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Death knell for part-time e-hailing services?

LETTER | A taxi driver from Sungei Petani, Kedah shared there was a meeting between the Road Transport Department (JPJ), Land Public Transport Agency (Apad) and e-hailing operators on Wednesday.

Currently, there are 258,000 e-hailing drivers in Apad’s record. But the number may be reduced by 90 percent come July 12 when the one-year moratorium ends and enforcement begins.

This is because a new category of licence known as "e-hailing taxi" will be introduced and vehicles under private registration can no longer be used for e-hailing services unless converted from private to commercial use.

The motor insurance for private vehicles will not be valid as e-hailing taxis will have to be insured under the taxi category. Under the old motor tariff, the premium to cover RM1,000 sum insured was RM26 for private vehicles and RM69.80 for taxis.

The first RM1,000 sum insured varies according to engine size. For a 1.6 litre car, it was RM251.50 for private use and RM488.30 for a taxi. The seating capacity allowed for e-hailing vehicles is from four to 11 passengers.

The number plates will remain the same as private vehicles (black plates with white letterings) but there will be identification marks on the vehicle, although not in standard taxi colours. The road tax will remain as private vehicle rates.

As expected, all e-hailing drivers must obtain a public service vehicle (PSV) licence but without having to go through a lengthy and expensive process like taxi drivers. A fast track and cheaper programme have been designed for them.

All they need to do is pay RM200 to attend a one-day course and pass a test. But licences for the PSV and e-hailing taxi will only be granted to those without criminal records, outstanding summonses and are in good health. To complete the conversion from private vehicles to e-hailing taxis, they must be sent to Puspakom for the initial inspections. 

This licensing and conversion from private to commercial vehicles will deter a large majority from embarking on such an unpleasant exercise.

Whether e-hailing taxi drivers are required to wear a uniform is still under discussion but the marked e-hailing taxis will enjoy taxi rates at toll plazas benefitting passengers and drivers on empty runs.

E-hailing taxis are not allowed to join taxi queues and are not permitted to wait at airports throughout the country. Interestingly, there are a lot of similarities between e-haling taxis and private hire vehicles that I wrote about in 2014, speculating that it will be introduced in 2015.

It has taken so long for the government to make clear that all private vehicles will no longer be allowed for e-hailing service, which must be a crushing blow for e-hailing drivers. Most full-time drivers are not happy to take time off to obtain a PSV licence, even after I pointed out the fact it will benefit them as it will get rid of a large number of casual and part-time drivers.

But to go through the hassle of converting their vehicles to commercial use and paying a much higher motor insurance premium, the majority will simply give up.

But those that remain will have a field day but passengers will suffer from fewer e-hailing vehicles and higher rates. Taxi drivers that have adopted e-hailing services with regulated taxi fares will be smiling from ear to ear.

If enforcement is strict after July 12, there will be a dearth of e-hailing vehicles for the rest of the year as the market can only return to normalcy next year. It may turn out to be a second wind for taxi companies, badly affected by e-hailing. They can exploit the crisis by supplying e-hailing taxis to drivers without a vehicle.

In any case, it will no longer be worthwhile for part-time drivers to dabble in e-hailing services as one has to invest in an ordinary taxi or e-hailing taxi to pick up passengers and this would only be worthwhile doing full-time.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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