The president of the Thai Taxi Network Association says that many traditional licensed taxis will likely switch to driving their own cars as rideshare drivers.

The statement comes in response to the government’s announcement that they have started to put together regulations for rideshare taxi apps, set to go into effect in a month or two. The new regulations would bring validity to the legal grey area of people using their private cars to give people rides for pay via mobile apps.

The new plans would place some safety and organizational regulations on ridesharing apps like Grab, requiring drivers and cars to be officially registered with a drivers license and a criminal background check and be equipped with safety and communication features, as well as caps on pricing maximums for the apps.

While some hope the new regulation will bring them in line with the normal taxis, who have yellow license plates signifying that they are legal public transport, the taxi group president argues that the government is caving to illegal rideshare apps to legitimise them to the detriment of licensed taxis.

Operating as a legal taxi driver requires compliance with many laws and regulations, and a heavy investment in licensing and a strict registration process, all of which may be rendered obsolete with the passage of the new regulations. The taxi association representative said cab drivers are being bullied with this legislation, while government bends for the lawbreakers at the expense of the legitimate taxi operators.

Although legal taxis do have their own ride-hailing app already, many taxi drivers may abandon the complex and well-regulated system to go freelance as a less regulated rideshare driver.

There are about 80,000 yellow-plated taxis currently in Thailand, though only about 30,000 are now in operations because of sharply decreased demand during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At a time when customers are hard to find, some taxis are getting a boost by advertising their Covid-19 safety with a “Vaccine” sign for any cabbie who’s had their jabs. The illuminated green LED sign is the brainchild of Smart Taxi managing director, who believes that this confirmation will make commuters and passengers feel more safe and secure. He also thinks it will incentivise taxi drivers who have not yet gotten their jabs to get vaccinated right away.

Longtime taxi drivers are angry about the coming regulations, feeling like they are being punished for obeying the laws. They want to protest, but will not gather because of Covid-19 restrictions.