Once kings of the road, taxis are facing extinction

The situation is dragged by e-hailing’s fare rate which is not being controlled by the govt

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

TAXIS that once ruled Malaysian roads are now a rare sight. Companies that were once so lucrative that their licences were given as political favours are now a shadow of themselves after years of decline made worse by ride-sharing apps and the devastating effect of pandemic restrictions on travel.

Gabungan Teksi SeMalaysia president Kamarudin Mohd Hussain said the estimated decline for the number of taxis in the country is around 8,000 to 10,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Coupled with the drastic drop in demand for taxis over the past few years, Kamarudin said the taxi industry is no longer a viable business and job option for people anymore.

“This situation is also dragged by e-hailing’s fare rate which is not being controlled by the government, leading to passengers choosing e-hailing services over taxis.

“The biased and unequal regulations between taxi and e-hailing services have resulted in taxi drivers being sidelined and not being able to compete healthily with other industry players,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Kamarudin said there are many other issues faced by taxi drivers that need to be addressed by the government, including taxi companies not being able to renew their licences.

Most taxi drivers on the roads today, he added, are operating illegally as their insurances were not renewed.

“I have appealed repeatedly to the Transport Ministry (MoT) to grant temporary relief to companies wishing to renew their permits, but to this day, I have not gotten any positive feedback,” Kamarudin said.

Previously, taxi companies had to clear all their summons, before they could get a permit.

“But since Covid-19 hit, taxi drivers have lost their income, therefore, they could not pay rent to the company and in turn, the companies were unable to renew their permits.

“When the permits are not renewed, automatically, these drivers lose their jobs,” he said.

On Jan 18, Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government was providing an exemption from excise duty and sales tax for transfer, disposal and private use of taxis, provided the vehicle is owned for seven years.

He announced that this condition has been reduced to five years, effective from Jan 1 to Dec 31, 2021, however, according to Kamarudin, industry players were not informed by the MoT or Land Public Transport Agency (APAD).

“Until now, our drivers are still paying excise duty and sales tax when PM, had in fact, given an exemption. When we contacted the authorities about this, they told us that they were also not aware of the announcement.

“Secondly, even though nearly a year had passed since the Finance Ministry announced that registered taxi drivers would receive one-off RM600 assistance under Bantuan Prihatin Nasional, many of our drivers are yet to receive the money.

“We are upset that many of these crucial issues related to taxi drivers, rental car drivers, bus drivers and e-hailing have not been resolved directly and thoroughly by the MoT,” he added.

Kamarudin noted that APAD and the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board’s (CVLB) poor effort to protect the welfare of public transport drivers is only going to affect their chances of receiving further government assistance.

He added that the taxi industry has been bearing the repercussions from e-hailing services and that the group has been seeking equal rights since 2014.

“Unfortunately, from the info I received, APAD did not want to coordinate this matter to protect the interests of e-hailing companies.

“This just goes to show that our human rights and welfare are not protected. Taxi drivers are often neglected and victimised,” he said, adding that MoT should do a major overhaul in APAD and CVLB to improve the functions of both agencies.

However, with the government opening domestic tourism activities within states under the Recovery Movement Control Order, Kamarudin believes that it would be a good opportunity for the taxi industry to recover financially.

“I hope that it will benefit the taxi industry to some extent and bring back the demand for taxis, as tourists are not allowed to use their own vehicles to travel within and between these states,” he concluded.


Read our previous report here

Drivers of e-hailing vehicles, taxis and buses exempted from reapplying Permai cash aid