Smart moto-taxi in Ho Chi Minh City: a creative initiative or a bigger jam?

Tam Nguyen, Ho Chi Minh City Community Manager
Ho Chi Minh City, 3 October 2014

Since 2012, Ho Chi Minh City residents have started to see smart moto-taxis around the central areas of the cities. These are the typical common Honda scooters, but have taximeters and GPS devices installed above the front lights. These smart moto-taxis (or moto-cabs) have taken over for the normal ones and started to attract middle-income customers because of three added values: reliability, flexibility, and professionalism.

Firstly, with the taximeters displaying the exact distance and cost, customers do not have to bargain each time they hire a moto-taxi as before, and therefore do not fear being forced to pay an unreasonably high price. Secondly, while offering the reliability of four-wheel taxis, this innovation retains the flexibility of two-wheel moto-taxis, being able to take narrow lanes, small and crooked shortcuts, avoiding the over-crowded streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and helping the customer arrive on time, even during rush hours. Thirdly, the smiling drivers wearing uniforms and being monitored by their companies through GPS devices installed in the taximeters have convinced the customers that their services are qualified, safe, and friendly.

Solving mobility and employment problems?

The three added values of smart moto-taxis help solve the mobility problem of many different customer groups in Ho Chi Minh City, including students whose parents usually work late, housewives, the lone elderly, regular patients of certain hospitals, and non-local or foreign tourists. Unable to drive personal vehicles or to take public buses but also unable to afford a taxi, these groups have become the regular customers of smart moto-taxis, said Mr. Đoàn Hữu Phát, director of Thien Khach smart moto-taxi company.

This initiative has also created better job opportunities for at least two groups: university students and less skilled female workers. Before the start of smart moto-taxi companies, there was the already-occupied market of normal moto-taxi drivers, the majority of whom are less skilled male workers. Being monitored and provided with specific customers and parking places by the hiring companies, these two groups can now join the market. University students mostly drive as a part-time job to support their education, and female drivers are especially favored by housewives, students, and foreigners because of their reliability and friendliness.

A bigger jam?

After two years, there are currently three big moto-taxis providers in Ho Chi Minh City and many more smaller-scale ones. The total number of smart moto-taxis has reached around 100 vehicles in the central area of the city, and is predicted to increase significantly in the future as customers get used to the service. While being a good urban solution, a spontaneous growth of this service could easily affect public transportation, significantly increasing the number of private vehicles, and thus making the traffic jams of Ho Chi Minh City worse.

Moreover, the profession of smart moto-taxi drivers, trained and monitored by the hiring company, is still not a recognized and certified occupation by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transportation (DoT). This excludes these drivers from the protection of laws and the labor unions. It depends on the cooperation between the DoT and moto-taxi companies whether this creative solution grows into a problem or an opportunity.

Photo: Hoang Diep - Vien Su

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