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Ministry, JPJ must change gears for better services

Would you like to get your food deliveries and parcel services at lower cost?

In fact, transport costs are too high in Malaysia as admitted by the government three years ago when the National Transport Policy 2019-2030 was launched.

The 20-year master plan by the transport ministry noted that Malaysians spend an average of 10% of disposable income on transport, compared with only 4% in Tokyo and Hong Kong. And that was before the pandemic when p-hailing and food deliveries were a fraction of what they are now.

That transport policy proposed five cost-management measures. One was to shift road cargo to rail. It also admitted that it needed to strengthen the governance structure, alluding to the 2015 Malaysian government’s cabinet’s unfulfilled decision to not renew the outsourcing of government road safety services to Puspakom.

It will be interesting to observe if the third government in three years will be able to perform a systematic reduction of road transport costs. On a second point, if it manages to outperform the public’s perception, it will be a boost to the Ismail Sabri Yaacob government and its objective to be in power longer than the minimum 2022 date.

The government had in 1994 granted the outsourcing of motor vehicle road safety inspections to DRB-Hicom, coinciding with the appointment of the late Yahya Ahmad as chairman and CEO of the government-linked corporation.

When this 15-year concession was due to expire in 2009, Umno weighed on the MCA president and transport minister to extend the concession for another 15 years to 2024.

To date, the transport ministry (MoT) has adjusted the timelines for renewal and payment of road taxes, driving licences, and transfer of vehicles.

Keep JPJ open 7 days a week

Many of us motorists would also appreciate JPJ counter services seven days a week until the end of the year so that motorists and car owners can maintain social distancing within the confined offices of the Road Transport Department.

Better still, minimise personal contact and maximise courier delivery of documents such as driving licenses, road tax discs and ownership transfers, with the addition of another payment portal to compete with the admittedly super-efficient MyEg portal.

Similarly, the MoT should also discuss with Puspakom, its outsourced contractor, to provide its services in lock-step with the RTD’s work schedule.

For the longer term though, Malaysian transport operators are aspiring for a more efficient delivery of a public service that the government had outsourced to the private sector and which had its concession period extended despite concerns over the return of unhealthy practices at the corporatised entity.

It is understood that, despite their vigilance, Puspakom’s senior management have a Sisyphean task to clean up the opaque dealings between some of its staff and fixers.

A comprehensive network of agents has evolved over the years to act as middlemen between transport operators and Puspakom.

In the process, some of the agents have evolved to become fixers to ensure that trucks on the borderline of failing the half-yearly roadworthiness test or the exhaust smoke test can still be issued with a roadworthy certificate.

Then there are regular runners who are contracted to truck operators and they perform a genuine service in the sense that they specialise in mobilising trucks from the depot to any of the 54 Puspakom facilities nationwide, to park the heavy commercial vehicles in queue for the inspection service.

Action plan for MoT, JPJ and Puspakom

Some of the measures that the MoT could consider to improve the delivery of its road-safety functions for commercial vehicles are:

Enable franchisee workshops such as Scania, Volvo, Tan Chong Nissan, Hino and Fuso to certify the road-worthiness of the trucks they sell. The government has to consider a concession period for franchise holders to upgrade to the standard required by JPJ.

Franchise holders should also provide inspection certificates online to JPJ and Puspakom and the Department of Environment so that enforcement is legitimate and consistent.

Enable manufacturers and franchise holders of passenger cars such as Perodua, Proton, Honda, Toyota etc used in ride-hailing and taxis to certify the road-worthiness of the cars that they sell.

Start inspections of new commercial vehicles only from 36 months on the road, instead of two years.

New heavy commercial vehicles and their customised body construction should be signed off by professional mechanical engineers in a self-certification process rather than have the new bodies to be inspected by Puspakom before JPJ registration.

However, the biggest thing where the MoT and the government have to perform is on Malaysia’s response to climate change and decarbonisation. These two global and converging trends will have major impact on our transport costs but are glossed over in two paragaphs of the policy paper.

Can we, or should we, ask the transport minister what are his plans for the next 2 years and 10 years?


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