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Fair play needed to ensure harmony between taxi industry and ride-hailing companies

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 12 August 2016

By YAMIN VONG

While the government’s decision to allow popular e-hailing services such as Uber and Grab will benefit the nation, it is to be hoped that the legalisation will proceed with fair play in mind.

Today’s front page picture in the Star showing a Grab Pick up and Drop off point, already indicates that there is going to be trouble.

Kerbside pick up is the prerogative of conventional taxis and this is one advantage of regular taxis that must be guarded jealously.

If GRAB is not directed to stop kerbside pickups, you can imagine the consequences. The most obvious is that these Grab pick up points will be the focus of ire of conventional taxi drivers who are already losing business and under mental and physical distress.

Secondly, don’t expect Uber to take it sitting down. They are a robust competitor and they might also put up stands and even partner with petrol stations to be their pick up and drop off points.

If you are an e-hailing rider, I’d advise you to keep away from any of these Grab pick up and drop off points and keep to whatever you have been doing to avoid confrontation with conventional taxi drivers.

You should understand that conventional taxi drivers from being a mission focused hero of the road providing vital transport service and often providing free transport to the less fortunate are now seen as the villians because of a few bad apples.

To level the playing field, the government and SPAD should not just issue more permits.

Yes, the idea is good to liberalise the taxi industry by giving permits freely. This will dilute and eventually eliminate the rental culture that siphons off about RM20-RM30 a day from the earnings of taxi drivers who have to rent permits.

The solution is to give the taxi permits freely to existing drivers who don’t have permits. They can then continue to hire purchase the vehicles from the taxi companies who have the capital, without having to rent the permit.

Another problem with giving new permits to non-existing taxi drivers is that there could be abuse of the privilege of excise-duty waiver on the national cars used for taxis.

A third matter is that taxi charges are always going to be higher than e-hailing rides unless something radical is done. The government might already be looking at the Internet of Things to provide to taxi drivers with various e-hailing solutions, including navigation support and fare transparency by smartphone.

E-hailing is going to provide many gains to the national economy and the government should channel some of the net proceeds into a sort of Veteran Taxi Drivers fund to help the old taxi drivers, many of them retired servicemen, into other sectors of the economy where they can continue to contribute to the national economy.

Like the rest of the developed world, there is a huge shortage of drivers for commercial vehicle and buses. There should be an organisation and a fund to retrain taxi drivers who still want to drive but are forced to drop out of the diminishing taxi industry.

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