THE demand from unscrupulous lorry operators who overload their vehicles to get maximum returns has led to the mushrooming of Tontos, who rake in more than RM1mil every month. With such a lucrative trade, the Tontos have resorted to hiring thugs to “protect their interests” by intimidating enforcement officers.
And, sources said, in the face of rising costs and competition and the seeming inability of the law to stop the Tontos, operators of other businesses are also beginning to use their services to cut operating costs.
Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Lorry Operators Association secretary-general Alvin Chong said that for one thing, Tonto-protected lorry operators did not have to ensure that their vehicles were roadworthy as they need not send their vehicles for inspection.
“Their drivers can drive without licences and they don’t have to get permits from the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board,” he said.
Chong estimated that there were six or seven major Tonto service providers in the country.
He said that at least 500 lorry operators with about 20,000 lorries in the Klang Valley were using the Tonto services and believed that the nationwide figure could be higher.
It is learnt that an operator would be charged RM2,500 per month. A rough estimation puts the Tonto groups as earning at least RM1.2mil per month from the 500 lorry operators in the Klang Valley.
It is also learnt that Tontos would sell identification stickers to the operators for RM300 to RM500 each.
The stickers are placed on the windscreens of lorries to alert ground Tontos that these belonged to their “members” and also possibly to warn enforcement personnel “not to mess around” with the vehicles.Chong said the promises of more drastic action against the Tontos had not stopped their activities from spreading and they were now expanding their “coverage” to cargo lorries, low-loaders and others.
“Many of my association members are finding it hard to remain in business because operators who used Tonto services are taking away their customers by undercutting.
“While we charge RM150 per trip, they can overload up to 300% and charge RM280 for a single trip. A law-abiding lorry operator would have to make three trips to carry the same load. .
“I believe 80% of the lorry operators in the Klang Valley have already joined the (Tonto) bandwagon while the remaining 20% would follow suit soon,” he said.
A retired senior police officer, who declined to be named, said Tontos could be detained for intimidating law enforcement officers.
He said those who possessed Logic Trunk Radio sets in their vehicles for communication purposes could be detained as the sets were illegally obtained or cloned.
JPJ enforcement director Solah Mat Hassan said the fight against Tontos involved all parties, including the Energy, Communications and Multimedia Ministry as the culprits knew how to tap into the department’s communication.
From feedback, Solah said there could easily be a few hundred Tonto vehicles monitoring the JPJ vehicles in the country.
“Although enforcement work poses a serious risk for our men, with the Tontos becoming very aggressive, we will continue to mount special operations with the assistance of the police,” he said.
Solah said that about 25% of vehicle owners, or 2.75 million vehicles from the 11 million-plus registered had not renewed their road tax.
Of the figure, a good number could be commercial vehicles in which the owners were using the Tonto services, he said.
Solah said the fight against Tontos could not be undertaken without the concerted effort of all parties, including those from the Energy, Communications and Multimedia Ministry.
He also said Tontos seemed to tapping into their communication network, citing as example their knowledge of a recent special operation that he headed.
Did you find this article insightful?