I REFER to the online report “Transport Ministry urged to issue permits for big bikes for foreigners” that appeared at the Bernama news agency’s website on Nov 10 (bit.ly/bernama_bike).
Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry secretary-general Datuk Isham Ishak disclosed that he will propose that the Transport Ministry issue special permits to foreign tourists who want to rent and ride high-powered motorcycles in the country.
He was reported to have said, “Perhaps with this good initiative, we can help foreign bikers come to Malaysia to rent motorcycles and ride along the roads in Malaysia, especially on the East Coast and in Borneo.”
I fully support the idea. Not only that, I think it should have started more than 40 years ago.
The first time I looked at the Motor Tariff, I noticed annual premiums for insuring motorcycles for hire were included but no such permits were issued by the then Road Transport Licensing Board. Later, the board was re-named the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB); its role was taken over by the Land Public Transport Commission from 2011 to 2018 in Peninsular Malaysia. However, the CVLB has continued to function in Sabah and Sarawak until today.
In 2019, the Land Public Transport Commission was made into the Land Public Transport Agency and placed under Transport Ministry. Interestingly, the Tourism Ministry was responsible for issuing permits for tour buses and “hire and drive” vehicles until this responsibility was taken over by the Land Public Transport Commission on the peninsula. But until today, it is the Tourism Ministry that issues these permits in Sabah and Sarawak.
Motorcycle renting in Malaysia will become a legitimate business as soon as “hire and ride” permits are issued and at least one insurer offers motorcycle rental insurance, as the law requires all motor vehicles to be insured against third party injuries.
If the Land Public Transport Act 2010 does not provide for delegated legislation to introduce a new category of commercial vehicle licence, then the Act needs amendment at the next sitting in Parlia-ment, giving plenty of time for stakeholders to prepare for this new enterprise.
In 2010, I wrote a letter to The Star, “Motor tourism: Go green” (Oct 27; online at bit.ly/star_biking) and in January this year, “Let us promote motoring holidays” in another newspaper. I was involved in the car rental business from 1980 until 2000 and have set up several successful car rental companies and later served as an industry consultant.
In the past, whenever someone proposed introducing caravans for rental in this country, I would shoot down the idea, as special parks are needed for caravans to park overnight for security and utilities supply. But such caravan parks would soon be filled by a colony of squatters staying there permanently in converted old buses or containers.
On the other hand, there are many spinoffs in promoting our country for big bikers to enjoy their holidays, as these upmarket tourists are highly mobile and actively share their adventures online using social media to post breathtaking pictures and jaw- dropping videos. This is bound to attract viewers from around the world to come to Malaysia and see it for themselves.
Tourists on fly-drive holidays deserve a red carpet welcome as they spread their tourist dollar everywhere they go, and more so for those on fly-ride visits, as they generate a lot of excitement and dynamism wherever they ride by on their bellowing machines or stop somewhere to spend generously.
Malaysians take our warm weather for granted and have no qualms riding a motorcycle or swimming in the open anytime during the day or even at night. But people in cold countries cannot do these things during winter and many would be happy to travel to Malaysia for our sun, sand and sea.
And now thanks to the Tourism Ministry, they will soon get to ride here (and I won’t be surprised if some of these big bikers turned out to be charming women upon removing their helmets!).
Two categories of motorcycles and driving (riding) licences should be introduced for “hire and ride” permits.
One category for motorcycles between 250cc and 500cc for those with a B1 licence or equivalent, and another for big bikes above 500cc that require a B licence or equivalent.
A concerted effort is needed to sort out the international driving permit and iron out all the kinks.