Rules governing subsidies to help taxi drivers purchase new vehicles are to be made public in April, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said at the weekend, adding that it would begin accepting applications in May.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) revealed the subsidy plan at a meeting with taxi operator representatives at the Presidential Office on Saturday.
Taxi operators have expressed dissatisfaction over the government allowing Uber Taiwan to work with car rental businesses to offer taxi services.
The plan would provide NT$150,000 to taxi drivers if they buy new gasoline or diesel-powered cars, Presidential Office spokesperson Xavier Chang (張惇涵) said, adding that drivers buying hybrid vehicles or electric cars would be subsidized NT$250,000 and NT$350,000 respectively.
Tsai instructed the Executive Yuan to publish the rules for the subsidies and make them public as soon as possible, Chang said.
The ministry’s on Thursday last week announced it would amend the Transportation Management Regulations (汽車運輸業管理規則) to stipulate that car rental operators working with information platforms like Uber must charge passengers either hourly or daily rates, with the minimum rental time being one hour.
Taxi operators welcomed the development, calling it “delayed justice” and canceled a protest they had planned for Wednesday.
However, car rental firms said that the changes are designed to nullify business opportunities brought through partnerships with Uber.
The president asked the Executive Yuan to assist drivers who use rental vehicles to become diversified taxi service drivers by addressing problems they have reported in securing taxi licenses and loans, Chang said.
The Executive Yuan should also subsidize taxi drivers working in remote areas, as well as those who provide services for elderly people, pregnant women and people in long-term care, he said.
Tsai also asked agencies to address practical issues that taxi drivers face, including by offering training and waiving parking fees for lunch breaks, Chang said.
Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said that the ministry and other agencies would enforce the president’s policy, which would create a level playing field.
The ministry said that it aims to announce the subsidy rules in April.
From May, drivers whose vehicles were manufactured more than eight years earlier can apply for the subsidies, the ministry said, adding that it estimates that about 30,000 drivers would benefit from the plan.
National Motor Transport Drivers’ Union deputy chairman Cheng Li-chiang (鄭力嘉), who was at the meeting with Tsai, affirmed the policy, saying it follows principles laid out in the Highway Act (公路法) that stipulate taxis and car rental services should be treated as distinct.
“A lot of people become taxi drivers because they have encountered financial difficulties,” Cheng said.
“They cannot even afford a downpayment on a new car, but the president has promised to subsidize them,” he said.
“This will allow them to at least make the downpayment. Then they can work to pay the rest in installments,” he said.
The ministry has previously subsidized taxi drivers replacing old cars with new ones.
In 2012, drivers with gasoline or diesel-powered cars were eligible for a NT$40,000 rebate, while it was NT$115,000 for a hybrid vehicle.
However, that program ended in 2015.
Eighty to 90 percent of taxis are powered by gasoline or diesel, and about 10 percent are hybrid vehicles, estimates provided by taxi operators showed.
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