Don’t send Grab down taxi road, says expert

PETALING JAYA: A transport expert has welcomed the government’s efforts to level the playing field between taxis and Grab cars but warns against turning all of them into cabs.

Goh Bok Yen, who has over 30 years of experience, told FMT the government could either regulate Grab like it did taxis, or give the “over-regulated” taxi industry the same flexibility enjoyed by Grab.

“Taxis are very regulated which makes it expensive and tedious for drivers,” Goh said. “It’s better to make it more flexible and cheaper for the drivers, like Grab.”

Goh was responding to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent statement that Grab would be required to use government-approved vehicles and pay taxes and road insurance, similar to that of taxi drivers, to ensure fair play.

For years, taxi drivers have been complaining about the number of regulations they face, such as obtaining taxi permits, going for vehicle inspections and wearing uniforms – regulations which do not apply to e-hailing services.

Goh said regulations such as insurance coverage were a “must”, although matters such as vehicle inspection could be liberalised and did not necessarily have to go through Puspakom.

“The authorities can control guidelines for inspection, but they shouldn’t be so rigid like they are for taxis, to the point where they end up queuing for hours.”

He suggested that the government appoint private repair shops to carry out such inspections, as is done in Australia.

“The government outsources to third parties all the time. If we do this, we can make it easier for taxis and Grab to undergo vehicle inspections,” he said, adding that the key was to avoid over-regulation.

Wan Agyl Wan Hassan, who was previously attached to the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD), also welcomed the need for insurance.

However, he proposed a threshold to determine at what point drivers should pay taxes.

He also urged the government to consult stakeholders before making any policy decision which could disrupt the industry.

Wan Agyl, who last served as SPAD’s head of operations for policy and planning, said the government should focus on empowering taxis through e-hailing applications and pushing taxi companies to take full responsibility for their drivers, vehicles and services.

Grab driver Azahari Mazlan told FMT he was agreeable to paying for insurance as it was for the benefit of both drivers and passengers. However, he said any tax levied on drivers should be borne by the company as well.

“The company is already taking a 20-25% cut from the drivers, so if there is a tax, it should be paid in part by the driver and Grab.”

On Mahathir’s comment that Grab drivers would be required to use government-approved vehicles, he said he hoped the authorities would not limit the type of cars drivers could use.

Universiti Tun Abdul Razak economist Barjoyai Bardai also urged Putrajaya to clarify what it meant by “government-approved vehicles” but said he believed it was referring to vehicles certified fit for use rather than specific car models.

He agreed that the government should make it easier for taxi drivers to operate, saying it was costly and cumbersome for them to earn a living while having to pay for permits and other regulatory costs.

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