Backlash after private-hire driver spends 22 hours on road to win Facebook contest, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Backlash after private-hire driver spends 22 hours on road to win Facebook contest

A “mission” on social media meant to “motivate” private-hire vehicle (PHV) drivers by finding the top earner in a day has drawn flak from netizens who said it put drivers, passengers and other road users at risk.

Organised by Mr Shawn Lee, a PHV driver himself, “4sMission500” was posted on Nov 17 on a public Facebook page for drivers from various platforms, which has more than 34,000 members.

The top-earning eligible driver in the period between 12.01am and 11.59pm on Nov 18 would earn a two-day-one-night stay at Hotel Ora at Resorts World Sentosa, paid for by Mr Lee. He invited drivers of four-seater vehicles who hit a minimum of $500 in earnings that day to message him their earnings privately to be in contention.

Mr Lee said he posed the mission as he felt spirits were low in the local PHV driver community recently due to rising costs and reduced incomes, and wanted to motivate other drivers.

But the 50-year-old, who drives under Gojek, told The Straits Times he could not anticipate that the winner of the challenge – a “James Lim” who also drives a Gojek car – would spend 22 hours on the road that day, earning $1,017 over 48 trips.

He said he was “shocked” when he saw Mr Lim’s hours, and added that he had set a $500 benchmark as he knows it is “achievable within 12 to 13 hours”.

“But I didn’t expect someone would chiong (Hokkien for go all out) to break their own record by doing that high,” added Mr Lee.

On Nov 19, after verifying Mr Lim’s efforts in a face-to-face meeting, Mr Lee posted screenshots of the winner’s earnings, along with nine other participants who made over $500 during the challenge. Three of the top four drove under Gojek, while the others drove Grab cars.

The second- and third-placed drivers drove “around 16 to 17 hours” to earn $831 and $778.

His post announcing Mr Lim’s 22-hour “shift” generated plenty of discussion, and was reposted on other online platforms.

Facebook user Eugene Yeo commented on the post: “Well done and congrats. But please do not do this often. 22hr OTR (on the road) is no joke. Fatigue sets in and risk increases as you go further and further exponentially.”

In reposts outside the PHV drivers’ group, reactions to Mr Lee’s mission were more negative, with some commenters tagging authority bodies such as Land Transport Authority and Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

On the SG Road Vigilante-SGRV Facebook page, user PJ Soh wrote: “Dumbest KPI, risking passengers’ life (sic).” KPI refers to key performance indicator.

Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay told ST that drivers need to be focused and should have sufficient rest.

“We are driving in a city state and there are many road users on our roads,” he said. “If we drive 22 hours continuously without rest, you may be putting yourself and other road users at unnecessary risks. Driving such long hours should not be encouraged because it may impair vision and slow down your reflexes in an emergency.”

He noted that there is no guideline on the number of hours a motorist can be on the road since there are various factors at play such as whether the driver is driving for work or leisure, weather, distance and terrain.

However, Mr Tay recommended that, in general, drivers should take a 15-minute break after driving for 1.5 to two hours, and should not exceed eight hours driving in a day.

A Gojek spokeswoman said safety is its top priority and that it has initiatives to ensure its driver-partners are aware of safe driving practices, including a learning management system which includes modules that cover safety.

“We do not encourage driver-partners to drive for long hours without taking sufficient breaks,” she added.

“To encourage driver-partners to get sufficient rest, we have introduced a rest reminder feature on our driver app, which regularly reminds drivers to take a break or go offline after they have been online for a certain number of hours.”

ST has contacted Grab for comment.

PHV drivers, like other platform gig workers, are not covered under the Employment Act, which states that employees are not allowed to work more than 12 hours a day, except under specific circumstances.

MOM guidelines on preventing fatigue among drivers include recommendations to limit shifts to no more than 12 hours including overtime, and scheduled breaks such as 15 minutes for every two hours on the road.

In a written reply to Parliament on July 6, 2021, Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng said: “The (Workplace Safety and Health) Council considered whether to mandate its recommendations or reduce the current limit of 12 hours of work a day permissible under the Employment Act. It decided to focus instead on addressing the core attitudes and mindsets towards safety.”

Mr Lee, who has been a PHV driver for almost 10 years, acknowledged that he should have set a cap on the number of hours for participants of his mission.

He explained that the winner told him that he had had a full day of rest before the 22-hour effort, and in addition to a two-hour break, was resting in the car when there were no bookings.

Noting that PHV drivers are aware that their own lives and passengers’ lives are in their hands, he added: “We all know how to manage our break time and rest enough.”

  • Additional Reporting by Ian Cheng