If you’re a driver, you must be confused at the moment.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, people were encouraged to carpool because it reduced their carbon footprint.
Not only was it better for the environment, but it was also cheaper on ride-hailing platforms.
But things are different now: socialising is discouraged and most people drink their bubble teas at home.
And if you’re a driver who’s still offering carpooling rides, be prepared to pay for it.
Carpooling Now An Offence
Carpooling during the Covid-19 outbreak is now an offence under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said.
While people were initially confused as to whether carpool services are essential, the Ministry of Trade and Industry confirmed in a Facebook post on 6 April that it is not.
The Minister for Transport also issued an order recently revoking Road Traffic (Car Pools) (Exemption) Order 2015, which allows drivers to be compensated for costs such as fuel for offering carpool trips.
You’re probably thinking you’ll just be fined $300 for carpooling just like if you were caught flouting safe distancing rules, right?
Reader: Well no, I saw the headline and know how much the fine is.
Anyway, if you’re caught offering carpooling riders during the circuit breaker, you could face a fine of up to S$10,000, a maximum of six months jail, or both.
One of the reasons carpool riders have been temporarily banned is that these services are provided on a “social and non-commercial basis”.
Examples are if you give a friend a ride, or if you find a driver or hitcher online.
Ride-hailing platforms like Grab and Ryde had already suspended their GrabHitch and RydePool carpooling services, but some private carpooling arrangements are still active.
According to CNA, popular carpooling Telegram group SG Hitch had been taken down temporarily after some backlash, but checks on Saturday (18 Apr) showed that the group – now renamed COVID-19 Lockdown SG Hitch – was still active, with more than 90 requests for rides as of noon.
Maybe the group’s admins have gone into hibernation for the last few weeks? Surely they wouldn’t allow this to go on knowing that it’s illegal and increases the risk of spread?
One message sent by the admins says “Hello drivers, now MOT had revolved (sic) Carpooling in Singapore. Accept any hitchers at your own risk or accept Hitchers that you had been fetching.”
However, in another related Telegram group, the admins said “@sgHitch does not acknowledge that we allow Carpooling or anything related to it.”
They claim that the group now only matches drivers and users for requests such as the sending of documents, as well as the delivery of food, groceries and other online purchases.
Thankfully, several other smaller carpooling groups on Telegram have already suspended operations.
LTA warned drivers that action will be taken against those who continued to offer carpool services. They also encouraged the public who come across “non-compliance of such practices” to report the matter to LTA through the OneMotoring portal.
A Simple Solution
There will probably be a stubborn minority of drivers who will continue to offer carpool services despite the new laws in place.
But there’s a simple solution to this problem; don’t look for or take up such carpooling offers.
It may be cheaper than a regular ride, but you risk contracting and spreading the coronavirus at a time when we’re all supposed to practise safe distancing.
You should be avoiding long trips outdoors, anyway, but if you’re an essential worker who lives far from your workplace, it’s not worth carpooling just to save a few bucks.
Reader: It’s not worth carpooling just to save a few bucks? Are you even a real Singaporean?
Some things are more important than saving money, dear reader.
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