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Taxi drivers have been in the news lately, mainly because of their protests against app-based private driver services such as Uber and GrabCar. The cabbies claim that their income is being eroded by the privateers, who are not licensed and are unburdened by vehicle rental.

While some of the points raised are valid, there has to be demand for the private driver services to mushroom. Recently, British taxi comparison site LondonCabs placed Malaysian taxi drivers at the top of the ‘10 Countries with the Worst Taxi Drivers in the World’ list, with overcharging, detouring and refusing to use meters the chief complaints, besides vehicles that are old and in poor condition.

“Our taxi drivers need to improve their services to reverse the perception that passengers have. Instead of just blaming Uber for a decrease in the number of passengers, they need to counter these allegations (that taxi services are poor) and prove them wrong,” Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar was recently quoted as saying.

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“Drivers need to provide better services, be more polite, and also be presentable, so that customers won’t shy away. The cars should also always be in good condition, as some of them are still driving very old cars in poor conditions, like the Proton Saga,” he added.

Now, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Hamzah Rahmat has weighed in on the issue, saying that the attitude of taxi drivers and safety aspects should be emphasised to lure more tourists to KL, which has been ranked the seventh best value city break destination by TripAdvisor.

He said that many taxi drivers have a lackadaisical (tidak apa in Malay) attitude, and some of them were rude to passengers and did not want to use the meter. “Taxi drivers, as the country’s small ambassadors, should show good examples by appreciating tourists because it is part of their job to bring passengers to desired destinations,” he told Bernama.

The MATTA head urged relevant authorities to conduct more frequent monitoring to ensure problems raised by passengers could be addressed promptly. Patrols and enforcement should also be stepped up at tourist destinations to ensure safety, he said.