THIS is my third letter to the press about the difficulties faced by e-hailing drivers due to the uninformed and unplanned decisions made by the Transport Minister.
A few nights ago, I picked up a lady at a mall who told me that she had waited so long for a ride due to the rain and heavy traffic.
When I told her she should just have taken a taxi, she gloomily said that taxi drivers don’t come when it’s raining or when there’s heavy traffic. “Besides, they would charge exorbitantly and not follow the meter, so I only use Grab,” she said.
By way of conversation, I told her that by July 12, I would not be able to continue being a part-time Grab driver as I do not have time between my normal working schedule on weekdays and Grab-driving on weekends to do the Puspakom checks, get the PSV (Public Service Vehicle) licence and the money to buy a new insurance policy.
She said it was very clear to her that “this was the government’s way to take money from the people in new fees and hurdles.
“But they are deafeningly quiet on the fact that e-hailing operators take 20% to 25% commission from drivers when all costs are borne by the driver. No other industry has this commission rate.”
I was astounded that even this lady, who is retired, is more informed than our Transport Minister on this issue.
The commission rates mean that from a daily fare collection of RM200 (the normal takings for the e-hailing driver), between RM40 and RM50 goes to the operator and RM50 to RM60 goes to petrol and car maintenance, unaccounted tax and expenses like car washes, leaving a pittance for the driver.
Is this not exorbitant, and isn’t it exploitative of the operators when they do not consider the drivers as employees and are free to suspend or terminate the latter at any given moment? As I have said before, the operators seem to be a protected species.
When I picked the lady up, two migrant workers who were waiting nearby asked if they could share the ride. They had been waiting for a long time too, but the lady was not comfortable with sharing the ride.
The main users of e-hailing transport are retirees, migrants, the disabled and low-income people. Those with high incomes can afford their own cars. Every day, 90% of my passengers are from low- to middle income backgrounds. They are the ones needing the service.
The point of this letter is to highlight what the Transport Minister still cannot see since he is chauffeured to work and does not need to book a Grabcar at 3am from the Bukit Jalil bus station after travelling for eight hours in a bus.
He does not need to get a ride from his house at 7am to the LRT station, but e-hailing transport users have to because of the absence of a reliable feeder bus service.
He does not need to haggle with a taxi driver to use the meter when it’s raining heavily outside and traffic is bad and there are no e-hailing drivers in the vicinity who can arrive on time.
E-hailing drivers work hard to supplement their incomes and, in many cases for full-time drivers, to earn a decent wage to feed their families. Millions of people in Malaysia rely on the e-hailing service to go to work or just to have a decent transport option. But after numerous letters and articles on the subject, the minister remains uninformed, and this is a sad and frustrating situation.