Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Revamped taxi service to benefit drivers and public 调整德士收费,让司机和公众都受惠

Adapted from
It was recently reported that taxi drivers may soon get their long awaited fare increase. It was not too long ago, in 2008, that the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) issued a stern warning to taxi drivers that they risked losing their licences if they increased fares without approval. The proposed fare increase is expected to be a raise in the starting base meter fare from RM2 to RM4 and a rate review on the fare charged per km travelled.

The reason for the hike is due to increases in operation and maintenance cost of vehicles, and also that most taxi drivers are not earning enough. If we remember, in November 2008 there was even a proposal by the then Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Minister to allow taxi drivers to sell packet drinks and phonecards to passengers as a side business to increase their earnings.
The proposal was not well received and I believed it did not take off. The fact the ministry suggested such a proposal shows that the government is probably trying to resolve the issue plaguing the taxi industry in terms of the ability of taxi drivers to earn a decent living. However the approach is not correct. We know that the part of the reason why the cost of operating a taxi is high is because taxi drivers are unable to obtain the permit themselves.

That could also be the reason why in January the first batch of cabbies, about 1,000, was given individual taxi permits. It is quite ludicrous that a taxi driver is unable to obtain an individual permit when he is the operator of the business. With company-owned permits, they have to work and pay off the companies first before they pay themselves. No wonder we always hear constant complaints of taxi drivers who do not use the meter and flaunt regulations. Tourists and the public do not have good things to say of our taxi drivers.

Since 1987, the CVLB has issued a total of 259,000 taxi permits, and individual permits represent a very small percentage of this figure.

A fare increase will help to alleviate the frustrations of taxi drivers, but if most of them are no individual permit holders, it is the permit holders who will benefit and not the taxi drivers. It is quite certain that with a fare review, the companies holding the permits will probably rent out the permits at a higher rate.

At the end the vicious cycle continues, the taxi drivers will continue to suffer and in return we passengers will bear the brunt and worst still we have to pay higher fares. I believe that if taxi drivers are able to earn a reasonable income monthly they will not resort to unscrupulous tactics to fleece passengers or tout at our international airport.

Talking about touts, it baffles me why this issue cannot be resolved. It is not as if it is difficult to carry out sting operations by posing as tourists to nab touts. But this will only address the symptom and not resolve the crux of the problem.

I believe the underlying issue is because taxi drivers ferrying passengers to the airport are unable to pick up passengers at the airport. They have to return empty. It is does not make economic sense.

It is time to do away with the monopoly on taxi services at the KLIA or any airport. I do not understand the need to have an exclusive taxi company to operate at an airport. I have yet to see any benefits of the current coupon system. In fact there are times at peak hours where you are required to take a premier taxi as a budget taxi is not available. To ease the situation and for more cost-effective travel, the government should allow taxis to pick up passengers freely without restriction. This could eliminate the tout problem and it would also help to increase the income of taxi drivers.

On the same matter, I have also heard grouses about different coupon fees charged by taxi companies. Apparently, the fare for a budget taxi from KLIA to the LCCT is higher than from the LCCT to KLIA even though distance is the same. The only reason I can think for this is that the taxi company feels that passengers from the LCCT passengers should get a cheaper rate since it is the LCCT.

The coupon system was implemented to counter profiteering by taxi drivers who refused to use meters but the effectiveness of this system is unclear. The rates should be transparent and clear like using the taxi meter. That way it would ensure that the coupon system is not abused.

Ultimately with better incomes, I believe taxi drivers would provide a better service to the benefit of everyone.













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