In Parliament: Labour MPs Advocate for Safer Roads for All

While in support of the proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act, most Labour MPs call for the Government to ensure the livelihoods of delivery riders remain unaffected.
By Ian Tan Hanhonn 11 May 2021

Road users can soon expect safer roads when more stringent requirements on the use of power-assisted bicycles (PAB) come into effect with the amendment to the Road Traffic Act.

The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill was debated for the second time today, 11 May 2021. The amendments were first introduced in Parliament on 5 April 2021.

Labour Members of Parliament (LMPs) stood in support of the proposed amendments, taking the opportunity to raise concerns of vocational PAB users and suggest further refinements to the Bill.

Meanwhile, NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Melvin Yong also raised the issue of using lorries to transport migrant workers on the roads.

Power-Assisted Bicycles

While the LMPs were all in favour of improving the overall safety of road users, many felt that doing so should not handicap PAB users who are dependent on the device for their livelihoods.

On Competency Certification

One of the amendments to the act include requiring PAB riders to undergo competency theory tests.

Under this amendment, Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor said that all PAB users would be required to take and pass a once of theory test. The test costs five dollars for the first attempt, it is free for the second attempt, and it costs ten dollars for each subsequent attempt from the third try onwards.

On competency certification for PAB users, NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Desmond Choo agreed that more competent delivery riders would mean safer roads.

He also noted that competency tests should not be used to penalise riders, but rather as a way to ensure PAB riders have road safety knowledge and are more accountable to other road users.

“These workers make up a sizeable proportion of Singapore’s growing gig economy. It is necessary to build a better ecosystem of support for them,” he said.

To give riders more time to comply with the competency requirements, Mr Choo suggested that the Government considers a transitional period for riders to complete the competency certification.

Echoing Mr Choo’s sentiments on having an adequate runway for riders to get certified, Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab also voiced the concerns of a group of delivery riders who, due to language or technology barriers, find it challenging to pass a theory test.

“To ensure that vocational PAB riders are adequately prepared to meet this new requirement, I would like to call for Government assistance to equip them with the appropriate learning tools and relevant training to cater to the needs of the vocational riders,” said Mr Samad, who is also the vice-president of NTUC.

NTUC U SME and Women and Family Unit Director Yeo Wan Ling the theory test should also account for literacy and language barriers.

“If possible, we would love to see a simply worded test made available in multiple languages, with options available even for those without basic literacy foundations,” she said.

Mr Samad added that he would like to seek the Ministry of Transport’s (MOT’s) and Land Transport Authority’s (LTA’s) support in funding a training programme for vocational PAB riders to better prepare them for the theory test and instil safe riding behaviour.

According to Mr Samad, NTUC will work closely with MOT and LTA to better support PAB riders through the training programme. He said that NTUC is currently working with LTA to ensure that while the questions in the competency test address the appropriate standards of road and public path safety, the questions will also be manageable for PAB riders to comprehend and answer.

Also on the competency tests, Ms Yeo reiterated that the authorities must ensure these tests – essential as they are for awareness, education and safety –  are inclusive.

 “We cannot afford, in any measure, to allow these tests to become unfair barriers to the livelihoods of delivery riders in Singapore,” she said.

On Delivery Platforms’ Responsibilities

The LMPs also touched on the accountability of delivery platforms when it comes to road safety.

Mr Choo voiced his belief that given the operative and substantive role played by delivery platforms, they must take on greater responsibility in safeguarding both their riders, as well as other road users.

He also said that delivery platforms need to bear more responsibility as it is they who choose to engage and allow untested riders on roads.

 “I would presume that these companies have liabilities because of their direct role in causing these untested riders to be on the road,” he said.

Mr Choo also suggested that the ministry studies how delivery platforms pay their riders, as well as to have the rider's safety in mind when assigning jobs for deliveries. Some examples may include distances between points of collection and points of delivery.

“A review of the payout structures and time afforded for deliveries must be undertaken to align them with the new rules prescribed by the Ministry,” he added.

Ms Yeo shared the sentiment and said: “How can we, on one hand, prescribe safe practices and speed limits in a test handbook, and on the other, have delivery riders fearing for their job security if they do not move fast enough?”

She added that payout structures must be changed to complement the education of the delivery riders.

“Therefore, we call for a review of rewards and punitive actions system run by food delivery platforms. This is to that we can safeguard the livelihoods of our delivery riders, even as we seek to safeguard their lives,” said Ms Yeo.

Keeping Cyclists and PAB Riders Safe

Meanwhile, Mr Yong raised concerns given by bus captains, saying that they are seeing more cyclists on the bus lanes.

According to the bus captains, many do not keep to the kerbside when riding and some ride two, or even three abreast.

“I urge the ministry to not allow cyclists and PAB users on bus lanes during operational hours. This is for their safety and also the safety of other road users,” said Mr Yong, who is also the Executive Secretary of the National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU).

Safety of Transporting Migrant Worker

Beyond the issue of PAB users, Mr Yong also touched on safety concerns using trucks and lorries for transporting migrant workers.

His concerns come after a recent spate of road accidents involving migrant workers in lorries and trucks; 10 of whom were injured and two have died.

He said that the Labour Movement is currently engaging the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) to push for the implementation of separate transport arrangements for migrant workers and that NTUC is engaging relevant government agencies to address implementation issues.

“We want our workers to get to their workplaces, and back home safely every day,” he stressed.

In the meantime, Mr Yong said that tripartite partners should explore interim safety measures that can be adopted immediately.

He called on employers to hire full-time drivers to eliminate the issue of driver fatigue. He added that drivers should have a vocational driving licence before they can transport passengers.

The co-mingling of goods and passengers should be outlawed, added Mr Yong.

He said that such practices are potentially fatal as unsecured goods put passengers at risk of being pinned in the event of an accident.

“If employers persist to use lorries to transport their workers, we want to reduce the associated risks significantly. We can do so by securing the passengers with proper seat belts and by restricting the lorry’s travelling speed when transporting workers,” he said.