Ryde says it will not use private-hire drivers for new courier service, apologises for confusion

SINGAPORE - Local transportation start-up Ryde has clarified that it will not tap private-hire drivers and cabbies for the new peer-to-peer, on-demand courier service that it is launching on Sept 3.

In a statement on Thursday (Aug 16), the firm apologised for the confusion it caused on Wednesday (Aug 15), when it announced the new service RydeSend. It had said it will leverage on all 60,000 drivers on its platform to perform ad-hoc delivery of small items.

More than a fifth of Ryde's drivers are private-hire chauffeurs, while the remaining are private drivers who use the app for non-commercial car-pooling.

The announcement of RydeSend was met with a warning from the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which said the service would "contravene the regulations prohibiting Public Service Vehicles such as taxis and private hire cars from solely conveying goods".

The LTA added that "drivers accepting such jobs may have their vocational licences revoked". Under the law, private-hire cars and taxis are meant to carry passengers for hire and reward, and cannot be used for the conveyance of goods.

Related story: Ryde's on-demand courier service is 'no go' for LTA

In its statement, Ryde said it will not tap private-hire drivers for RydeSend.

The firm, which has signed up 3,000 taxi drivers but has yet to incorporate them onto the Ryde booking system, will also not use these cabbies for RydeSend.

Instead, RydeSend will tap private drivers, who may be available in their spare time to deliver items for the app's users.

To expand its network, Ryde's chief executive and founder Terence Zou said the firm will also sign up motorcycle riders for RydeSend from Sept 3, and he targets to have 20,000 of them on the platform by the fourth quarter of this year.

Said Associate Professor Lawrence Loh from the National University of Singapore Business School: "Naturally, the exclusion of private-hire car drivers will affect the attractiveness or even the viability of the business model. The key challenge is to amass sufficient delivery drivers and also to provide price-competitive and service-reliable offerings to customers."

However, roping in motorcyclists and mobility device users "may swing the market to their advantage", Prof Loh added.