I HAVE read reports that taxi drivers in Johor Baru are unhappy with low e-call rates and would like to share some of my experiences on taxis as a driver, commentator and trainer for Teksi Wanita, Teksi1Malaysia (TEKS1M) and taxi drivers pink colored vans authorized to rent cars in Pangkor.
I drove limo taxis from 1973 to 1975, and premium and economy taxis from 2000 to 2010.
The starting fare for first-rate taxis was RM3, with the meter registering 20 sen every 200 meters, or RM1 per km, and 20 sen every 45 seconds or up to RM16 in an hour.
Then the budget taxi fares were the starting fare RM2, 66.6 sen per km and RM8 per hour, which had not been revised for many years.
In 2007, I proposed that budget taxi fares be increased to RM3, RM1 per km and RM12 per hour.
My letter “Revise taxi fares to benefit everyone” was published in an English daily newspaper on October 20, 2007.
I also proposed that premium taxi fares be raised to RM4.50 as a starting fare, RM1.50 per km and RM24 per hour, with executive taxi fares remaining at RM6, RM2 per km and RM36 per hour. These would have streamlined fares for all metered taxi fares.
I warned taxi drivers that they need to realize that high fares do not necessarily translate into higher revenue.
A huge increase in fares (up to 600% as required by some taxi associations) will entice many people to drive taxis, but the profit will go to the taxi companies, not the drivers.
The consequence will be many empty taxis on the road, as drivers will find that high fares mean fewer passengers and fierce competition.
In 2009, the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board increased budget taxi fares to RM0.87 per km and RM17.14 per hour by setting metered fares at 10 sen every 115 meters or 21 seconds. Obviously, the revision was made without scientific basis.
The number of economy taxis on the road has doubled as a large number of taxi permits have been granted to taxi companies and individuals.
The market was flooded with taxis, forcing the Land Public Transport Commission, which became operational in 2011, to freeze permit issuance.
In 2013, I proposed that budget taxi fares be increased by 44% for distance to RM1.25 per km and 40% for time to RM24 per hour.
In 2015, budget taxi fares were increased to RM1.25 per km and RM25 per hour.
Fares for TEKS1M have been increased to a starting fare of RM4, RM1.50 per km and RM30 per hour in greater Kuala Lumpur, and higher in Penang at RM1.75 per km and RM35 per hour.
Although higher fares for TEKS1M were justified due to the higher costs of operating a Proton Exora minivan, it backfired when many passengers avoided using them.
Previously, when their fares were the same as other budget taxis, many passengers worried that their fares would be higher.
Now, seven years later, taxi drivers in Johor Baru are complaining that they cannot compete with email services as passengers would have to pay twice as much to use taxi services, according to secretary of Taman Desa Jaya United Taxi Club, Ismail Mohammad.
Instead of continuing to raise issues with the state government, the Johor Public Transport Corporation, the Land Transport Public Transport Agency and the Ministry of Transport, their dilemma could easily be resolved if the taxi drivers concerned s appropriated their own livelihood.
If they lost out to e-hailing, which became popular after the launch of the MyTeksi app in 2012 offering services using taxis, and Uber in 2014 using private vehicles, they could easily switch from driving taxis to private cars without having to obtain a taxi license.
In fact, many taxi drivers did, especially those who rented permits from taxi companies or individuals.
Only those who refused or failed to adapt to e-hail continue to drive taxis, but spend most of their time waiting for few and far between passengers.
Moreover, nothing prevents taxi drivers from embedding many email applications if they are willing to accept the same lower fares paid to private vehicle drivers.
They are free to charge any amount they wish as long as they are not above the regulated metered tariffs.
Over the past few decades, politicians from the very top to those running for office have waded into some things, making promises to more than a thousand taxi drivers in a room or a small, boisterous group with a few -a few claiming to be chiefs of obscure taxi associations.
As for the taxi drivers in Johor, now is an opportune time to use the politicians by making them publicize that taxis in the state will offer a 50% discount from March 2022.
A large “50% off” sticker on taxi doors would assure the public that the offer is genuine.
On Election Day, March 12, these taxis could be chartered by political parties to transport voters.
In addition to paying drivers a fair rate for their taxi service, promising them a bonus for winning could bring in a few extra votes that could prove crucial in hotly contested seats.
YS Chan is Asean Tourism Master Trainer for Travel Agencies, Master Trainer for Mesra Malaysia and Travel & Tours Enhancement Course. He is also a consultant and writer in the tourism and transport industry. Comments: [email protected]