JPJ should not pull any punches in carrying out enforcement

ON the night of May 17, the Road Transport Department (JPJ) together with the police Traffic Investigations and Enforcement Department, the Immigration Department, the National Anti-Drug Agency and the Environment Department conducted a joint operation at the Duta Toll Plaza.

Reports of the integrated operation were published under various headings such as “JPJ warns against leasing vehicles to foreigners without licences” and “JPJ may go undercover to catch vehicle owners renting cars to foreigners without driving licence”.

JPJ issued 416 summonses and seized three motorcycles and eight cars for various offences. The National Anti-Drug Agency detained 10 individuals for testing positive for methamphetamine and ganja, and the Immigration Department arrested seven for various immigration offences.

JPJ senior enforcement director Muhammad Kifli Ma Hassan was reported to have said “We will get our personnel to monitor social media for advertisements and go undercover as potential clients. This is to detect those who were willing to rent their vehicles to foreigners who do not have valid driver’s licences.”

However, the statement implies that it is okay to rent out private vehicles to be driven by customers with valid driving licences.

In so, this will contravene the Road Transport Act 1987 and/or Land Public Transport Act 2010.

Not only that, but private vehicles are also not insured if used for hire or reward regardless of whether the standard motor insurance policy is under comprehensive or third-party cover.

Under the Act, all motor vehicles on public roads must be insured for injuries to third parties and insurance companies would repudiate cover upon discovering that private cars are rented out for customers to drive or used for carrying fare-paying passengers.

(Pic credit: The Star)

For example in August 2014, Uber was launched in the Klang Valley using private cars for e-hailing service. By June 2015, the enforcement division of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had brought to court drivers of 85 private vehicles for hire.

SPAD also impounded many private cars and vehicles licensed under “Hire and Drive”, as these commercial vehicles are meant for private use by the customers and therefore not allowed to pick up fare-paying passengers through e-hailing.

In 2016, the Cabinet approved the Taxi Industry Transformation Programme with 11 initiatives that included regulating e-hailing services. 4

In 2017, the Dewan Rakyat endorsed amendments to the Land Public Transport Act 2010 and CVLB Act 1987, granting legitimacy to e-hailing services.

In 2018, SPAD was reduced to Land Public Transport Agency (APAD) without an enforcement division, leaving this role on commercial vehicles solely to JPJ, while the traffic police, city halls and municipal councils continue to act on driving and traffic offences.

In Malaysia, only companies with the “Inbound” licence issued by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (MOTAC) may apply for Hire & Drive permits, with APAD in peninsular Malaysia, and with MOTAC in Sabah and Sarawak.

A permit must be attached to each rental vehicle but this requirement creates complications as MOTAC licences and vehicle permits have different expiry dates.

For example, permits expiring soon cannot be renewed until the MOTAC licence is renewed which may be many months away.

Such a Catch-22 situation does not happen in Thailand or Singapore, as these countries license car rental companies without issuing permits for individual vehicles, much like the authorities here issuing licences for hotels and restaurants, without limiting the number of beds or tables.

But if the powers that be insist on maintaining the status quo, then they should also play their part in carrying out enforcement against unlicensed rental vehicles. Otherwise, legitimate operators will continue to suffer while illegal operators get away scot-free.

It would also make a mockery of the law. Therefore, the government must decide whether to allow car rental services to be laissez-faire or fully regulated. Either one is fine but cannot be both, which is what is happening now, rendering the authorities a laughingstock.

Having many drivers without valid driving licences and unlicensed rental vehicles on the road would result in more motor accidents and injured victims being unable to receive compensation from insurance companies.

Illegal operators, drivers and activities must be curbed and should not be allowed to continue with impunity.

Feedback from licensed car rental companies will indicate whether the government has been doing a good job in regulating and facilitating a healthy car rental industry.

Fortunately, JPJ is now more aware of the problem and ought to be applauded for stepping up enforcement against vehicle owners renting cars to customers without driving licences. It must not pull any punches and should also seize unlicensed private cars used for this purpose. – May 20, 2024


YS Chan is master trainer for Mesra Malaysia and Travel and Tours Enhancement Course and an Asean Tourism Master Trainer. He is also a tourism and transport business consultant.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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