One of the biggest issues about living in Malaysia is that you need personal transport to get around. Without a car, you are pretty much stuck with the various public transport options such as taxis. And even that in Kuala Lumpur is not that accessible, and neither is it cheap. Never mind all the stories about how there are errant and rude drivers, along with all the taxi scams.
Luckily, there’s now a more affordable option: UberX. In case you are unfamiliar with UberX, the app allows you to request for a driver who picks you up and drops you off at the location of your choice. Other than providing a safer option for passengers, it is also considerably cheaper than normal taxis in KL — a substantial 30% – 40% fare difference.
So for the past few days, I’ve been getting around town using UberX because of its reliability and affordability. I’m a happy passenger and user of UberX in KL, and drivers that I have spoken to are satisfied with Uber as well.
Flexible working hours
One of the biggest draw for drivers to join Uber is that it offers them flexible working hours. This allows them to work part time and drive as and when they want. Speaking with UberX drivers in Malaysia over the past few days, I found that most, if not all of them, are driving passengers on a part time basis in between jobs or after working hours.
At least two of the drivers I spoke to picked me up during their working hours, while shuffling between meetings or returning from lunch. Another one drove me to my location because his business was seeing an idle and slow period. As a passenger and fellow Malaysian, I’m happy for the drivers; if I were their employers, though, I might not be that happy about it.
RM4000 per month in additional income
Driving with Uber brings in good money too: according to UberX drivers, Uber pays them RM15 per trip (and RM20 during peak hours), minus the fare collected from passengers. From my understanding, this means that for a trip that makes RM5, Uber will take 20% of that, paying the remaining 80% to the driver. On top of the 80% payout (RM4), Uber will top up RM11 to make the total payout to drivers RM15. Because of this, a part time driver who makes 10 trips per evening can easily earn up to RM1,000 per week, or RM4000 per month in additional disposable income.
Unlike traditional taxi companies, where licensed drivers need to pay between RM50 and RM65 daily for the taxi permit, driving with Uber involves a lot less trouble: you only need to have your own transportation and the Uber driver app, and you are good to pick up your first customers.
The Robin Hood of Malaysia in the Fight Against GST
From my various conversations with UberX drivers, it’s evident that all of them love Uber because of its flexibility, as well as the relatively high income stream that they stand to get. This is especially welcome since the Malaysian government introduced the 6% GST earlier this month. While the cost of living has generally increased, the income earned from driving for UberX during their free time provides a much needed cushion for the working population in Malaysia. Many drivers signed up through word-of-mouth, driven by the high payout and the convenience of getting started.
Unlike normal cab drivers, who reportedly brought home disappointingly low net income, UberX seems more like the Robin Hood for Malaysia’s distraught drivers now. According to a report on The Malaysian Insider, R. Silvarajoo, 60, who drove a taxi for 16 years, said he could only bring home RM1,120 to RM1,200 for his family of six. The amount would be less if he had an emergency or got involved in an accident. The RM150 he earned daily would be used to the permit rental of RM55, fuel (RM44), his own meals (RM11), leaving about RM40 for his family.
One thing’s for sure: more and more drivers are signing up to be UberX drivers. Would this impact the taxi scene? Maybe, maybe not, given that the number of UberX drivers are far less than the number of licensed taxi drivers in KL. One thing I do know, though, is that UberX is my default transport option in KL.