In April 2015, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) launched a mobile application, called MeterOn, which enables taxi passengers to check their driver’s information, track the journey, estimate the fare, rate the service, send out an SOS alert or report the driver.
MeterOn covers about 80 percent of the 65,000 metered, non-metered and airport taxis in Peninsular Malaysia.
Had the majority of taxi passengers used this app or one of the 20 taxi apps to hail a taxi, good behaviour would become second nature to most taxi drivers.
But, alas, this was not to be, as a large number of passengers continue to use street-hailing, including my wife. She does not bother to download a taxi app or MeterOn, as she seldom uses taxis.
Last Wednesday, she took a taxi from Jalan Perkasa in Kuala Lumpur to a nearby condominium.
She gave the destination, but the driver did not acknowledge it. Before reaching the condominium, there is a T-junction.
But instead of turning right, he turned left. When my wife pointed out the condominium was on the right, he stopped his taxi and retorted in English: “I want to stop here. What’s the problem? Any problem?”
There was no reason for him to do so, as it was a housing area devoid of traffic.
My wife got off the taxi with my 9-year-old granddaughter, who is living in Australia and is here for a holiday.
Her Australian accent could have irritated the driver, as some people may be angered by Malaysians not having a local accent.
I also remember the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015, which found that every three in 10 people aged 16 and above in Malaysia had mental health problems, with the highest
being in Kuala Lumpur at 39.8 per cent.
If so, it would be no surprise if more than half of all taxi drivers in the Klang Valley suffer from mental disorders, and it would be futile to reason with them.
I should know, having driven metered taxis in Kuala Lumpur for a decade, and given training, to more than 1,000 cabbies.
The fare was RM4 and my wife handed over a RM5 note, but the driver drove off without giving back the change.
As my wife was more concerned about the safety of our granddaughter, she did not note the registration number.
She related the incident to me four days later.
I told her she should have taken down the taxi registration number so that I could report the driver and stop him from causing harm to others.
But most people do not react sensibly when overcome by emotion.
Some will forget to look at the number plate of a taxi or getaway vehicle, while others are quick to use a phone to record and infuriate the driver.
The best practice is to take down the registration number, which should also be displayed inside the taxi, after boarding it.
If the driver provides exemplary service, a passenger could send a note to SPAD complimenting the driver, apart from leaving a tip.
If a driver is rude or dishonest, he needs to be rehabilitated before he causes harm not only to other passengers, but also to his own family members and himself.
Reporting him may appear harsh, but not doing so is even more cruel.
Apart from e-hailing, which has disrupted the industry, the standard of taxi service is dependent on four factors.
Other than the role of regulators and taxi owners, individual taxi drivers and passengers also play a huge part.
Sadly, public apathy has resulted in poor service in public agencies and private companies, with taxi service often used as the barometer of a society.
As such, passengers can raise the standard of taxi services by complimenting taxi drivers or complaining about them to the authorities.