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March 10, 2011

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Taxi firms look to non-local drivers

TAXI firms facing a serious shortage of drivers are looking to recruit out-of-town cabbies, even though current regulations permit only locals to do the job.

City taxi companies said yesterday that recruiting non-locals is on the traffic authority's agenda - which would be the first time the city has opened this sector to people from outside Shanghai.

The city's five major taxi fleets - "the Big Five" - will be the first to recruit out-of-town cabbies, sources said. Already, vacancies have been advertised in neighboring provinces.

"So far, there is only a rough framework," said Hong Tianlin, director of the city taxi industry association.

Hong said the shortage of drivers is getting worse by the year as senior cabbies quit or retire. Young locals are not prepared to take their places, said Hong.

"Local young people, most of whom are the only child in a family and whose parents don't want them to work such long hours, are unwilling to take the job."

Cabbies report working 16 hours a day for a monthly salary of 5,000 yuan (US$762).

Shanghai has more than 100,000 taxi drivers, of whom 10,000 are expected to quit or retire each year.

No timetable

An official with Jinjiang Taxi Co, one of city's five leading taxi operators, said human resources managers with the "Big Five" had a meeting last week to talk about the problem. Initially at least, they won't hire large numbers of cabbies from out of town, said the official.

Officials with Shanghai Transport and Port Bureau, the industry supervisor, said they were still discussing the issue and gave no timetable for changing the rules.

However, Shanghai Daily has discovered that some taxi companies are already one step ahead. Cai Baomin, a human resources manager with a branch of Jinjiang Taxi, said they have advertised in neighboring provinces, such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

The requirements are simple: two to three years' driving experience; a temporary resident permit lasting three years in Shanghai; and no criminal convictions within the past two years.

"They need not speak the Shanghai dialect," said Cai. "But they will have to understand it and be familiar with the roads."

Cai said a training program will begin next month and the company will "take care of other issues, such as insurance."

With the prospect of out-of-town cabbies, local passengers are concerned whether they will know the roads.

In the past, it took more than six months for a rookie cabbie to become familiar with the city, officials said.


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