Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The taximan

I don't like to take taxis most of the time. But sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes you meet mean obnoxious guys who get upset that your fare is small because you are travelling a short distance from the train station. There was once at the KL Sentral where the taxi driver looked at the coupon I gave him, got a little agitated and "hijacked" another passenger for the same trip. According to him, for him to come back to KL Sentral after dropping me off who take a long time. Well, OK, it does make sense.

Yesterday I went to Putrajaya for a meeting and shared a taxi with a couple others. Along the way we saw an overturned airport limo and I started chatting with our driver about the life of a KLIA taxi driver.

The taxis are owned by the company and are supposedly leased to the drivers on hire-purchase for 5 years. Technically, after 5 years, the taxi would belong to the driver but usually after 3 years or so the cars would be in bad shape so the company will take back the cars and offer new ones with a new contract. Now at RM150 a day for 5 years, that works out to more than RM275,000 - compared to cost of Proton Wira of RM50,000? What do the drivers get? Insurance, yes. Medical, yes. Maintenance (I think drivers have to pay). On top of that, for coupons up to RM100 the company deducts RM1; for coupons above that, the deduction is RM2. And if the driver picks up passengers from elsewhere to KLIA, the company detects RM5. And if the drivers don't show up in the queue and there's a big backlog of passengers waiting for taxis, all hell breaks loose. The drivers are fined RM50.

The taxi driver pays RM150 a day, every day even if he does not drive. So, there is no holiday unless the driver can get some one to take over because he continues paying RM150 per day, regardless. Now, after paying RM150 how long does the driver have to drive every day? My driver's response was 24 hours!! What? Well, there are good days and there are bad days but on average, to earn a profit the driver has to make about 6 or 7 trips a day; making 3 trips can cover only the cost of the daily rental.

Well, you say, what's so difficult about making 7 trips a day? If you are unlucky, you could get stuck in the KL crawl delivering a passenger to the city centre during peak hours. And drivers do not get to choose their passenger or where they want to go. They follow the queue. And the queue is something else. Yesterday was actually a slow day - in fact according to the driver, the number of flights coming in and going out has dropped drastically. But anyway, as he sent me back to the airport after the meeting, he pointed to the waiting area where all the drivers have to queue in carpark waiting for their turn. The holding time (at that time, about 1 pm) would be about 2 hours in the carpark. And then they move up to the arrival exit for perhaps another queue of about 1 hour. So, working from 6 am to 12 midnight is normal to "make ends meet". Which is why accidents like the overturned taxi (in heavy downpour) happens.

But wait, what is this I hear about this driver having a daughter in a European school doing medicine? Apparently, its very cheap, about RM20,000 a year. Oh, just a minute, he's got another one in A-levels aiming for law. Wow, I was really blown over. This guy is really sweating in out to give his children a head start. In a couple of years, hopefully he can relax a little when his daughter graduates. Ah, but he regretted opting for early retirement from the government service. Said he would have stayed put if he had known the government would give such a hefty pay rise recently. Good luck Mr. M!


Anonymous said...

Hi Lik Meng,

Life is tough for some people just to earn enough money for the family. So we shouldn't complaint too much, right? I know how it's like...

nch said...

Lik Meng,
In HK, travelling from Shatin to the airport will cost about HK$300 (abt rm$150), about 35min on the road. However, due to hardship during the recession, some taxi drivers are happy with 30% discount!
I' sure many airport taxi drivers will complaint about the long waiting time in the airport (may be not in Singapore). In HK, 2 to 3 hrs queue is not unusual. Apparently they are very eagle to queue for big sum than driving around in the city centre for miserable minimum charge.

hani soraya said...

Join this!

Lik Meng said...

Yes, we shouldn't complain too much. Treasure what you already have.

Yes, the airport taxi driver confirmed he prefers to have long trips because he can make more in one trip. In KL nowadays, the taxi drivers refuse to take passengers for short trips or insist on charging a flat rate which of course is much more than the meter rate.