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Taximen demonstrators are the vocal minority, don’t represent the trade

POSTED BY Yamin Vong ON 06 November 2018

 

Why some taximen demonstrate

by YS Chan

 

From 2000 to 2010, I drove premier and budget taxis in the Klang Valley and later conducted training, which were more like briefings, to over a thousand Teksi 1Malaysia (TEKS1M) and Teksi Wanita drivers.

 

In 2008, I delivered a presentation at the National Productivity Centre regarding “Taxi issues and proposals”. Before taxi fares were increased in 2009 and 2015, my detailed proposals regarding fare hikes were published by several newspapers.

 

In 2014, I proposed that budget taxi fares be raised from 87 sen to RM1.25 per km, and from RM17.14 to RM24 per hour. In 2015, The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) increased the fare to RM1.25 per km and RM25 per hour, and higher for TEKS1M.

 

Since 2010, the media had published a few hundred of my letters regarding the Malaysian taxi industry, including the modus operandi of e-hailing apps, taxi drivers, companies and associations.

 

I have also observed representatives from associations of taxi companies or drivers conduct themselves in dialogues organised by SPAD. Soon after Uber entered the Malaysian market in 2014, I pointed out some of its spin, many of which were swallowed hook, line and sinker by the gullible.

 

I give credit where credit is due and do not take sides. When necessary, I have criticised the authorities, taxi drivers, companies or associations. E-hailing operators were not spared, with Uber getting the brunt as in March 2007 when I wrote “Is Uber imploding?”

 

Now begs the question: Why do some taximen like meetings or protesting? The short answer is to remain popular with their supporters and to be seen as champions by the public. Those who helm non-governmental organisations need to show they are playing an effective role.

 

Convening like-minded individuals offers them the stage to make dramatic and aggressive demands in full public view. Instead of offering valid reasons, they shout down speakers in dialogue sessions.

 

There were countless meetings in the past and all grievances are already known. It would be pointless to hold more dialogues as taximen have nothing new to offer.

 

Instead of continuing to talk shop or making unreasonable demands through memorandums, taxi associations should submit feasible proposals, and the Ministry of Transport (MOT) should reciprocate by posting in its website both the proposals received and decisions made by the ministry.

 

If issues are acknowledged, addressed and shown in MOT’s website, there is no need to revisit them repeatedly, as endless talks lead to nowhere and is a big waste of time.

 

The large number of members claimed by many taxi associations are laughably optimistic, as most cabbies are trying hard to survive, with no time for meetings or protests.

 

But the media is also to be blamed for providing some taximen prominent coverage, with headlines such as “Thousands of cabbies to demonstrate outside Parliament on Thursday”.

 

Putting a minority group of delinquent taximen on a pedestal encourages them to continue making demands as if the world owes them a living. Many other jobs and industries are even more impacted by disruptive technology, but none have made as much demands as this small group of taximen yearning for limelight.

 

It would be a mistake for the public to stereotype taxi drivers. For example, the number of people who had driven taxis before are many times more than those driving cabs right now.

 

Between 2008 to 2009, the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board issued may taxi permits to both individuals and companies, flooding the market with taxis and unused permits in the Klang Valley. SPAD did not issue any from its inception in 2011 until 2017.

 

Cabbies without own taxi permits are those who did not bother to apply 10 years ago, or those who applied but did not qualify, or those joining after taxi fares were increased in August 2009.

 

With the introduction of Uber using private vehicles in 2014 and by Grab later, many cabbies without their own taxi permits had switched to driving Uber or Grab. Cabbies now using e-hailing may choose to pick up passengers paying taxi fares only or accept both taxi and private car rates to get more trips.

 

Those who do not use e-hailing either dislike or do not bother to operate smart phone apps and wish to continue with their old ways. Another group are those that prefer to queue at train stations, shopping malls and selected hotels.

 

The notorious group are those that wait at tourist hotspots or selected train and bus stations, touting for passengers and fixing fares. The bad image of taxi drivers came from this minority group, and their body language is no different from many cabbies found in meetings and protests.

 

YS Chan

Kuala Lumpur