THE livelihood of taxi drivers in the world has been severely affected since Uber started to match demand from passengers with drivers supplying ride services using private vehicles.
In 2010, London black cab drivers earned between RM42,000 and RM56,000 a month, more than many in licensed professions such as accountants, doctors, engineers and lawyers.
In 2013, some New York taxi medallions (permits) were sold for US$1.3 million, but not long ago, one was transacted for only US$241,000.
In Sydney, a taxi licence was worth A$406,000 in October 2012, but dropped to A$200,000 in February this year.
Cabbies in Malaysia are spared from such huge losses as they do not have to pay for taxi permits based on market rates.
Since inception, all metered taxi permits issued by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) were granted only to individuals, starting with the first 1,000 under Teksi 1Malaysia.
Last August, SPAD unveiled the Taxi Industry Transformation Programme and qualified cabbies exiting from the pajak model were granted individual taxi permits and RM5,000 each to pay for the downpayment of a new taxi.
A large pool of metered taxis is necessary to ensure fares remain stable and not allow ride-hailing apps, such as Uber and Grab, to dictate terms.
If taxis are driven out of the market, peak demands and surge pricing will be the norm and no longer restricted to rush hour.
But how do taxi drivers compete in the new economy? The short answer is to be flexible and not insist that their passengers must pay no less than regulated fares.
There is no reason why they cannot agree to the same fares and incentives acceptable to private car drivers, more so when taxis run on much cheaper natural gas for vehicles.
Should they do so, Uber and Grab could lump taxis with private cars, and this will allow them to have the equal opportunity to receive just as many bookings through e-hailing.
Cabbies have the added option of picking up street-hailing passengers and get to collect higher regulated fares when using meters.
And if they treat every passenger as a VIP, taxi drivers could add 20 to 30 passengers a month to their regular customers.
They could easily clock 20 to 30 trips a day from street-hailing passengers and e-hailing.
Those who can communicate well with foreigners can act as tourist drivers and earn much more from hourly bookings, shopping commissions and tips. On the other hand, those who stick to the old ways by only waiting at train stations and shopping malls will earn less.
The cardinal rule for service providers also apply to taxi drivers: never be rude or angry, even when customers are wrong.