IT HAS been a rough ride for taxi drivers, as demand for transportation providers plummeted overnight with the movement control order brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic on March 18 last year.
While some who were overwhelmed with debts have thrown in the towel, others have persevered by taking on other jobs and getting support from family members.
KL Sentral Taxi Drivers Association president Badrol Hisham Mohd Noor said many taxi drivers had to take on other jobs to pull through the tough times, especially during the early months of the MCO last year.
Based on the information collected by the association, he said many had taken on jobs as security guards, food delivery riders, market workers and dishwashers.
“The taxi drivers were desperate and took up any paying job for survival.
“When the MCO was implemented, I stopped driving my taxi and started helping my daughter in her bakery business. I help out with the packing and delivery.
“Many are still hoping to continue driving a taxi for a living and look forward to a revival of the public transport industry, especially taxi services, once the pandemic ends, ” he said.
He added that the government’s financial assistance of RM600 last year under the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional and RM500 this year under the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Assistance Package initiatives helped to cover some of their losses.
Some taxi drivers like Lim Thai Wan, 68, from Cheras, Kuala Lumpur were supported financially by family members.
After almost 20 years of driving a taxi, Lim took a break during the first six months of the MCO when the bank loan moratorium was in force.
During this period, he was not required to repay the loan instalments for his multipurpose vehicle which had an outstanding balance of 36 months.
As for household expenses, Lim’s three adult daughters pooled some RM1,500 monthly to help out during the first six months.
Once the moratorium ended, he rescheduled the loan repayment to pay only half of what he used to monthly.
He then started driving the taxi again besides joining an e-hailing service.
“Times have changed and people are more drawn to e-hailing services instead of hailing taxis the traditional way.
“My savings was depleting and it was inevitable that I join the e-hailing services to continue my livelihood, ” he said.
Lim said business had been much better since, especially in the past couple of months.“I consider myself lucky because I have my own taxi permit and vehicle, as well as the support of my children during the difficult period last year.
“Some of the other taxi drivers who were paying rental for permits and vehicles were forced to give up due to poor returns, ” he said.
V. Pachymuthu, 60, also from Cheras, who has been driving a taxi for 34 years, said he had no choice but to soldier on despite the poor demand, in order to make ends meet.
“Traditional taxi drivers’ heyday is over.
“About 10 years ago, I could take home about RM200 daily and earn up to RM300 on a good day, but since the e-hailing services came into the picture, it has been tough to reach that level.
“I joined the e-hailing service years ago to evolve with the times, and am one of the few traditional taxi drivers who have made it through this difficult period.
“It helped that I have my own permit and vehicle, ” he said, adding that business was not as good as before the MCO.
“Sometimes, I wait for passengers in Brickfields for over an hour before I get one, and most of the time, it is through e-hailing applications.
“I only drive during the day because of my age and consider myself lucky if I get RM50 in earnings at the end of the day.
“Times are difficult, so we must learn to live within our means, ” he added.