Cabbies must unlearn in order to learnPOSTED BY CBT Team ON 07 August 2014
Any Malaysian above 21 with a driver’s licence can enrol for a short course at one of the commercial driving institutes authorised by the Road Transport Department (RTD).
After passing the objective, driving and medical tests, successful candidates may then apply for a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence to drive taxis.
This low entry barrier had allowed several hundred thousand Malaysians to obtain PSV licences over the past decades, and large numbers were renewed using forged medical certificates.
If proper examinations are conducted on their knowledge and health, it is likely that half of those currently driving taxis would fail one of the tests.
But it would be ruthless to get rid of taxi drivers that do not measure up as many have no other options for their livelihood.
Although driving taxi is a licenced profession in Malaysia, taxi drivers are the least professional.
Any profession can be upgraded through training but quick fix measures such as one-size-fits-all programmes would not produce the desired results.
A three-pronged approach is necessary as training should differ from those who are currently driving taxis with those who wish to resume, and newbies without experience.
As PSV licences are issued by the RTD, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) should be stringent on the Driver’s Card (DC).
SPAD should make it conditional for newbies to pass a 6-day comprehensive course before granted the DC.
For those who wish to resume and can show proof that they have driven taxis for more than three years, a 3-day programme would be adequate.
Compulsory 1-day training is the best option for those currently driving taxis, numbering more than 60,000 in peninsular Malaysia, due to funding and time constraints.
However, those with years of experience are likely to scoff at the idea that they need training and are more concerned with their loss of income while not working.
Moreover, they are too accustomed to their old ways. We have to bear in mind that most people would not change even when their health or life is at stake.
For example, those who overeat or consume oily and salty food, sweetened drinks and cakes will not cut down nor top up what they lack, such as variety in their diet, vegetables, fruits, water, exercise and sleep.
The traditional approach towards training is to develop a comprehensive course and the heavy contents delivered mostly through lecture.
The participants would try to understand and remember as much as they can but after training, they are mostly forgotten.
Lecturing them a long list of dos and don’ts would be like water off a duck’s back. Also, those with minimal education are unlikely to apply techniques used for changing mind-sets.
Training must be customised for taxi drivers and student-centred, and not for them to study a course which looks good only on paper.
Four modules could be included in a day’s programme by getting the participants to share and learn from one another.
Arranging eleven seminar tables in a U-shape will allow eye contact among all 33 participants and facilitator.
Whenever cabbies are interviewed by the press, most of them would lament their difficulties and problems as if the world owes them a living.
The first module would be on introspection. Who forced them to become a cabby? Why did they choose to drive a taxi? What are the expectations of their families? How much are they earning and wish to earn?
The second module should be on skills training. How to greet and thank passengers? How to listen and assure passengers? How to handle difficult situations and customers? Why all passengers should be treated as VIPs? How to build customer base? How to serve tourists?
The third module is learning how to boost their income by getting more fares, tips and commissions, as even seasoned veterans do not realise that they can earn more.
The last module would be for each driver to declare in front of the class what they would apply immediately after training and it can include sharing profound experiences.
Training is effective when participants disclose what is in their mind so that the facilitator can respond and make it a learning experience for all.
As there are more than 10 million foreign visitors to Kuala Lumpur annually, taxi drivers should be allowed to choose training in Malay, English or Mandarin.
The focus should be getting cabbies to unlearn practices inhibiting their careers and learning proper methods to boost their income.
They will then realise that honesty, courtesy and good customer service will bring far greater rewards than unhealthy practices.