Only Singaporeans aged 30 and above can drive taxis here.
They have to be certified healthy by a doctor and have a chest X-ray taken.
There is no minimum educational qualification, but the Land Transport Authority (LTA) says cabbies must be able to speak and write basic English. It also screens applicants for criminal records before giving in-principle approval, subject to applicants passing a taxi driving course.
The course is conducted by the National Trades Union Congress-linked Singapore Taxi Academy, the only training school for cabbies. It can be completed in two weeks full-time, or over a month in evening classes. The fees are $335, excluding GST.
Half the classroom time - 30 hours in total - is devoted to teaching aspiring cabbies how to use the Mighty Minds street directory. An instructor chided me for using the Google map application in my iPad for class exercises. "Street directory is better, GPS is slow and some are not updated. Don't try to be too smart," he said.
Only a quarter of classroom time - 15 hours - is spent on customer service exercises such as practising how to help passengers in wheelchairs. Six hours are devoted to road safety.
After the classes, trainees have to pass a series of tests comprising multiple-choice questions, and show that they can handle wheelchairs properly.
Singapore has 28,000 taxis on the road; 10,000 of them are operated by one person, with no relief driver. There are 99,400 people qualified to drive taxis.
Cabbies can drive until the age of 75. Those above 50 must clear regular health checks, more frequently as they get older: every two years for those aged 50 to 64, annually for those 64 to 72, and more frequently if the doctor recommends it for those 73 to 74. Last year, LTA introduced taxi availability standards to boost service levels.
Taxi firms must ensure 80 per cent of their cabs clock at least 250km a day and that at least 80 per cent of their fleet is on the road during peak periods from 7am to 11am and 5pm to 11pm.
From Jan 1 next year, the minimum mark for both standards goes up to 85 per cent during weekdays.
It means long hours on the road for cabbies, especially for the 10,000 who have no relief drivers.
This article was first published on Nov 30, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.