A chronicle of road transport licensing

While promoting the new economy, traditional law-abiding businesses should not be penalised or suffer unnecessarily


INITIALLY, commercial vehicle permits were issued by the Registrar and Inspector of Motor Vehicles (RIMV) until the Road Transport Licensing Board (RTLB) was set up in the 1970s to ensure most of the permits were granted to Bumiputeras or Bumiputera-owned companies.

However, permits for smaller vehicles carrying goods using pick-ups or vans were freely and automatically issued upon registration or transfer of ownership to sole proprietorships or private limited companies. They are termed as de-controlled vehicles or permits.

In 1987, RTLB was renamed Commercial Vehicles Licencing Board (CVLB).

Although licensing boards for Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak are separate, the jurisdiction of the Road Transport Department (RTD) covers the whole country.

In the 1990s, the issuance of “Bas Persiaran” and “Kereta Sewa Pandu Sendiri” permits was taken over by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism (Mocat), as the ministry had been issuing “Inbound” licences to companies operating tour buses and self-drive vehicles.

However, with the setting up of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) in 2010 and operational from 2011, issuance and renewal of “Bas Persiaran” and “Kereta Sewa Pandu Sendiri” permits was transferred to this new authority in Peninsular Malaysia.

But in Sabah and Sarawak, Mocat continued to issue these permits, while other commercial vehicle permits were determined by the state licensing boards.

In June 2018, SPAD was decommissioned and most of its functions were taken over by the new and leaner Land Public Transport Agency (APAD).

Earlier in 2014, SPAD held discussions with taxi operators, proposing that “Private Hire Vehicles” be introduced the following year, but the plan was made redundant as taxi operations and fares were undermined by the entry of UberX into the Malaysian market on Aug 7, 2014.

Two years later, the Cabinet approved the Taxi Industry Transformation Programme with 11 initiatives that included regulating e-hailing service.

In July 2017, the Dewan Rakyat endorsed amendments to the Land Public Transport Act 2010 and CVLB Act 1987, granting e-hailing drivers the legitimacy to be on the road.

In recent years, the public is well served by the proliferation of e-hailing apps and vehicles, while the number of licensed taxis continues to drop, with cabbies switching to driving private e-hailing vehicles or bowing out as consumers are unwilling to pay for higher taxi fares.

Interestingly, the Car Rental Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, the forerunner of the present-day Car Rental Association of Malaysia (CRAM), called for the abolition of “Kereta Sewa Pandu Sendiri” permits as far back as 34 years ago in 1986.

In April 2019, CRAM again called for the discontinuation of individual permits for each rental vehicle as licensed car rental companies should be allowed to operate any number of vehicles they wish to invest in, much like hotels and restaurants deciding on the number of rooms or tables.

And if permits must continue, they could be issued freely as granted to de-controlled vehicles for more than half a century. In any case, only the company needs to be licensed, not its products.

Moreover, the operator licence is more than enough to ensure licensees comply with regulations.

Recent events seem to suggest that permits for rental cars may soon be done away with.

On Sept 15, an app-based people-to-people car sharing marketplace announced that it is offering RM200 financial aid to each new host in a launch officiated by the transport minister.

It claimed to have more than 70,000 members and 1,500 car listings from 150 models ranging from Perodua to Porsche, even though using private cars for rental business is illegal until existing laws are amended and motor insurance extended to cover for hire or reward.

Speaking at the launch, Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said his ministry welcomes schemes from the private sector that are in line with the National Transport Policy involving public participation and stakeholder engagement in the development of transport initiatives.

Just as private accommodations can be rented out like hotel rooms using so-called home-sharing apps, it appears that private cars can now be rented out like licensed rental cars through people-to-people car-sharing marketplace.

If so, licensed car rental companies should be freed from the shackles of attaching individual permits to each vehicle, particularly when their renewals are complicated by differing expiry dates with the “Inbound” licence from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

Furthermore, their motor insurance premiums over the past decades used to be ridiculously high for comprehensive cover, at 4.7 times more than private cars, and have only reduced to twice in recent years.

Although rental vehicles are maintained in tip-top condition, they are subject to mandatory inspections at Puspakom, unlike private cars rented out through car-sharing.

While promoting the new economy, traditional law-abiding businesses should not be penalised or suffer unnecessarily.

Regrettably, enforcements tend to focus on legitimate businesses, which are more like sitting ducks, than hunting down and eliminating illegal or unlicensed operators.

YS Chan

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.