Training approach to resolve public transport woes

POSTED BY Tony Yew ON 26 December 2015

Dear Editor,

I refer to “SPAD must act decisively” (The Star, Dec 25) and wish to explain the issues raised by the writer regarding controversies surrounding ride-hailing apps such as Uber. Current laws, motor insurance and hire-purchase agreements do not allow private vehicles to be used for hire or reward.

Enforcement agencies such as the police, Road Transport Department (RTD) and the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) are empowered to seize pirate taxis or unlicensed vehicles used for carrying fare-paying passengers.
From October last year, SPAD has impounded 145 private cars, including 44 Uber and 97 GrabCar vehicles within a 12-month period.

In July, among the 53 private cars awaiting court verdicts were Mercedes Benz models (E200, E230 & S280), Nissan (Teana, Sylphy & Almera), Toyota (Camry & Vios), Honda (Accord, City & Jazz), Hyundai Elantra, Kia Optima, Perodua Myvi, Proton (Saga & Preve) and other models.

SPAD is also issuing notices under Section 225 of the Land Public Transport Act 2010 requiring vehicle owners or drivers known to be providing Uber and GrabCar services to assist in investigations of the alleged offences under Section 16 of the Act. Drivers who turned up at the Commission may have their vehicles impounded and those who don’t will be barred from renewing the road tax. Meanwhile, all available channels to locate the private vehicles will be utilised.

Instead of calling for a ban which is already in place, it would be appropriate for the writer to call for more enforcement, especially by the police and RTD, as illegal chauffeur-driven services provided by Uber and GrabCar continue unabated. Unlike taxi apps linking passengers with licensed taxis, Uber chose to create a taxi black-market using private vehicles and shave off 20 percent of the fares it collects from online credit card payments.

It will operate anywhere it can, including in cities with the best taxi services in the world, with no regard for the welfare of local cabbies or fear of the authorities. It will just enter the market and deal with the authorities only when they have to.

Globally, it will issue the same politically correct statements without giving direct answers or explicit offers. If Uber was sincere, it would have made specific proposals to the authorities on how they can operate within the law, or how the laws could be amended to benefit the majority.

The writer proposed that “SPAD must permanently cease the award of bulk permits to companies and individuals; freeze the award of operators licences; issue individual permits to all taxi drivers regardless of their years of service; provide better benefits and insurance protection for taxi drivers/cabbies; and formulate, amend and repeal existing laws so as to ensure the legitimate rights and interests of taxi drivers are safe guarded and protected against unreasonable operators”.

It will be good if the writer and concerned readers are more knowledgeable of the taxi industry.

As there were far too may taxis, especially in the Klang Valley, SPAD had not issued any metered taxi permits since inception. The 1,000 Teksi 1Malaysia (TEKSIM) permits granted to individuals were converted from those surrendered by taxi companies. SPAD had tried to provide better insurance protection for TEKS1M drivers by arranging comprehensive cover for the Proton Exora taxis but this measure was resented as cabbies are not used to paying high insurance premiums.

Issuing more taxi permits to individuals would send more people into a low-income trap. It would be better to get Malaysians to drive buses and lorries as they would enjoy a higher and more stable income, and these industries are facing an acute shortage of good drivers.

More than half of all taxi permits are individually-owned and many of them are also rented out. The writer called for an establishment of a taxi drivers academy reminded me of my proposals “Set up a professional drivers’ academy” (The Star, Nov 24, 2011) and “Set up professional drivers academy” (The Star, May 1, 2014).

Four years ago, I stated that the best investment SPAD can spend to transform public road transportation was to set up this Drivers’ Academy. Last year, I pointed out that RTD is the gatekeeper for all commercial vehicle drivers, as it issues and renews vocational driving licences.

I proposed that if RTD is not prepared to set up a corporatised Professional Drivers Academy, the Land Public Transport Commission should be given adequate funding to shoulder the responsibility, including the issuance and renewal of goods driving licence (GDL) and public service vehicle (PSV) licence.

It was recently reported that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak had given the blessing for such a move, and SPAD is preparing a comprehensive paper for presentation to the Cabinet in January for approval.

YS Chan
Kuala Lumpur