TRANSIT took note of a series of articles about the taxi industry. We thought to place the policy issues first, but then we saw this article, which made us feel terrible and showcased the terrible state of the taxi industry.
Cabbie commits suicide due to debt woes (The Star)
Wednesday June 22, 2011
A TAXI driver who failed to settle his RM12,500 debt took his own life after loan sharks snatched his taxi.
Major Chinese dailies reported that the 51-year-old taxi driver gave a friend RM300 to pass to his mother before he hanged himself at the Taxi Drivers Club at a village in Johor Baru early on Monday.
Wen De Fa left a suicide note saying that he had borrowed RM9,000 from the loan sharks but was asked to repay twice the amount.
He said he was assaulted and his taxi was taken away by the loan sharks, who forced him to sign a form to transfer the ownership of the vehicle.
He also revealed the identities of the loan sharks, also taxi drivers.
“Please arrest them, they are loan sharks,” he wrote at the end of the suicide note.
Wen also sent a text message to his sister, requesting her to take care of their mother and his teenage daughter.
The policy and the numbers often get our attention, but we forget that this is a human-powered industry with people (drivers and passengers) who are being hurt by the industry.
The next article showcases the issue of too many taxi permits and the lack of solutions to this matter.
We beat New York! (Malay Mail)
More cabs in Klang Valley than in the Big Apple, says SPAD
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR: Are there too many taxis in the Klang Valley? Pose this question to any public transport-user who has experienced spending hours attempting to flag down a cab on a rainy Sunday night, and there’s a good chance you’ll be met with a disbelieving look.
Yet, the figures don’t lie. The Klang Valley has more taxis on its streets than even one of the world’s busiest capitals, New York City.
As of March, the Klang Valley is currently home to 37,000 budget as well as executive taxis. This puts New York City’s 13,237 world-famous yellow cabs well in the shade.
Figures compiled by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), the independent regulator for public transport, reveal that the Klang Valley’s taxi-to-passenger ratio also tops that of other bustling capital cities such as London, Sydney, Hong Kong and even Jakarta.
However the commission tasked with overseeing the country’s public transport demands, faces a monumental challenge on its hands, not just due to logistics problems but that of greed.
Since assuming the reins this year, SPAD has had to fend off numerous approaches for even more taxi permits.
The requests, said SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, come from all quarters, including politicians.
He described the situation as nothing short of a “dilemma”.
“Despite the already high numbers, we are still receiving requests to approve new taxi permits from various groups.
“These include associations, retirees and even politicians,” he told The Malay Mail.
Industry analysts have been quick to point out that the massive number of taxis in the Klang Valley has been a major contributor towards the deterioration of taxi services.
They noted that the burgeoning number of cabs have added to unhealthy practices such as complacency and lack of commitment among taxi companies to provide better service.
Syed Hamid, meanwhile, said the commission was aware of the grouses and problems.
“We are aware of the public outcry with the current taxi service in the Klang Valley. The commission wants to make it a win-win situation for the public as well as taxi operators. We want to uphold professionalism within the industry via the National Public Transport Policy Framework and the Greater Kuala Lumpur – Klang Valley Public Transport Masterplan that will be unveiled in September.”
Syed Hamid said improving taxi service should be based on the laws of supply and demand.
“We hope to address the issue of oversupply of permits gradually in the coming years through the PTMP. The master plan includes training for taxi drivers and ensuring a high level of service efficiency, as part of the terms and conditions.
“We expect the taxi operators to fully operate with us on these matters.”
When asked if the commission would reduce the number of taxis in the Klang Valley, he said: “What had been given, we cannot withdraw. But this does not mean we won’t come down hard on indisciplined and problematic taxi drivers. We won’t hesitate to revoke their permits and licences.”
Big number but poor service
AN industry analyst, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out that based on research, the high number of taxis in Klang Valley have contributed greatly to the deterioration of service, increased level of unhealthy practice which includes the complacency and level of commitment to run a taxi service.
“By looking at the taxis outnumbering those in other cities which include New York and Hong Kong, we wonder why our taxi service is not even close to the standard of the New York City icon – the yellow cabs,” he said.
“Over there, it is easy to hail a cab as they always move around the city and rarely stay put in one place.”
However, he said, the impression of taxi service in Kuala Lumpur was a different story altogether.
Commonplace among the grouses are difficulty in getting taxis in the city, hailing them by the roadside, the deplorable service quality and cabbies’ refusal to serve certain areas including central KL as well as refusing to use the meter by imposing flat rates.
“It is difficult to board or even hail a taxi during peak hours and we also often hear complaints of taxis overcharging and snubbing passengers.
“There’s no denying the fact that oversupply of taxis has led to the attitude problem of haggling and the existence of touts in public transport terminals, shopping malls and other public places,” said the analyst, who is all too familiar with the taxi industry after being in it for the last 25 years.
‘Stop issuing permits’
TAXI associations are pleading with the government to stop giving out new taxi permits in view of the high number of taxis on Klang Valley roads.
Malaysian Taxi, Limousine and Hired Car Drivers and Operators Association (Petekma) president Yusof Lahir, hoped the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) would be firm in addressing the issue of taxi permits oversupply.
“I urged SPAD to please stop giving out new permits if we want to reach the level of taxi service in New York, Hong Kong or Singapore. We are already facing an outpour of taxis on the road lately.
“This problem is also contributing to the lackadaisical attitude among the taxi drivers which includes refusing to serve certain routes,” he said.
Yusof said the teething problem of the oversupply of permits stemmed from the system of awarding permits over the years from the previous governing bodies.
“It was an open secret that previous authorities served the socio-economic objectives which were apparently abused by influential politicians which led to the present state of affairs of so many ‘unnecessary’ permits. I had voiced this previously to various ministers. Now we can see the effect of so many taxis around,” he said.
On taxi touts in public transport terminals and at KL International Airport, Yusof said the high number of taxis and lax enforcement contributed to the matter.
“The government should look into enforcement very seriously. I won’t deny the fact that attitude problems by some drivers have smeared the industry, but enforcement should keep this in check.”
Koperasi Pengangkutan Putrajaya dan Cyberjaya Berhad secretary Mohd Salleh Mat Zain, said he was surprised to learn the number of taxis have increased dramatically since last year.
“In 2010, the number of taxis stood at 27,000 and it was tough for us to ‘cari makan’. Today, there are 10,000 more so you can imagine the competition. The over surge of taxis has also contributed to the forming of cliques where some of them have monopolised some suburban areas,” he said.
He also concurred with the call for the government to regulate the industry and take stringent measures to raise the level of professionalism among the taxi drivers.
“The taxi industry is staring at a bubble with torrent of taxi permits over the years.
“We have seen how taxi drivers refuse to use meters, haggling passengers and prefer to ply specific routes instead of going out to seek customers in the city.”
If you thought that was bad, check out the next article:
Cabbies express outrage over permit approval (23 June 2011)
Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR: Taxi drivers in the Klang Valley are upset over the increased issuance of taxi permits by the authorities.
The Malay Mail had in our front page report yesterday highlighted that there are more cab drivers in Klang Valley beating New York city through figures compiled by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD).
According to SPAD there are over 37,000 budget and executive taxis in the Klang Valley compared with 13,233 yellow cabs in New York.
Taxi driver, Azmi Latiff, 54, a former government servant, said he was puzzled as to how foreigners were able to get taxi permits.
“It took me three times to obtain my permit, but some foreigners get it so easily. These foreigners cheat and most don’t use meters,” Azmi said, adding it was an offence for a taxi driver to refuse a customer after stopping to ask where he or she wants to go.
Azmi said the passenger could to take action by taking down the plate number and report to the authorities.
He said there were cabbies who avoid picking up passengers during peak hours due to traffic congestion and prefer to have tea at mamak stalls instead.
Another taxi driver, K. Gunasegaran, 43, a cabbie for 17 years said business had been good for him, but he saw a decline in business 10 years ago.
“I have to work for more than 12 hours to take home RM120-RM150 a day and I carry an average of 20 to 25 passengers a day to support my family.”
He said he was also finding it difficult to pay his taxi rent of RM1,200 a month. He has not been able to pay the rent for the past three months.
On the raising number of permits being issued by the authorities, Gunasegaran said: “We lodged many complaints to the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board for issuing far too many permits but our pleas were turned down.”
Gunasegaran said cab drivers in other countries enjoyed better benefits. “Many are provided with allowances and they get public holidays, whereas in Malaysia, public holidays are when we need to work extra hard.
“In some cases, cab drivers have to fork out their own money to get their cabs repaired without any insurance coverage. To make things worse, most of us don’t have any medical coverage whatsoever.”
Quality matters, say passengers
PUBLIC transport users say the standard of taxi service is poor and cabbies have not shed the image of being fair and honest.
William Kwong, 21, a student at a private institution said despite there being more cabs in the Klang Valley, it was still difficult to get a taxi driver to take you to your destination without first having to haggle on taxi fares.
“I am shocked to learn that our taxi drivers outnumber those in New York. But it is still difficult to get a cab in the Klang Valley. Most of the time you have to call for taxi service and pay extra without them using the meter.”
During one incident, he was asked to pay extra when he tried to get a cab at the Bukit Jalil bus station upon returning from his hometown in Pahang
“My apartment is in the area but the driver told me he will not be using the meter. I would need to pay a flat rate of RM5 as it was a route he doesn’t usually service.”
Bank employee, Vinod Kumar, 24, said passengers were still at the losing end despite the high number of taxis in the Klang Valley. “Nothing has changed in terms of service quality but passengers are more aware of their rights nowadays.”
College student Dennis Tan, 21, said he doesn’t commute much with cabs anymore as he had been cheated numerous times in the past. “There are many cabs in the city but it’s still hard to get an honest cabbie who is not out to fleece you. I just use an alternative mode of transport to be safe than sorry.”
And finally, as expected, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abd Aziz responds to the article and questions about his role as the taxi permit king – and exhorts SPAD to stop whining and do their job!
Nazri Aziz: ‘I’m no taxi king’ (Malay Mail)
Minister says claims baseless, was not the only one who gave out permits in the past
Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
Following The Malay Mail’s front-page report yesterday on the high number of cabs in the Klang Valley and accusations by industry players on the oversupply of taxi permits, we put Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz in the spotlight regarding the controversy.
Critics have alleged the system is abused by influential politicians which led to the present state of so many “unnecessary” permits allegedly generated during Nazri’s tenure as Entrepreneur Minister. Nazri tells SHAHRIM TAMRIN his side of the story.
NAZRI: ‘If people want to accuse me, please do it with proof or channel it to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. I don’t mind being investigated’
MM: Why is the taxi service industry in the Klang Valley poor despite the high number of taxis in the area?
NAZRI: I agree that our taxi service is poor for many years despite the high number of them on the road. Why are Klang Valley taxi drivers not like those New York City yellow cabs always cruising on the road? It is sad to note our taxi drivers neglect their responsibility and government’s trust by preferring to run the taxi service at certain hours, specific routes and wanting to make quick bucks.
The authorities should have been strong on enforcement and monitoring to ensure the public get the best service. Right now, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) should focus on how to improve the public transport industry immediately but I won’t be telling SPAD what to do as I am not into micro-managing it.
MM: Is it true you approved disproportionate taxi permits during your tenure as Entrepreneur Minister?
NAZRI: Those who accused me and several other former ministers of the then Enterpreneur and Cooperative Development have no grounds. During my time, taxi permits were given out after looking at so many angles. We carried out surveys and in-depth studies on the requirements for more taxis in Klang Valley.
We even interviewed the public and gathered opinions from various stakeholders. One common finding was that the public wanted more taxis back then. I was not the only one who gave out the permits in the past. Those before and after me also gave out permits based on the need to improve the public transport system.
MM: But some say you have thousands of taxi permits.
NAZRI: First of all, permits given to taxi operators and individuals were not directly supervised by me. There was a committee looking into that. In 2003, there was an allegation that 3,000 permits went to my proxy. This is baseless accusation.
People who accused me, including those from taxi associations, taxi drivers and individuals, have hidden agendas. I know a figure in the taxi circles had applied for 500 permits many years ago and was rejected by the ministry’s tender committee.
The person was not happy and that’s why he came out with berak tahi ayam (baseless) accusations. If people want to accuse me, please do it with proof or channel it to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). I don’t mind being investigated.
MM: SPAD recently said they are understaffed and this hampered efforts to weed out taxi touts at KL International Airport. What’s your view on this?
NAZRI: SPAD, as an independent regulator for public transport, should work together with the Road Transport Department and police to empower them to arrest and bring the culprits to court in accordance with SPAD Act 2010. They shouldn’t be coming up with excuses that they are short of manpower. Stop whining and do your job with what you have.
MM: How powerful is SPAD? Is it able to function independently?
NAZRI: SPAD has powers of a commission like the MACC, Election Commission, Energy Commission, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, and others. SPAD has more powers under the SPAD Act 2010 and it has a wider range of powers compared to the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board and Department of Railways.
They should just focus on their objective to transform the public transport industry instead of allowing past mistakes (by previous government agencies) to overwhelm them. The public has high expectations of SPAD to turn the industry into a more reliable, integrated, safe and efficient one.
They have to perform as the rakyat is watching. If they don’t, the rakyat and other Members of Parliament won’t be happy. In the end I will be the one who has to answer to them (the MPs) in Parliament.
That’s one week in Malaysia’s taxi industry.