Malaysia’s transport minister Anthony Loke held a press conference that was also live streamed on Facebook last Friday to announce a three-month extension to the July 12 deadline previously set for ride-hailing drivers to comply with the new regulations.
“The Cabinet members today decided that enforcement of rules for the e-hailing service providers which begins today, will be executed via a soft-landing approach,” Loke said.
The initial plan was to ban drivers who had not met the requirements, in particular, failing to obtain a Public Service Vehicle license as of July 12 from picking up passengers.
Those who failed to comply with the new regulations and were found to be driving on the road would face a maximum fine of MYR 2,000 (more than USD 480) or a maximum of six months in jail upon conviction.
With the grace period, drivers can still continue working for ride-hailing operators while they complete their documentation process.
The new approach contradicts the transport ministry’s previous stance which ruled out any possible extension. Loke said it was eventually granted because the ministry saw many drivers were still in the midst of compliance with the new rules.
Another possible reason for the extension is that price hikes were likely to result from a shortage of licensed drivers on the road. Riders expressed dissatisfaction regarding price hikes during price surges experienced on Friday.
Malaysia’s dominant ride-hailing operator Grab said in a statement on Friday that almost 20% of its drivers dropped out within hours after the new regulations were supposed to set in.
The announcement of the grace period caused some unhappiness, particularly amongst the taxi industry. The taxi drivers’ group Gabungan Teksi SeMalaysia (GTSM) urged Loke to remain firm.
The next deadline is October 12. It’s uncertain if the transport ministry will adhere to this or will provide yet another extension.
If the case of Indonesia holds any lessons, Malaysia best brace itself for a long, protracted argument. It took Indonesia’s transportation ministry multiple revisions over two and a half years to pass its regulations for the ride-hailing sector.