Why taxi drivers are picky

  • Community
  • Tuesday, 09 Aug 2011

I REFER to the comment piece headlined “No harm in being nice” (StarMetro, July 23) and concur with Niki Cheong’s theory that many Malaysians display their ugly side when they deal with people they do not know and are unlikely to ever come across again.

It explained very well the behaviour of many taxi drivers as they treat passengers picked up by the roadside and taxi stands as passing ships in the night and are unlikely to meet them again.

Passengers can also be rude, especially those who have been ripped off in the past and view taxi drivers with scorn and treat all of them with disdain.

The first impression of a taxi driver is formed in a matter of seconds, which determines whether the passenger will board the cab. Drivers too would observe the passengers before agreeing to proceed as requested.

Taxi drivers continue to choose passengers or trips although they have been repeatedly warned not to do so. Here are 10 reasons why they throw caution to the wind.

First, they feel that the passenger or trip is not worth their trouble and prefer to wait for a ‘bigger or better fish’. They seem oblivious to the fact that holders of the Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence are required to serve the public without discrimination.

The PSV licence hardly serves any purpose as many of them are renewed annually with forged medical certificates.

Many drivers would also fail the written test needed to obtain the licence to drive a taxi. As such, the authenticity of many PSV licences is in doubt.

Second, it is wise to refuse passengers who are drunk, high on drugs, appear aggressive or dangerous, as taxi drivers have been robbed, injured or even killed.

Third, a driver proceeding to a destination would refuse trips that are out of the way as otherwise he may be late for an appointment.

Fourth, a driver needing to take a rest, meal or toilet break has to decline a long trip and even to the airport, which is normally much sought after.

Fifth, they can be under heavy pressure rushing passengers to a destination, especially to catch a flight, risking accidents and speed traps.

Sixth, it is possible that the driver does not know a residential or factory address, more so in a remote area, and would decline if the passenger too does not know the way.

Seventh, the number of passengers may exceed the maximum allowed or the cargo may be too large, heavy or will foul up the taxi, such as durians.

Eighth, some passengers board the taxi while holding on to their unfinished drinks or food. Some ask to smoke inside the cab.

Ninth, those who wish to hire the taxi on an hourly basis but refuse to pay a deposit. Some passengers do not return as promised while the drivers waits for them indefinitely.

Tenth, quarrelling passengers getting into the same taxi can continue their fights, which can lead to physical and mental assaults to all occupants inside the cab.

Nevertheless, taxi drivers with good reasons to decline a passenger or trip should be courteous. Those who are rude, for whatever reason, should not be allowed to continue spreading discourtesy.

Conducting counselling sessions on a daily basis is one of the most effective ways to rein in errant taxi drivers.

The fear of being hauled up by the authorities and possible rehabilitation can make them fall in line.

As a good preventive measure, those with heightened aggression should be tested for mental health.

Drivers who threatened or injured passengers should be arrested for intimidation or battery.

Equally important, the authorities must find ways to protect taxi drivers and not leave them vulnerable and subject to public abuse and ridicule.

There must be a mechanism for these ‘lone rangers’ to seek redress as some passengers can be very unreasonable and vexatious.

For example, the shortest route is not always the fastest or the cheapest due to heavy traffic and the return trip can be much longer because of one-way streets.

Some passengers are so angry with the driver for choosing a longer route that they curse and swear inside the taxi and after getting off, even though they have been offered to pay less than the registered fare.

Being right does not confer us the privilege to humiliate others and we lose credibility for blowing our top. This applies to all of us, taxi drivers and passengers included.

Y.S. Chan

Kuala Lumpur

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