Hong Kong taxi trade calls for more help as it launches device to rate drivers

Industry group wants government to pass a law making cameras mandatory in cabs and relax licensing laws to attract new blood

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 9:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 11:00pm

A 5,000-strong taxi group that has fitted CCTV cameras to cabs in a trial scheme to improve standards has called on the government to provide more help in repairing the battered image of the trade.

The Association of Taxi Industry Development made the appeal on Tuesday as it launched a courtesy campaign using a gadget that allows passengers to rate drivers.

“I hope that the city’s 40,000 taxi drivers can smile more often and serve their customers with courtesy. Just uttering some simple greetings such as good morning and thank you can make your customers feel comfortable,” spokesman Chan Man-keung said at the launch ceremony.

The rating device, costing about HK$2,000, has been fitted in the back of the front passenger seat in the first batch of 200 taxis. Passengers can choose from three buttons – satisfactory, average and unsatisfactory – and the data will be transmitted via the cab’s GPS system to the association’s control centre.

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The five top rated drivers will be given prizes every three months such as flight tickets and cash, while those with low ratings will be referred to a subsidised training course to learn good manners. The results will be published on the association’s website.

Association vice-chairman Ng Kam-wah also hoped that the government would provide more support for the taxi trade, which has been hit with increasing customer complaints about cabbies’ poor attitudes and misconduct, including overcharging, taking unnecessarily long routes and cherry-picking or refusing passengers.

The group has put cameras in 40 taxis in an attempt to improve relations between drivers and customers. Ng said some lawmakers who supported the scheme, such as Frankie Yick Chi-ming of the Liberal Party and Michael Tien Puk-sun of New People’s Party, were lobbying for government support.

“We are now fine-tuning the CCTV data system to dispel all concerns raised by the Privacy Commission. After this we hope the government will introduce legislative amendments to make this scheme mandatory for all taxis in Hong Kong,” he said.

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However, a spokeswoman for the Transport Department said it was up to individual taxis to decide whether to install the CCTV system, as long as it complied with privacy laws.

With the industry also struggling to recruit drivers, the association suggested the government relax the existing taxi driver licensing system.

“At present a driver needs to have a normal driving licence for three years before he can apply for a taxi driving licence. We hope the government can reduce the three-year requirement to one year with additional vocational training provided so as to entice more new blood to join the taxi industry,” Chan said.

Eighty per cent of the city’s 40,000 cabbies are 50 or above, with the average age being 58.