Cab drivers in Malaysia worry over their income

Her livelihood: Taxi driver Rozelina Mahadi getting into her taxi to start her rounds around Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR - Taxi driver Rozelina Mahadi, 58, has gone through some very tough times, struggling to bring food to the table while single-handedly caring for her three children.

For the past 18 years, the single mother managed to make ends meet, thanks to the multitude of passengers hailing her taxi to go about their business in the city.

Now, however, Rozelina is worried about whether she can earn enough as a taxi driver as urbanites are opting for ridesharing services such as Uber and GrabCar.

"On average, I spend RM65 (S$22) a day on taxi rental and RM21 a day on fuel. I then wait for passengers at a hotspot in the city like Pavilion KL or Suria KLCC.

"I see people walk out of the malls but instead of coming to me they tap on their mobile phone screens and in a couple of minutes a car picks them up.

"I feel like a fool for waiting so long outside these places when my potential passengers prefer rideshare services that are not even legal to begin with," she said.

Ridesharing apps such as Uber and GrabCar allow passengers to hail ordinary cars, and unlike taxi drivers, the drivers of these ordinary cars need not have a public driver's licence.

Their lower fares have made them extremely popular among city folk, thus denting incomes of taxi drivers who also have to bear with the escalating costs of owning, renting and driving taxis.

Because of this, more and more taxi drivers are moving to Uber and GrabCar, and while Rozelina admitted to have given it thought, she eventually decided to stay put.

"I heard of someone who joined one such company and when she died a few years later, the eight children she left behind received nothing because she did not have insurance or any form of government aid.

"One of my children is in poor health while the youngest one is still studying, and God forbid, if something happens to me, there has to be some form of financial relief for them," she said, tears welling in her eyes.

Many other taxi drivers are also facing similar worries, according to Klang Valley Taxi Drivers Action Committee president Zailani Isa Usuluddin.

"Ridesharing services are illegal because companies are using private vehicles for public transportation, and there is no law to regulate them, unlike the current taxi companies and their drivers.

"On top of this, we also have to contend with being charged the Goods and Services Tax by taxi companies as well as a possible rise in the price of natural gas vehicles starting Sept 20," he said at a press conference.

Zailani said the action committee, which comprises 22 taxi groups representing about 3,000 drivers, had submitted memoranda to various authorities, including the Land Public Transport Commission and the Prime Minister's Department, but to no avail.

"Our last ditch effort will be to take our grievances to court because we are tired of waiting for authorities to protect our welfare and take action against these illegal services.

"By taking the matter to court, we hope to find a solution for the issue once and for all," he added.