Bangkok’s Grab bikes more expensive, harder to find next month

Photo: Grab
Photo: Grab

Bangkok’s motorcycle taxis this morning hailed sweeping changes to hold Grab riders to the same transportation regulations they must abide by.

Consumers will likely pay more for Grab bikes next month when riders must comply with the same Transport Ministry rules governing traditional motorcycle taxis, who welcomed the changes as long overdue  

“It’s the right thing to do,” a win motosai identifying himself only as Nu told Coconuts on Tuesday morning. “Getting a yellow license plate is the right thing to do. When I see motorists with white license plates picking up customers, it’s just not right.”

The popular ride-hailing service headquartered in Singapore announced late yesterday afternoon that its Thai riders must register as publicly hired drivers and obtain commercial license plates by July 15. Most Grab riders operate privately owned vehicles with white license plates which will be forbidden from picking up passengers after July 15.

Additionally, they must register and operate only within designated service areas – much like regular win motosai – and picking up passengers elsewhere will be prohibited.

Fares must be the same as regular motorcycle taxis – aka, higher – under rates specified by the transport ministry. While short trips can cost about the same, longer trips by Grab are usually substantially less expensive.

Nu believes it will be more fair, as Grab riders will have to wait months for their commercial plates rather than going to work immediately. 

Just down from where he is required to wait at his station by the entrance to a Thonglor soi, the Grab riders who loiter between jobs had mixed reactions to the new requirements.

“I don’t really follow the news, but it seems like a good idea to get a yellow license plate,” Grab rider Apiwat Sunarak said. “I never really have any problems with P’Win, so I don’t really care.”

But Weerapol Ouanthuan said he expects consumers will be hurt by fewer options. He thinks it will be difficult to get commercial plates for his Honda PCX150.

“I think if everyone is required to get one, which I don’t think is possible, there will be fewer Grabs,” Weerapol said. “Getting customers isn’t as easy as you think. I mean, I only made 300 baht today from three customers.”

Grab and Uber riders began flooding the city around 2014, just as the new junta was imposing heavy regulation of the motorcycle taxi industry, such as marked pickup locations and posted fare boards.

The military government quickly declared all ride-hailing services illegal but failed to drive them out of business despite browbeating the companies and arresting dozens of riders.

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