry on 18 June 2020.

More than 300 people have been recruited to date, he added during the session, which also involved representatives from the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Mr. Poh, who attended the online session along with nine other bus captains and trainees, said he made the switch after his income from driving a cab dropped between 30% and 40% because of the COVID-19 crisis and increased competition from private-hire drivers.

"The rental and petrol fees had to be paid out of my pocket, which equalled zero earnings," added the bus captain for Go-Ahead Singapore. The other bus operators are SBS Transit, SMRT and Tower Transit Singapore.

Mr. Khaw said the COVID-19 crisis provided an opportunity for recruitment, as there would be many Singaporeans whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic. "We are targeting those who are already driving - let's say, driving for taxis, driving for tourist buses and private buses. They have the skills," he added.

Mr. Khaw said there are currently 10,000 bus captains in Singapore, comprising a "healthy mix" of Singaporeans and foreign nationals.

On 18 June 2020, Mr. Melvin Yong, Executive Secretary of the National Transport Workers' Union, said that more than 600 locals had signed up as bus captains between 2016 - when the Bus Contracting Model (BCM) was introduced - and 2019. Under the BCM, the Government owns all public buses and related infrastructure such as integrated transport hubs, with the LTA planning bus services and public transport operators bidding for the right to run services along the bus routes.

Mr. Yong said the salary for bus captains has increased by more than 20% since the BCM was adopted, from about $1,650 in 2015 to just over $2,000 currently. Mr. Poh said that during training, he learnt that he has to be aware of and ensure passengers' safety while meeting service standards. "Commuter needs will also have to be taken care of, especially the young and the elderly," he added.