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KL Taxi Drivers want action on Uber, alleging disregard for passenger safety

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A group of Peninsular Malaysia taxi drivers association has claimed that Uber is affecting the income of its drivers and they demand immediate action. According to a Bernama report picked up by The Malaysian Insider, the group’s deputy president Datuk Mohd Alias Abdul has called out to SPAD (Land Public Transport Commmission), the police, JPJ and MCMC to take action against Uber, citing safety concerns for passengers.

He added that Uber drivers are not licensed by SPAD, thus making it dangerous for passengers especially when it comes to crime and accidents. Furthermore, he claims that Uber vehicles do not undergo the periodical Puspakom checks that are required for taxi vehicles.

For those who are not familiar with Uber, they are a platform that provides an on-demand professional driver service from your smart phone. It began as a startup in San Francisco, USA and now they have expanded its presence to 44 countries and are actively serving in 32 cities in Asia Pacific.

One of the key benefits of Uber is its cash-less experience. You’ll need to link a credit or debit card to your account during sign up and Uber will charge you after each ride. So it is as easy as requesting for a ride from your smart phone, hop on and hop off without worrying about small change. The rates are calculated from the system and they will send a detailed receipt with complete fare breakdown by email.

In Malaysia, Uber partners with fleet operators that usually consists of car rental companies or operators that offer car for hire services. The drivers undergo stringent checks and Uber has a rating system where passengers get to rate the drivers and the drivers too can get to rate their passengers as well. Uber takes customer ratings quite seriously and each driver had to maintain an average rating or else they would be retrained in order to continue driving. As for the vehicles, they are covered with commercial insurance which are required for better peace of mind while travelling.

Currently Uber offers 3 level of rides in Malaysia. Its original UberBlack offers large premium sedans such as Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Teana for a rate that’s slightly more than budget taxis. If you need something more posh, there’s UberLUX during the weekends where you can order a Jaguar XJL, Mercedes Benz S-Class or BMW 7 Series. Just recently they had launched UberX, a low cost alternative with fares lower than budget taxis. In terms of vehicles, UberX operates with cars such as Perodua MyVi, Toyota Vios and Nissan Almera. You can refer to our early review of their UberBlack service here.

Going back to our local taxi service, they are the backbone of our Klang Valley transportation system as our rail networks including LRT and KTM Kommuter isn’t extensive enough for our growing population. In the Klang Valley alone, there are over 37,000 taxis on the road which is quite a lot for a city of this size. As comparison, New York City is reported to have 13,000 cabs on the streets.

Some of the frustrations of using a taxi include the refusal of using meters and drivers that often reject customers at their own will. There are apps such as MyTeksi which has dramatically changed the way we request for a taxi but the condition of the vehicles themselves could have been better. With the poor state of our taxis, it is no surprise why they are rated as one of the worst in the world.

This isn’t the first time taxi drivers had protested against a new form of transportation. Back in 2012 when GOKL free bus was introduced, a group of 200 taxi drivers had blocked off busy Jalan Bukit Bintang causing massive congestion in protest, claiming that the free bus services had badly affected their livelihood.

The general public have very little sympathy for the plight of these cab drivers. Looking at the comments at TheMalaysianInsider’s facebook post, many had welcomed Uber as the much needed competition that offers safe and clean rides. Mocking the taxi association’s “illegal” claim, some had commented that the legal taxis are smelly and not fit to be used on the roads. Generally people find local taxis appalling which is why Uber is seen as a positive alternative.

Uber is definitely making waves and the local taxi industry is definitely feeling the heat. Do you agree with their concerns on safety and legality? If you were given the opportunity, what would you do to improve the taxi situation? Leave your thoughts and comments below.