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So far I always have good experience with Blue Bird Taxi. Their cars are always in good condition, doesn’t smell cigarette, the drivers are quite knowledgeable, good service, although the fare is slightly more expensive than other taxis. One thing about the Blue Bird, is that, the drivers that I’ve met are always happy and proud to work as Blue Bird drivers, and most of them have been with the company for many years. And I heard that the company is also quite profitable. This is a far cry from Singaporean taxi drivers who most of the time have dissatisfaction about their job or their company.
What makes Blue Bird a good taxi company? Out of curiosity, I had a quick chat with Tarsiman, on a 10 minutes ride from Noe’s school.
Rani (R): What time do you start working?
Tarsiman (T): My shift starts at 7 am in the morning, and we needed to return the car at 12.30 am the next day.
R: It’s quite a long working hours ya?
T: Yes, on average, I drove 18 hours a day. I work for two days, then taking a one day break. Older drivers work on alternate days because they’re not as strong.
R: 18 hours, that’s really long working hours, more than working in the office… how about night shift?
T: Night shift, or what we call “ngalong” (bat – shift) usually starts at 2 pm and they needed to return the car at 1pm the next day.
R: How much usually you make per day?
T: It varies. On a good day, about 200-250K take home pay. Not so good day, probably 100K. On average about 120-150K.
R: How is the remuneration scheme in Blue Bird?
T: It’s commission based. We take home about 20% of what we received. But on top of that, we also have monthly performance bonus, which is about 200K. And of course, a yearly Holiday Bonus, which is about 800K, and this is also based on performance. If the driver does not perform, or is lazy, his take home pay will of course be lower because there is not as many passenger compared to the more diligent driver. Moreover, the lazy driver will miss the other kinds of bonuses.
Anyway, I think the commission (profit sharing) system is better than the rental system. You can see how the other taxis has lower standard compared to us. That’s because they need to pay the company a fixed rent, and the driver is “forced” to make most of the car, for example, by buying lower grade gasoline, putting god-knows what kind of additives into the gasoline, rigging up the meters.
R: So monthly, you can make about… 2.5 – 3.5 million ya?
T: Yeah, about that. Certainly higher than becoming a home driver. Moreover, becoming a home driver is really boring, you don’t roam around the city. That’s why many of our driver, who tried to be a home driver, eventually come back to work in Blue Bird.
R: But if I decide to give you a tip, do you give the money to the company?
T: Nope. We’re entitled for the extras from the tip.
R: How if the taxi breaks down?
T: The company will take care of the repair. We simply return the car to the pool.
R: But how if the driver is negligent and breaks the car?
T: If the driver is negligent, for example, scratch the car paint or something, he will partially pay for the damage. I think it’s about 50%. The other 50% is paid by the company.
The next day, Muchlis Nasution, also shares his experience as a Blue Bird driver. Formerly a real estate agent, he has been working for Blue Bird for six month, and he speaks highly of the company. Below is his story.
R: How about gasoline, who pays for it?
Muslich Nasution (M):Well, when we started our shift, the car tank is full. But when we return the car to the pool, we have to fill our tank and pay from our money. Nevertheless, we usually buy the gasoline in the taxi pool, because the price there is cheaper, about Rp 500 lower than the price outside.
Anyway, the company enrolls the driver into a course called Technical Driving. There, we’re taught the correct way to drive. In short, we’re taught to keep our RPM low and to drive in a stable speed, keeping the safe distance, not to abruptly accelerate or press the brake. We’re taught, that way we can actually lower the gasoline consumption.
Moreover, the company also keeps track of the number of rides and the mileage every day, as you can see in this print out (He showed me a printed-out coupon listing his name, number of rides and mileage). We use this coupon when we buy the gasoline from Blue Bird. Blue Bird links the ride and mileage data to the gas consumption data. They keep a score for each driver based on those data, and the score plays a role in our performance data, and eventually to the bonus disbursement. In sum, we’re given incentive to drive well, to save gasoline, and to work hard too.
Also, by having the rides, mileage, and gas consumption data for each driver, it’s virtually impossible for the driver to commit fraud against the company. For example, if we cash-in taxi ride coupons without any actual trip made, the company can find out about it because the mileage is not recorded in the system*. If the company found out about fraud, the driver will be fired and banned immediately, no chance to appeal whatsoever, and no lay-off compensation. And there is no chance to apply to work as driver in Blue Bird again.
(*Blue Bird works together with some major companies to release taxi ride coupons for the employee of those companies, to minimize the hassle of claim and reimbursement)
R: So, it seems that the company really works hard to take care of the drivers, but at the same time, always give incentives to the drivers to be honest to the company. Both the company and the driver are working together for their lifelihood…
M: Yes, that’s why, a lot of driver at Blue Bird work for a long time in the same company. Blue Bird really takes care of the driver. When we fall sick, we can go to a Blue Bird clinic, get a check up and a referral letter, then later, the health care cost will be fully reimbursed by Blue Bird. But because we always need to go to Blue Bird clinic, we cannot pretend to be sick, for example, by getting a fake doctor referral letter. The clinic will always check for it. And once you’re caught being dishonest… poof… there goes your job.
Also, Blue Bird sends us to other courses, like recently I went to a three-day course on customer service. This is obligatory. We’re taught on the basics on how to handle customers.
In sum, it seems that both the driver and the company works together, and a lot of goodwill is also poured by understanding the needs of the customers, the drivers, and the company, creating a system that encourages the parties to be honest and diligent. The company has a capital of a strong brand name and image, and is incentivised to groom the drivers to keep up to high standard. At the same time, the company also knows that they need to keep good drivers, and hence they take care of the drivers and keep them happy. The pricing system and the bonus scheme encourage the driver to work hard for their own lifelihood and to be honest to the company.
Maybe Singaporean taxi companies can try to adopt this model. I would love to see happier taxi drivers in Singapore. It’s rather difficult to find happy taxi driver, who’s proud of his taxi company, in Singapore.
Note: This is purely based on observation, experience, and conversation with the two drivers. I do not work for Blue Bird nor receives compensation from them for this article.