Taxis could be the preferred choice as consumers would not be happy of any fare increases
by LYDIA NATHAN / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
UNCERTAINTIES and confusion are expected to reign today in the ride-hailing sphere, as the first day of the mandatory public service vehicle (PSV) licence for the services takes effect.
Many e-hailing drivers have yet to get their PSV licences, while others are deciding to leave the shared economy ecosystem, leaving thousands of passengers in a possible lurch.
The government had decided not to extend the timeline to get the approval to continue as ride-hailing drivers, although some of the app-based chauffeur operators are hoping of a U-turn or a possible extension.
Some drivers were also expecting the government to extend the timeline. There are more than 200,000 ride-hailing drivers in the country, creating an industry worth millions of ringgit.
It was reported that about 10% of the total e-hailing drivers have secured their licence to operate, causing a huge hole for available cars under various apps.
Ride-hailing companies had already warned of a longer wait. Customers are already preparing themselves to pay more for the service which initially came to the country as a viable, reliable and cost effective option to traditional taxis.
Some drivers are divided whether to pursue the career, especially with the introduction of the regulations. Many drivers had also tried to enrol in the required exams at the last minute as they hoped of a postponement of the implementation and that apps companies will offer initial incentives.
The government announced that ride-hailing drivers must obtain the required licencing a year ago. The law states that ride-hailing drivers will not be allowed to operate and apps companies must disable the unlicenced drivers’ app.
The drop in e-hailing drivers and the sky-high fares could see the return of traditional cabs which had been sidelined since the emergence of ride-hailing services in the country.
Malaysia E-Hailing Drivers Association president Daryl Chong expects the gap left by e-hailing drivers to be filled by taxi drivers who already have the PSV licence.
“So, if you chose, for instance, the regular option, it is likely a taxi will come to your rescue due to the lack of e-hailing vehicles on the road,” Chong told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.
He said taxis could be the preferred choice as consumers would not be happy of any fare increases due to the smaller number of e-hailing drivers.
“It makes sense for fares to be increased if there are fewer drivers on the road, but people will have a choice of whether to pay a higher fare for a regular e-hailing vehicle or use a taxi.
“Many of these taxis are already on the platforms. It’s also a possibility that in five years, the number of taxis using e-hailing platforms will be more than regular e-hailing vehicles,” Chong said.
Grab Malaysia yesterday said in a statement that consumers should be ready to feel the strain of fewer drivers on the road after the deadline.
Grab, the country’s biggest operator, said it has been racing to assist over 200,000 driver-partners to complete the requirements in the last three months.
“While we have been trying our very best to support our driver-partners to obtain the PSV licence, we have heard from some of them, especially the part-timers, that they are reconsidering whether to continue driving,” Grab said.
Most Grab drivers cited “time constraints and difficulties in navigating the application process” as some of the main reasons why they would abandon the profession.
Mula Kuala Lumpur branch manager Kumeran Sagathevan told TMR that while the number of drivers ready on its platform was still unattainable, many of them are still going through the “legalisation” process.
He said after today, drivers who have obtained the complete PSV licence will go about their business as usual and Mula will assist the rest of its 3,000 drivers.
“At the end of the day, drivers need to fulfil all the requirements to be active as instructed by the government,” he said.
Meanwhile, it is not known whether the e-hailing company would turn off the apps of the drivers who fail to attain the PSV licence.
In terms of the projected increase in charges, Kumeran said the company’s rates are based on real-time fares.
“We will try to come up with better incentives to encourage drivers to be online to accept bookings,” he said.