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Towards a safer road transport for tourists

POSTED BY admin ON 06 August 2018

Over the years, the Malaysia Productivity Centre (MPC) had engaged with many stakeholders on “Reducing Unnecessary Regulatory Burdens” (RURB), with the latest on road and water transport services in the tourism industry.

Businesses would no doubt benefit from RURB, as it could decrease costs and increase productivity. But for the tourism industry, safety and security must be paramount.

Therefore, it is timely for the Ministry of Transport to organise a public seminar and conduct study on increasing road safety for tourists.

Tourists could travel in vehicles with or without permits, or in unlicensed vehicles permitted to do so but may not be in full compliance with existing laws. It is a quagmire few industry personnel are aware, let alone the public or foreign tourists.

Tour vehicles could be hired with or without drivers. Those with drivers are tour buses and vans licensed under Bas Persiaran, and saloons and MPVs under Teksi Mewah. Those without drivers are self-drive vehicles licensed under Kereta Sewa Pandu (Hire & Drive).

Before the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) took over the issuance of permits for Bas Persiaran and Kereta Sewa Pandu from the Ministry of Tourism in peninsular Malaysia, self-drive vehicles were permitted for chauffeur-drive service.

But in August 2014, SPAD clarified in a media statement that vehicles registered as Hire & Drive under SPAD are not allowed to be used for taxi or limousine services. Those in Sabah and Sarawak were not affected, as they came under Ministry of Tourism’s jurisdiction.

But many tour operators use Hire & Drive vehicles for chauffeur-drive, as they were unable to obtain Teksi Mewah permits from the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) and later SPAD, because these officers had a poor grasp of tourist transport services.

In the late 1960s, tour operators and car rental companies approached the Registrar and Inspector of Motor Vehicles (RIMV), then the only vehicle licensing body, to introduce a new category of vehicle permit catering for the tourism industry.

These “limousine taxi” permits were granted to the pioneer tour and car rental companies and limousines were based at their offices or garages. It was only much later when many 5-star hotels were built and the number of limousine taxis based at hotels exceeded that of those operated by tour and car rental companies.

CVLB and later SPAD officers wrongly associated limousine taxis with hotels only, and those who applied for Teksi Mewah permits had first to secure a concession from a hotel, thus depriving tour operators such permits needed to operate tour cars in peninsular Malaysia.

Tour operators suffered a double whammy when they were summoned for picking passengers outside the base stated in the permit, a condition which applies to hotel-based limousines but not for tour services, which must pick up tourists from wherever they are.

While it is clear that big and small tour groups are transported in large, midi and mini tour buses and vans licensed under Bas Persiaran, it is anybody’s guess on the type of vehicles used for a car load of tourists.

Those who travel in taxis could be in airport taxis using coupons, or metered taxis which could be Teksi 1Malaysia, budget or executive taxis, or non-metered taxis known as hired cars (Kereta Sewa). Some use private vehicles through e-hailing apps.

Tourists travelling alone or with a companion that have made prior bookings with a tour operator could be transported in a tour car licensed under Teksi Mewah or Kereta Sewa Pandu or even an unlicensed vehicle.

Foreigners looking for transport upon arrival are bound to be accosted by airport touts and their opportunistic drivers would exploit passengers when given half a chance.

Lack of enforcement at airports, hotels, attractions and popular tourist spots have allowed touts and unscrupulous cabbies a field day over the past decades. This was made worse in the absence of CCTV cameras to monitor such undesirable activities.

If cameras at the airport were to zoom in on the faces of touts and display their mug shots on a wall, it will see them off in a hurry. Not taking effective action suggests collusion  between some airport enforcement personnel and touts.

Other than the authorities, the safety and security of tourists depend mainly on the drivers and vehicles.

The same person would be a safer driver after obtaining a public service vehicle (PSV) licence or renewing it in a proper manner. But it is doubtful whether commercial vehicle drivers certified fit have undergone proper medical examinations.

E-hailing operators monitor their drivers through passengers’ feedback and such ratings become increasingly accurate over time. But new drivers could pose a danger, particularly those with ill intention.

As for vehicles, newer private cars are safer than older taxis, with some cabs more than 10 years on the road. But passengers in almost all vehicles used for transporting tourists are not covered for personal accident (Pa) insurance.

PA insurance cover could be arranged for unnamed passengers for a specific coverage such as RM100,000 for death or permanent disablement cover plus RM10,000 medical expenses. Compensation is paid out speedily for injuries without having to establish the party at fault.

The law requires all buses and vans to be insured for passenger liability. The insurance covers the driver for causing injury to passengers, similar to the compulsory third party cover for drivers of all motor vehicles for causing injury to people outside his vehicle.

This means that injured parties would have to file a civil suit against the driver at fault, and if proven to be so, the amount of compensation would be awarded by the court and paid out by the insurance company.

But insurance companies would be quick to repudiate cover if terms and conditions spelt out in the motor insurance policy are breached. If so, the insurance company would not pay out any compensation.

It would be pointless to sue a driver with no means to pay. In such cases, injured victims would not receive any compensation.

Even if successful, injured victims or families of the deceased would have to wait many years for the trial to be over and compensation awarded. Some foreigners, particularly China tourists, expect compensation on-the-spot.

This is where PA insurance is vastly superior. The sum insured may be low for high-income earners but the speedy pay out allows many to put the episode behind and move on with their lives.

It should be remembered that the many terms and conditions stipulated by insurance companies could easily be breached by the driver, such as driving without a valid competent driving licence (CDL) or PSV licence, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, admitting fault after an accident or pleading guilty in court.

As for private vehicles permitted to pick up passengers through e-hailing apps, not only the drivers are not covered for passenger liability, they are also not insured for third party injuries which is against the law, or for damage to their own vehicle or third party property.

Until all the vehicle permits and insurance covers are straightened out, road transport for tourists remain as messy as ever. It will be interesting to see how the MPC could reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on road transport for tourists.

 

YS Chan

Kuala Lumpur