Tales of a Malaysian Taxi Driver

As this being the very first topic post for MoaTTD, I guess I would rather go with a discussion that was recently made with me. Personally, I have my own stories and experiences when it comes to being in a taxi here in Malaysia, but I suppose that things have gotten into a new low when they are said to be worse than the public toilets here (and believe me, the aroma of the public toilets here should have given them the win hands down for the worst service in Malaysia...)

"The complaints by tourists about the taxi drivers' behaviour are more than toilets now, so in that context the taxi drivers are worse than dirty toilets. People are complaining about the taxi drivers overcharging, being impolite and not using their meters, forcing the tourists to bargain with them. It's not that all taxi drivers behave like that, it's just a small group of them but that is already giving Malaysia a bad name"
- YB Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, Minister in Prime Minister Department-
-MSN News, 12/09/2009-

Recently I had a chat with someone who managed to ask a taxi driver himself on fares, behind-the-scenes stories, and most importantly the perception of people to taxi drivers after the statement above was made public.

The person was telling me that upon boarding a taxi in Penang, he was a immediately charged a flat rate RM60 for a the fare for his destination from the hotel to the airport. As usual, the taxi driver refused to use his meter and this came as a surprise (although not so to most of us...) to the person telling me but accepted the fare anyways. On his way to the airport, he asked the old Chinese uncle on why none of the taxi drivers would want to use the meter, he simply replied three different reason:

1. The fares set by the Government is simply not enough for a taxi driver, at least in Penang, to sustain their business
2. The airport DOES NOT allow any public taxi drivers to pick up passengers from the airport, thus the flat rate fare that they charge would also cover their trip BACK to town from the airport
3. It is already a norm for taxis to have a flat rate for all the destinations

When asked about the statement made on the service of taxi drivers in Malaysia, the uncle was very defensive on his statement, saying that it is a clear, unfair representation of ALL taxi drivers in Malaysia, simply because  of several complains by tourists that were mistreated by a handful of taxi drivers. It is unfair for those who are actually trying to earn an honest living and are try to make do with the insufficient fares that are regulated by the government.

Upon hearing this story, I then thought to myself , who should be at fault for this issue? Surely that this is not the first time this issue has been brought up about their service but is it really the government's fault for not regulating or should the blame be on the taxi drivers that has not taken enough effort to improve their work ethics here?

If it is to the government's enforcement to taxi drivers, there should be a centralized union for taxis in Malaysia. Unlike now, where majority of the taxis are renting from private owners, it is to the driver's accord to pay for the cost of maintenance as well as the cleaning the taxi itself and since this would eat into the profit of the drivers, they would tend to skip this process altogether. With a centralized union, all responsibilities such as this would be handled by the union and not by the drivers.

If it is to the drivers, the attitude of drivers has to change. The lack of service that is given by taxi drivers here is now starting to deteriorate the image of Malaysia as a tourist spot. Fact of the matter is, the very first person that a tourist would meet, upon arriving in Malaysia, would more likely to be a taxi driver. How would their first impression be when the driver smells of body odor, car smelling like a cigarette because he had one while waiting for a customer, refusal to use the meter because of whatever reason that they can give, actually deny passengers of a ride when it comes to a high density area, poorly maintained taxis, and everything else that a person might complain about taxis.

So I'm left with still the same question, who should be at fault?

What do you think?


  1. Taxi drivers are generally considered independent contractors and are thus excluded from all laws that protect employees. 
    As a taxi driver or chauffeur, you face driving and personal safety hazards while you perform your job from a mobile workplace. Taxi drivers must exercise caution, and feel comfortable trusting their intuition when it does not feel safe to transport a customer.