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City moves to improve lives of stressed cabbies

The city's transport authority is canvassing opinions from cabbies over a government-raised proposal that the number of drivers serving alternative shifts on a single taxi should be increased as a way to reduce their long hours and stress.

The transport authority said yesterday that the government was discussing a range of measures to offer to the taxi industry in order to improve service quality and protect the rights of cabbies.

Some cabbies have already responded to the idea with a conditional thumb's-up.

As one of the draft proposals, the transport authority is suggesting an extra driver be added to join the present two-person shift on each taxi as a way to ease work pressure.

A cabbie in Shanghai generally works for 17 hours on average and takes the next day off when the car is driven by his or her partner.

Most of the city's nearly 100,000 cabbies work for taxi fleets with the rest running the cars as a private business. The hired cabbies each have to pay a monthly rental fee of more than 5,000 yuan (US$732) to taxi managements, leaving them a net monthly income of between 2,000 to 3,000 yuan.

Before taking the next day off, many cabbies try to work as long as possible.

Guan Lu, an official with the No.3 Branch of Dazhong Taxi Co, Shanghai's biggest fleet, welcomed the idea, saying it may reduce traffic accidents particularly those blamed on driver fatigue.

'Too tiring'

Most city cabbies are in their 40s or early 50s.

"This is a profession that doesn't allow a weekend or a holiday. I would not expect my son to become a taxi driver. It's too tiring," said a veteran cabbie, surnamed Jin, of Dazhong Co.

Some cabbies welcomed the idea - up to a point. "The policy maker has to make sure that our average income will not decrease with the third cabbie joining the alternative shifts," said Wu Chunpan, a supporter of the change.

Guan and Wu said the taxi firms' way of charging the drivers needed to be adjusted to ensure no income loss.

Guan also suggested the three drivers should be sharing a 24-hour daily service so that each driver only had to work for eight hours, similar to a normal workload.

However, he said the government should complete talks with the taxi companies on how to handle any extra labor costs involved.


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