PETALING JAYA - Thousands of learner drivers and motorcyclists are facing a major bump on the road before they can even start because of an acute shortage of the highway code books for 'L' licences under the new driving curriculum implemented on Aug 1.
Driving schools have an average of between 1,000 and 1,200 applicants for 'L' licences each month and the scarcity of books has delayed scheduled tests in about 200 driving schools across the country.
Malaysian Driving Institute Association president Mat Aris Bakar said the book contained a serial number for a learner driver to log in for an online test.
"If they do not finish the tests, they cannot proceed with practical training.
"This is a serious setback and JPJ (Road Transport Department) must look into the matter," he said.
Mat Aris said the delays were more prevalent in Sabah and Sarawak, where the shortage was critical.
Previously, the code books could be obtained from third party printers but under the new syllabus, driving school operators have to buy them directly from JPJ.
Safety Driving Centre general manager C.T. Balan said his institute handled about 300 students each weekend but had only received 60 books since the new syllabus took effect.
"Worse still, there are no books printed in English for foreigners who want to get a local driving licence," he said.
In Alor Setar, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said JPJ should have anticipated the high demand for the code books from those sitting for the driving test.
"The shortage should not have happened. I will direct the department to speed up the printing and distribution," he said after opening the Kedah MCA's 37th annual convention at Starcity Hotel.
In Kuala Linggi, JPJ deputy director-general Datuk Yusoff Ayob admitted the seriousness of the problem and said the department was sorting out remedial measures to address it.
"We realise the predicament faced by driving schools and are working hard to resolve this by end of the month or at least by covering 80 per cent of the schools," he said after launching a JPJ community programme for motorcyclists.
"We are doing our utmost to immediately supply the books and materials for driving tests.
"Among the steps are to appoint more printing firms to cope with the increasing number of orders for the books," he said.