By YS Chan
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri was spot on when she recently called on taxi drivers to work with Uber and Grab, instead of continuing to complain that e-hailing apps have impacted their income.
Many other businesses and trades have been affected by the new economy, but none more vocal than a section of taxi drivers.
The perennial issue could be better addressed by taking cognisance of the fact that there are five main categories of taxi drivers.
Apart from those who migrated to driving private cars and have signed up with Uber or Grab to earn a higher income, many have continued to drive taxis and pick up passengers who use GrabTaxi.
Others prefer one of the dozen taxi apps available but run fewer trips, as passengers using e-hailing would choose Uber or Grab that charge lower fares.
Then there are those still using trunk radios with an operator in a radio taxi company acting as the intermediary between passengers and drivers.
The fourth category are those not bothered with trunk radios or mobile apps, preferring to cruise for passengers or wait at train stations, shopping malls, hotels or airports.
The last category are those with many bookings from regular passengers to the airport or hourly use. There are good reasons why these cabbies provide the best service and earn the highest income among taxi drivers.
City cabbies normally run between 10 and 30 trips per day. Those who treat every passenger as a VIP can easily build up a large pool of regular customers, adding 10 to 30 per month.
Unlike normal cabbies, they are not afraid to display their phone numbers in the taxi and eager to dish out name cards. Those who communicate well act as tourist drivers and receive handsome tips from passengers and commissions from shops.
Ordinary cabbies can earn more by shedding the entitlement attitude, particularly those who feel strongly that the public must use their licensed taxis and not private cars, and passengers must pay no less than regulated fares when they are not fixing fares.
If private car drivers can accept fares and incentives offered by Uber or Grab, there is no reason why cabbies cannot, as most of them are running on cheaper natural gas for vehicles.
The proliferation of radio taxi companies in the past has not only cannibalised the market, the limited number of participating taxis with one operator means they quickly run out of drivers during peak periods.
Service would have been super efficient if there was only one phone number for the public to call for radio taxis and trip requests reached all drivers. But taxi operators did not learn as evident by the mushrooming of taxi apps in the market.
They should have taken a leaf from Grab, which started as the MyTeksi app in 2012. After Uber was introduced to the local market in 2014, MyTeksi quickly morphed into Grab and competed successfully with Uber.
Last September, Grab’s valuation exceeded USD3 billion (RM12.84 billion), after it successfully raised USD750 million in a new equity financing round led by SoftBank.
Instead of creating and operating a dozen taxi apps, taxi companies should have encouraged cabbies to migrate to Uber or Grab. Cabbies would receive just as many bookings if they accepted the same fares and incentives offered to private car drivers.
The Taxi Industry Transformation Plan (TITP) announced last August allowed for dynamic fares for metered taxis using e-hailing services.
The primary concern of taxi companies is for drivers to earn enough to pay for monthly instalments as contracted under the taxi rental-purchase agreement.
Unlike private car drivers, cabbies could also pick up street-hailing passengers and collect higher regulated fares, as customers were happy to pay metered charges.
Under the TITP, cabbies exiting the rental-purchase system may apply for individual taxi permits, and those successful would also be granted RM5,000 to help purchase a new taxi.
Some cabbies have been complaining for years about almost everything under the sun, and politicians would be making fools of themselves by trying to be their champion, which is the norm before general elections.
YS Chan is an FMT reader.
With a firm belief in freedom of expression and without prejudice, FMT tries its best to share reliable content from third parties. Such articles are strictly the writer’s personal opinion. FMT does not necessarily endorse the views or opinions given by any third party content provider.