Taxi drivers have made their grouses against app-based private driver services like Uber and GrabCar public, but it’s not a cause that the average consumer is backing with a loud ‘aye’ and a table thump. There is demand for the unlicensed services, which is why they are mushrooming despite authorities declaring such services as illegal.

As always, there are push and pull factors, and local cabbies need to change the perception and mindset passengers have of them and regain their trust by improving services, The Sun reports.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar (pic above) said the perception that customers have of taxi drivers has cost them, with more people now opting to use illegal services like Uber. Other means of public transportation have also improved over the years, he pointed out.

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The SPAD boss also cited a report by British taxi comparison site LondonCabs that put Malaysia top of the list for the worst taxi drivers in the world, claiming that cabbies overcharge riders and that cabs can often be 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.

“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 said when contacted by the free daily.

“We have increased the fares for the taxis, and if they take the same initiative in improving their services, I’m sure passengers will choose them,” he added. Taxi fares were increased in March, with time and distance rates up 25 sen for every 200 metres and/or every 36 seconds.

As expected, the cabbies are unimpressed by Syed Hamid’s comments. Malaysia Taxi Drivers Transformation Association (PERS1M) deputy president Kamarudin Mohd Hussain said this year has been one of the worst cabbies have had to face, with Uber “robbing” them of customers and compounding their woes with the recent GST implementation and passengers put off by the fare hike.

“Where do you expect these drivers to get their money from? Before blaming anyone else, they (SPAD) should also look at what contributions they have made for the taxi industry,” said Kamarudin, a main figure in recent protests in PJ.

“Only recently in May did SPAD allow us to change to a Toyota Innova. But contrary to what Syed Hamid had said, we are always working to change our old cars,” said Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Taxi Operators Association (PERPEKLI) president Datuk Aslah Abdullah, who added that the government needs to be more aggressive in combating illegal services.

What’s your take on this much-debated issue?