TL;DR – On top of pandemic woes, long hours, back problems, traffic jams, and rude passengers can take a toll on PHV and taxi drivers like Mr Sutharalingam…
I hate driving… If you’re a driver, you’d know how stressful traffic and obnoxious drivers on the roads can be. Now, if you want to imagine how the day of a taxi or PHV driver goes, take that stress and multiply by ten, no, make that a hundred. Some taxi or PHV drivers work up to 14-16 hours a day to make ends meet. Long hours, back problems, traffic jams, rude passengers can take its toll. In the past one and a half year, even long hours of hard work on the roads does little to increase their takings.
2003 SARS. The global financial crisis in 2008. Both times, our drivers suffered drops in passenger pick-ups. But this time round, extra jialat. For them (unlike common office folks who have gotten used to working from home), they are glad people are starting to go back to office.
The Circuit Breaker measures and on off work-from-home arrangements implemented to control the spread of the coronavirus meant that our taxi drivers and PHV drivers saw their daily takings plunge in the past one and a half year. “Damn cham, you have no idea how sian it is to drive around aimlessly with no one to pick up,” a friend who had switched to being a PHV driver just before the pandemic hit shared with me. Personally, I hardly commute anywhere and thus have no need to cab or Grab as often as I did pre-Covid. I can only imagine the plight of our drivers. Fortunately, various initiatives like the Point-to-Point Support Package, NTUC Care Fund and SIRS rolled out have alleviated the hardships of our drivers in some ways.
Drivers like 62-year-old Mr Sutharalingam are heartened by the support they receive. Now, Mr Sutharalingam has been a taxi driver for the past 19 years. To him, knowing where to go for delicious food is one of the perks of being a taxi driver ! 😊
Of course, when it comes to the good eats of our little red dot, there’s no one better to trust that our taxi uncles and aunties. Being on the road so often, you can be sure they’ve tried their fair share of good food in the city!
But the past year must have been hard for drivers like Mr Sutharalingam. Thankfully, among other support measures, he is also eligible for Workfare as a self-employed worker. The Workfare cash payout goes into his living expenses like his bills or daily necessities. Another 90% of Workfare payout goes to his CPF MediSave account to help self-employed workers like him with medical needs when necessary.
“I’m very happy with the Workfare payment. It’s good enough as it helps us a lot, especially seniors who are not earning a lot of money,” Mr Sutharalingam
Being on the road day in day out can take its toll, physically and mentally… In another four to five years, Mr Sutharalingam is thinking of switching to relief driving where he can work less hours. The job of a taxi driver can be stressful, but he shrugs off his experiences with difficult passengers whom he meets.
“If my passengers are happy to talk to me, I will chat with them. But even if passengers become difficult, I will just keep quiet and not get angry. Why spoil your day for just one passenger when you still have to carry on working for the rest of the day?”
With the gradual lifting of restrictions and back to office for many of us, we hope drivers like Mr Sutharalingam will be able to increase their earnings! As for common office folks like us, let’s try to tahan the morning rush hours now that working from home is no longer the default…