AFTER 20 odd years working as a taxi driver in the Klang Valley, Kamal Mohd Kadir did the unthinkable two weeks ago.
He returned his Proton Exora taxi he was driving back to the company he had entered into a five-year hire-purchase agreement.
Kamal made the decision to buy his own vehicle and go it alone as he was struggling to make the daily rental payment of RM66 per day.
“I found myself unable to make enough and had to delay payment every day, until the amount snowballed to a few thousand ringgit.
“So I gave up the car,” said Kamal who owed the taxi company, and had to forfeit his RM5,000 deposit.
The 57-year-old explained that with the taxi rent, fuel, as well as other fees he had to pay to the company, he was bringing home much less.
“Even if I worked from midnight to 6am, I still could not make enough to support my family.
“During the day, I found myself in the queue for hours at shopping malls and hospitals looking for passengers but there were hundreds of other taxi drivers waiting too,” he added.
Kamal’s is not an isolated case. According to industry sources, thousands of cab drivers in the Klang Valley have returned their cars to taxi companies as they were unable to pay the daily rental and licence fees.
Many have attributed this to growing competition from ride-hailing apps like Uber and Grab.
But business has been bad for a long time, say some.
“It wasn’t like I was making lots of money before the kereta sapu (ride-hailing apps) started making an appearance,’’ said cabbie Rahman Saad.
“I was literally handing over my daily earnings to the taxi company for the rent.
“I was paying RM2,000 a month for my Exora taxi, which was exorbitant,” he said.
It is no secret that taxi companies were charging drivers up to RM2,000 a month for their cars.
Once the hire-purchase agreement ends at the end of five years, they would have paid double for their vehicles.
Veteran taxi driver, 60-year-old Rahim Kechik said a hire-purchase agreement for a Persona taxi usually entails daily rental of between RM60 and RM80 over five years.
But there is no such thing as rent-free days, Rahim added.
“At RM60 per day, the cabbie will end up paying RM108,000 for a Persona, which is more than double its value.”
Rahim said the taxi rental scheme or pajak system is akin to modern day slavery.
“After settling the loan, if the driver wishes to continue operating a taxi after owning the vehicle, he would still need to pay about RM27 (inclusive of GST) a day for the company’s operating licence, which works out to about RM800 per month.
“The vicious cycle never ends. It keeps getting tougher and tougher,’’ Rahim added.
Are ride-hailing apps to blame?
Malaysian Taxi Drivers Transformation Association (Pers1M) confirmed that the number of drivers returning their cars was increasing.
“At least 30% have returned their vehicles and that’s a lot,” said its vice-president Kamaruddin Mohd Hussain
He blame this on the emergence of kereta sapu.
“Our sources say that the number of kereta sapu has reached 30,000. Regular cabbies don’t stand a chance,” he added.
For the record, there are about 67,000 taxi drivers in the country with 37,000 of them plying their trade in the Klang Valley alone.
StarMetro contacted several taxi companies but the their representatives only wanted to speak on condition of anonymity.
While all confirmed that cabbies were returning their cars, they said it was not due to the high rental fees charged.
They attributed it to SPAD’s (Land Public Transport Commission) decision to give out more individual licences as well as cash grants to drivers exiting the taxi rental scheme.
“They (cabbies) have been complaining for years about being marginalised,’’ said one taxi company director.
“Yes, many want their own licence, and that’s one of the main reasons they are opting out,” revealed another company owner.
“It is not going to be good for us, it will slowly kill our business. In fact many small companies are already winding up. The situation is bad,” added the director.