There are over 38,000 taxis in the Klang Valley and operating half the number is sufficient to cope with peak demands, including the rush hour.
But many cabbies work part-time or whenever they like, and those who are semi-retired or elderly prefer to work at their own pace.
The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) was faced with the daunting task of producing more professional cabbies without increasing the number of taxi permits in the market.
It managed to persuade taxi companies to surrender some of their unutilised permits and successfully removed 1,000 off the market.
A one-off scheme was created to allow drivers to obtain their own taxi permits and operate the Proton Exora to be known as the Teksi 1Malaysia (TEKS1M).
Experienced cabbies without criminal records or outstanding summonses from SPAD, Road Transport Department or the police were eligible to apply.
At a press conference held after launching the TEKS1M drivers training programme on March 13, SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar disclosed that 30,000 applications were received for the 1,000 taxi permits.
There were 697 successful applicants in the Klang Valley, 251
in Johor and 52 in Penang but to date, only 381 TEKS1M are on the road.
Many of these candidates could not qualify for the hire-purchase loan provided by Bank Simpanan Nasional.
Under this scheme, the interest rate is only 2% per annum, and RM5,000 is paid by a grant from Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia as deposit for the taxi.
It must have been heartbreaking for applicants awarded the TEKS1M permits but could not qualify for bank loans due to bankruptcy, blacklist, or old age but these factors are the norm in the taxi industry.
Local taxi companies have often been condemned by the public, politicians and ungrateful cabbies, but they had played a pivotal role in allowing many people the opportunity to drive taxis for a living.
Anyone with driving and Public Service Vehicle licences can take delivery of a taxi after paying several thousand ringgit as downpayment and signing a rental-purchase agreement of several years.
Interestingly, those with own permits but unable to obtain bank loans have been operating their own taxis financed by taxi companies.
As such, those awarded TEKS1M permits but could not qualify for bank loans should be allowed the option to seek financing from taxi companies.
Needless to say, the interest rates for such rental-purchase loans are much higher than the standard hire-purchase (HP) loans governed under the Hire Purchase Act.
The higher interest rates are justified as taxi companies are exposed to higher risks, as cabbies late in repayments may surrender or allow their taxis to be repossessed.
Taxi companies would usually find another driver to take over, whereas many defaulters of HP loans have been made bankrupts by banks.
However, taxi companies should be more professional by adopting a standardised and fairer terms and conditions for their rental-purchase agreements, and cap the interest rates.
Upon the expiry of their current 10-year permits, all metered taxis, including executive, premier and budget, would be converted to TEKS1M.
Eventually, there will be only one colour, model and class of metered taxis, and that is the elegant brown Proton Exora budget taxi.
Current TEKS1M drivers are undergoing a two-day training programme which would later be extended to all cabbies.
It would take several years to transform taxi drivers, as there are more than 60,000 taxis in peninsula Malaysia.