Trans-Cab fleet halved since arrival of private-hire firms

Rise of Uber, Grab sees total taxi population drop 37.7% from 2014

Trans-Cab, the second-largest taxi operator here, bore the brunt of a fleet shrinkage brought about by the arrival of private-hire operators.

Its fleet has almost halved since 2014, the first full year of operations of Uber and Grab, which lured many cabbies with low rental rates.

Trans-Cab's 48.6 per cent contraction is more than the 37.7 per cent overall shrinkage of the taxi population.

With 2,498 cabs as of March, Trans-Cab's market share has fallen from 17 per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent. As of March, the total cab population stood at 17,783, down from 28,558 in December 2014.

The figures exclude a small fraction of owner-operated taxis and taxis that are driven by cabbies on a salary scheme.

Trans-Cab managing director Teo Kiang Ang attributed the drop in fleet size to the rise of private-hire cars. With no regulated population cap, which taxi operators are subject to, the number of such cars has soared from around 1,600 in 2014 to more than 55,000 in March, or three times the taxi population of just under 18,000.

Trans-Cab also said the age profile of its cabs led to huge numbers being scrapped in the past year or so.

The firm has placed orders for new Toyota Prius cabs, which will be rolled out this month. "We can grow our fleet to around 3,000," Mr Teo said, adding that "99 per cent of our taxis are hired out".

All other taxi firms posted fleet reductions that were below the overall population shrinkage.

ComfortDelGro, the largest operator here, saw its fleet fall by 37.2 per cent from 2014, but its market share remained unchanged at around 59 per cent.

Last year, the taxi giant ordered 2,200 Hyundai Ioniq and 1,000 Toyota Prius hybrids, with an option for another 500 Ioniqs.

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira noted that there is an oversupply in the point-to-point transport market, and a "structural correction" was imminent in the mid-term. To make matters worse, the Covid-19 pandemic has slashed demand because there are no leisure and business travellers, and many people are still working from home.

SMRT posted a 34 per cent drop in fleet size, with its share dipping slightly to 13 per cent, from 13.8 per cent in 2014.

Premier's fleet contracted 29.1 per cent, with its share sliding to 7.5 per cent, from 8.6 per cent in 2014.

The smallest player, Prime, posted a 25.8 per cent drop in fleet size, with its market share going from 3.7 per cent to 3.1 per cent.

Prime chairman Neo Nam Heng said the firm is also looking to grow "as soon as conditions improve".

"We have 100 cars ready," he said.

While cab companies have seen their fleet sizes plunge since private-hire operators arrived, the vast majority of cabs are hired out, with the unhired rate estimated at well below 10 per cent.

As for private-hire cars, Mr Neo, who also supplies cars to private-hire operators, said that "easily 40 per cent are unhired".

Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira noted said that there is an oversupply in the point-to-point transport market, and a "structural correction" was imminent in the mid-term.

To make matters worse, the Covid-19 pandemic has slashed demand because there are no leisure and business travellers, and many people are still working from home.

"I would be surprised if we returned to 2019 levels of demand anytime soon," he said.

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