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For private-hire car drivers struggling to pass the vocational licence course required to continue their livelihood, there may be some reprieve.

11 Jun 2018 | Local News : Singapore

The authorities say they have revised the tests for the Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational Licence (PDVL) to remove questions on the topics of counter-terrorism and health, which drivers have lamented were unrelated to chauffeuring.

Private-hire drivers who fail to secure a licence will have to stop ferrying passengers for fares
Multiple-choice questions in a mock exam published by the Singapore Taxi Academy (STA), for example, ask about the recommended healthy range for an adult's body mass index, the symptoms of diabetes or the elements of terrorism.

Such questions have been removed from the tests recently, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA). It said it reviews the training and test syllabus to ensure they are 'relevant and up-to-date'.

The LTA told The Straits Times it has worked with the two PDVL test centres - the STA and the Employment and Employability Institute - to place more focus on the skills needed for chauffeured services.

Though health and terrorism topics will not be tested, they remain in the curriculum. This is because it is essential for the drivers to understand the importance of their role in counter-terrorism efforts in Singapore, and the occupational health risks that can arise from long hours of driving, an LTA spokesman said.

Ms. How Shu Min, 30, who drives for Grab, agrees. "I feel the content for private-hire drivers regarding health is good to have but not necessary to be tested," she said. As of late May, there were 23,900 private-hire drivers who had yet to undergo the PDVL training or to pass the exam. If they fail to secure a licence by the end of this month, they will have to stop ferrying passengers for fares.

Drivers who find the course and test challenging are usually weaker in English
These drivers, who started chauffeuring for apps like Grab before the Government put in place a licensing regime in the middle of last year, were given a one-year grace period to get their licence. The passing rate for the PDVL test is 70 percent, the LTA said.

Content aside, drivers who find the course and test challenging are usually weaker in English, trainers said. One driver told ST he failed to pass the test despite trying 15 times.

In March, Tampines GRC MP Cheng Li Hui proposed in Parliament that the test be conducted in other major mother tongues. But then Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng said there were no plans to do this. He added that drivers must be able to read and speak simple English, and communicate with Singaporeans and tourists.

Drivers who struggle also say the course requires memorisation and rote learning. But an industry veteran involved with administering the course and tests said the test was not about memorisation, but understanding what is expected of being a private-hire driver.

Declining to be named, he said the syllabus is similar to what taxi drivers have to undergo. Cabbies also have to learn about taxi meter and taxi stands, as well as Singapore's landmarks and roads. "Certain standards must be maintained in driving a public service vehicle. Private-hire driving is a vocation," he added.

The STA has been holding remedial classes for drivers who fail the course. But National Private Hire Vehicles Association Executive Adviser Ang Hin Kee said this does not tackle the issue of literacy. "The authorities could have intervened early and provided progressive support in terms of literacy. But there could also be career coaching and guidance to help refer those who might be better suited for other jobs," he added.
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