THE Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) was established on June 3, 2010 following the passing of the Land Public Transport Act 2010 in Parliament, which was gazetted in January 2011.
SPAD took over the functions of the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board, Department of Railways and the tourism vehicles licensing function of the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry in Peninsular Malaysia and was responsible for drawing up public transport policies, plans and regulations covering all aspects of land public transport.
The Commission injected a new impetus into public transport planning by introducing master plans that comprehensively detailed the Commission and Government’s goals and vision for public transport while specifying accompanying initiatives designed to raise the overall level of service and safety standards. These included enforcement initiatives which not only covered public transport operators but also commercial vehicles on the road. Meanwhile, enforcement by the Road Transport Department (RTD) applied to both commercial and private vehicles.
The RTD’s role was mainly concerned with the registration of motor vehicles, issuance and renewal of driving licences such as Competent Driving Licence (CDL), Public Service Vehicle (PSV) Licence, Goods Driving Licence (GDL) and road tax.
In Sabah and Sarawak, the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board continues to function in their respective states, while the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry grants permits for tour vans and buses and self-drive car rentals. RTD is involved in the enforcement role only.
It would be a grave mistake for the RTD to absorb the Land Public Transport Agency (APAD) when both agencies play separate roles and are equivalent, not subservient to, one another.
There is no doubt that the size of the Cabinet and civil service should be reduced, and it made perfect sense for SPAD to report to the Transport Minister instead of a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. It is also correct to turn SPAD into an agency within the Transport Ministry and renamed APAD.
Rail would be the backbone of land transport in the future and buses and taxis, including e-hailing private vehicles, would only be playing complementary roles.
SPAD had rightfully focused on rail, an area the RTD has close to zero professional knowledge. Those lacking expertise in this area tend to shy away from it or ignore it totally.
Also, road transport for goods and passenger vehicles require strategic planning, policies and regulations, otherwise commercial road transport would become a mess, which was what the defunct Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board in Peninsular Malaysia had created until SPAD was set up to right the wrong.
Our public transport sector would be doomed if commercial vehicle permits are granted in the same way premises licences are issued by city or town councils. It should be noted that staff in SPAD are more professional than those in other government agencies and it would be a shame to lose such expertise.
If the Transport Ministry does not want to have two rival agencies within it, APAD could be slowly absorbed by the RTD and dissolved over a span of five years. Trying to accomplish all this within this year would show lack of pragmatism and well-made plans would be thrown off track.
We should always choose progress when given a choice. It is time for the powers that be to see the big picture. A wise decision will bring long-lasting benefits to land transport operators and passengers and ultimately contribute significantly to our nation’s productivity and economy.