By Puteri Othman
I have always been the one to enjoy listening to other people’s stories. Those simple pleasure can always be found when I’m talking to taxi drivers. I would not want to be perceived as a zombie who are too glued on a smartphone, hence I decided to get out of my comfort zone and started making a small talk with the taxi driver. They are often quite happy to chat with and have interesting stories to tell.
Recently, more and more of this light conversation have turned into a serious discussion on mounting pressure that is built due to a tight competition from Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) like Uber. It is clear that taxi companies are struggling under pressure with a new transport service providers entering the markets.
The on-demand car service, Uber, which recently become the new contender on the block has caused a lot of drama in the car service industry lately. One of the huge issues that came along with the rise of the ride share companies like Uber is the legality of the services provided. It is also reported that the taxi drivers mob staged a protest against Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD or Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat) demanding for the suspension of this new car service that is seen to be robbing away their source of income. Another big protest is being planned on 18 November involving an estimated 6,000 taxi drivers to go against SPAD to protect their jobs. Some numbers of Uber drivers have voiced out their fear towards taxi drivers who are ganging up and bothering them when they try to pick up their passengers.
Tan, an Uber driver said, “Once, I have to pick up my passenger at Pavilion, we were approached by two or three taxi drivers, and they started to shake my car vigorously, they acted like a total samseng (hooligan), we were terrified’. Tan also added that “whenever I have to pick up anyone from city centre, I will make sure to tell my passenger to sit in front right away, making sure that they look like my acquaintance and not my passenger.”
I also managed to ask another Uber driver, Johan, about the action that Uber drivers should take to avoid themselves from being harassed by taxi drivers, he said, “I should treat my passengers like a friend, ask them to sit at the front right away when I pick them up at the designated meeting point.” However, despite the harassment by the regular taxi drivers, the popularity of Uber shows no sign of slowing down.
Uber does not only face controversies in Malaysia, but also in other countries as well since their establishment in 2009. Uber’s services are available in a whopping 300 cities across the world, and not everyone is happy with Uber’s rising popularity. Anti-Uber have staged numerous protests in European countries like Germany, Spain, and England. To some extent, a few cities and countries have banned Uber from operating under their jurisdiction.
So, why are people still attracted to be an Uber driver even with a lot of threats coming from the taxi drivers? What attracts drivers to Uber that they are willing to risk being beaten up and having their car towed away? It is simply because of the money earned, they could received up to RM8,000 per month to be exact. For part time Uber driver, Haziq Roslan, he said that he earned up to RM3,000 per month depending on the number of hours he has to work. “I roughly work around five days a week during peak hours, because during peak hours, I receive a lot more payment.”
The payment does not only bring benefit to the Uber driver, but it also brings benefit to the rider Chan, a long time Malaysian taxi commuter who took his first Uber ride this week. He said, “I am very happy and satisfied with Uber and I will definitely repeat using this Uber service.” As a loyal customer of taxis, he managed to make some comparisons between riding a taxi and Uber. “With the rise of the living cost, I have to learn on how to manage my money flow weekly, so I am currently looking for a cheaper alternative to get me to work, and I heard Uber is cheaper than taxi, and surprisingly it is true.” Our conversation have become more interesting and I managed to prolong the talk.
Chan said, “I’m quite sure that if I travel the same amount of distance with a cab, I would’ve ended up spending more than what I spent for Uber. I usually travel from 1Utama to TTDI and the cab charged me around RM8, while Uber only charged me RM3, if I take Uber instead of cab every week, I would save up a lot of money.”
There are also other factors that influence people to favour Uber instead of taxi. One of it is the cleanliness of the car. As we all know, Uber is a Private Hire Vehicles that practises car pooling passengers, hence the car that they use are actually their own car. Other than that, it is easier to contact an Uber because when you call for taxi, sometimes you got stuck waiting there for the operator to pick your call.
Money is always a big issue when it comes to hailing for a ride. If you hail for a taxi, the price may just fluctuate depending on the traffic, sometimes even different drivers will charge different price for the same destination and in the end your price may even cost higher than you had expected. When you are stuck in this kind of situation and you don’t have sufficient money, what would you do? However for Uber, the payment is pretty simple. The payment is all done through your credit card, so if you don’t even have any cash on you, no worries because Uber has got you covered.***