7 February 2012
Taxi drivers are back in the limelight with their plight and grievances being given much attention and publicity, and errant cabbies being caught under Ops Tegas mounted by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
The entire public transportation on land needs a major overhaul, and SPAD was created to serve this purpose.
Transformation of the taxi industry can only be achieved by setting short-, medium- and long-term plans that place national interest first.
Some cabbies have called for the scrapping of the taxi coupon system that had been in use since the opening of KL Sentral 10 years ago and before that, at the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station.
The system at KL Sentral is open to all licensed taxis, and cabbies are not charged a monthly “stand fee” that is commonly practised at major hotels.
Cabbies have no problems cashing the coupons at 90% of the value from the KL Sentral concessionaire and this arrangement has never been an issue.
As the coupon fares are zone based, some of the charges will be higher, and others lower, than metered fares.
They are generally higher to offset traffic congestion, but not for a bad jam. Passengers ought to be thoughtful and tip the drivers for their lost working time.
Any proposal to replace the coupon system with metered fare at the new low cost carrier terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (klia2) is welcome. It is fair to both the drivers and passengers, provided the meters have not been tampered with.
The concessionaire must respond immediately to any complaint against a driver or taxi. Passengers who are short-changed must be swiftly compensated, and SPAD be informed of every case and action taken.
It is fair to charge a RM3 handling fee for managing a concession professionally that comes with a service guarantee. It must be an open system, and drivers and taxis must be inspected before being allowed to pick up passengers.
However, if the concessionaire has little responsibility or accountability and is no better than a rent-seeker, it is not fair to demand that passengers pay a service fee.
It is common practice for major hotels to appoint a company or individual to manage the taxi service. Most of the hotel-based taxis are licensed under limousine or executive.
Whenever a budget taxi is preferred, the “call taxi lamp” is switched on. The flashing light attracts budget taxis like moths to a flame and guests do not have to wait long.
Barring budget taxis from a shopping centre
is unacceptable to both taxi drivers and passengers. It is no wonder that the cabbies are up in arms.
Most taxi drivers do not find it worthwhile to pay registration and monthly fees to such a concessionaire.
Those who do may end up queuing for hours to get a trip.
Some tourists find the executive taxi fares reasonable and are happy with the taxi service from KLCC. However, more tourists now prefer budget taxis as their fares are much lower, and the locals are used to paying lower taxi fares.
Many budget taxi drivers try to fix fares. It is the other way round for executive taxis. These drivers are happy to use the meter but some passengers try to fix fares.
The Federal Territory and Urban Well-being Ministry plans to announce an insurance scheme for taxi drivers in March.
We must bear in mind that the poorer sections of our society are more used to receiving aid and many people do not really understand the concept of insurance.
Those who need health insurance the most are too sick to qualify for such cover and those who are healthy are least interested.
Taxi drivers are in the high-risk group for personal accident insurance. For adequate cover, the premium is high and cover is too basic when the premium is low.
The new insurance scheme will receive a boost if the ministry is prepared to subsidise 50% of the premiums for the first year and continue to do so in subsequent years for taxi drivers with clean records.