Much confusion over Uber

POSTED BY CBT Team ON 02 October 2014


It would help if those supporting Uber take into account that there is no shortage of phone apps to book taxis locally.

They include our home-grown MyTeksi, UniCabLink and EzCab, and foreign brands such as Easy Taxi, TaxiMonger and Uber.

Instead of going through an operator when calling for a radio cab, phone app users could track the movement of participating taxis in real-time.

Passengers using radio cabs or taxi apps have minimal issues with the drivers as complaints are swiftly dealt with and guilty cabbies have been suspended or banned.

Whether radio cab or taxi app, they are compared apple to apple, and the public can easily switch to the one they like more.

They do not compare the service provided by radio cabs or drivers using taxi apps with those without, and certainly not with those that wait outside their taxis to tout for passengers.

But those who are supportive of Uber would criticise enforcement agencies for taking action against pirate taxis while errant cabbies continue to operate with impunity.

On unscrupulous taxi drivers, they are spot-on.

Lack of enforcement was partly due to the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) being shorthanded but chiefly, it was the inaction of the Road Transport Department (JPJ) over the past decades that have emboldened cabbies.

Compared to SPAD, JPJ maintains a large number of enforcement officers who can act against both private and commercial vehicles, as empowered under the Land Public Transport Act.

For long, I have been advocating the carrot-and-stick method as good drivers should be recognised and bad ones apprehended.

It can be as easy as stationing enforcement officers at NGV stations where taxis congregate and cabbies in smart uniforms and clean vehicles could be praised while others reprimanded.

Cabbies will behave better if the penalty is not just suspending or revoking their licence. Those found overly aggressive should be sent to mental institutions.

While I am all against bad apples, my heart goes to those who try to make an honest living. No one, including taxi drivers, should be stereotyped.

For example, while driving taxis from 2000-2010, I was also the general manager for a car rental firm and later a tour company, and in between running a tourism training school.

Budget taxi charges were last revised in 2009 with starting fare at RM3 and 10 sen for every 115 metres or 21 seconds.

As all budget taxis will be using the Proton Exora and be known as Teksi 1Malaysia, it is imperative that fares be raised to a level that is fair to both passengers and drivers.

An equitable rate would be RM1.25 per km (10 sen every 80 metres) and RM24 per hour (10 sen every 15 seconds).

In comparison, current executive taxi fares start at RM6, RM2 per km and RM34.28 per hour. The model may be an old Naza Citra which is not superior to a new Exora.

The models offered locally by Uber are Nissan Almera, Perodua MyVi and Honda City, with starting fare at RM1.50, 55 sen per km and RM12 per hour.

The operating costs for private cars are much higher as unlike taxis, they are not exempted from excise duty and run on petrol at RM2.10 per litre versus 68 sen for NGV.

Uber, with huge funding, is prepared to subsidise fares to capture market share swiftly. They can gain much more from a hugely successful initial public offering.

Globally, they enter new markets with no concern of existing cabbies or respect for local laws and would wait and see whether they will be fined, suspended or banned by the authorities.

As such, they exploit the larger pool of private car drivers who wish to provide chauffeur-driven service either full time or moonlighting.

Those gullible will sign up but risk having their vehicles impounded or fined between RM1,000 and RM10,000 or one year’s imprisonment while Uber gets away scot-free.

If Uber is genuine in providing sustainable service, it should recruit the best drivers and charge passengers a 50% premium over regulated fares as it usually retains 20% as commissions.

It can easily do so as fares are calculated via GPS and the amount automatically deducted from passengers’ credit card accounts.

Other taxi apps collaborate with licensed taxis and fares are meter based. It is a matter of time that they too can accept credit card payment and calculate fares using GPS to crosscheck with the meter.

Just like good taxi drivers, accountable taxi apps deserve our support but we must always be vigilant as online services can syphon money out of the country without paying local taxes.

YS Chan
Kuala Lumpur


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