March 3, 2021

Put the brakes on bike-hailing

3 min read

The e-hailing regulations came into effect on Oct 12. Under the regulations, e-hailing drivers are required to undergo medical check-ups, sit for the public service vehicle (PSV) licence test, send their more thanthree-year-old cars to Puspakom and purchase e-hailing insurance protection.

These requirements are necessary to ensure that the e-hailing industry is safe for users and free from unfit drivers as well as cars.

However, during the early period of implementation, some drivers found that they were unable to renew their road tax due to errors in document submission.

Some drivers also complained that the PSV test was too difficult to pass and that they were unable to sit for the test due to unavailability of dates.

As a result, users experienced difficulty to book a ride due to the low number of drivers available. The shortage resulted in higher fares with some users complaining that their trips cost more.

Even now, the issue of driver shortage has not been fully resolved and e-hailing fares are slightly more expensive than they were before.

Notwithstanding the hiccups, the government has decided to allow bike-hailing services to run under a pilot project for six months beginning January next year. One can presume that the implementation of bike-hailing will face the same predicament as e-hailing.

Has the government come up with a robust strategy to ensure that the issue will not occur again?

Given that the pilot run will begin in less than two months and no operators have applied for it yet, the government must seriously rethink its decision to rush this through.

Even though this will be a pilot run, the rakyat will expect the government to put in place a proper mechanism to ensure that the experiment will not compromise the safety of users.

Any failure in ensuring reliable and safe bike-hailing services will only undermine government efforts.

The government must also consider the social aspect of bike-hailing. For example, our conservative culture of gender segregation especially among Muslims may require bike-hailing services to provide a gender filter for users’ convenience e.g. allowing them to choose between women or men riders.

This may however lead to further problems as the gender filter will reduce the number of potential users that one rider could serve.

Instead of being able to ferry 100 passengers, the potential passengers are now divided into women and men, where the rider will likely serve passengers of the same gender only. The reduced potential users and revenue will make bike-hailing less attractive to riders as opposed to food or parcel delivery.

Given the fact that 63% of deaths in road accidents involve motorcyclists, the government must not be hasty in allowing bike-hailing services to operate in Malaysia.

The proposed geofencing requirement which will limit the area of service for bike-hailing within a city only is a good initiative, however the boundary must be set after properly taking into account many considerations.

Motorcycles are usually the smallest vehicles on the road and accidents involving them can be due to many factors such as speed, road condition, carelessness by other road users, visibility and weather.

The presence of a pillion passenger will also increase the risk of accident due to the additional weight that affects the motorcycle’s braking distance and control.

Therefore, the rules and regulations surrounding bike-hailing services must be developed based on data collected from existing providers of food and parcel delivery.

In addition, as the regulations for car e-hailing were implemented only recently, the government should monitor how they are changing and impacting the industry first.

Land Public Transport Agency statistics reveal that 42 companies have obtained the licence to operate e-hailing services in Malaysia. Looking at the list, only three names sound familiar. The remaining 39 are either unknown or not known to be operating e-hailing businesses.

As some of these companies are homegrown, the government should be providing more assistance for them to compete so that Malaysia can move away from being a consumer of the gig economy and become one of the key players.

AKMAL AMRI,

CEO, Institute for R&D of Policy

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