Hard times for e-hailing drivers

Abdul Hamid Noreffendi’s vehicle with MySejahtera QR code on display

KUCHING: The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the livelihoods of many people in the world including e-hailing drivers. 

Grab Holdings Inc, better known as Grab, is a technology company which offers different ride hailing transport services, online food delivery and payment solutions.

Since the implementation of the first movement control order (MCO) in March last year, Grab Malaysia’s core ride hailing business has experienced decreased demand.

Besides Grab, there are also other companies offering similar services such as Mula, EzCab, Dacsee, MyCar Passenger and JomRides.

Azreen Octavious

Despite the uncertainties and challenges he faced, Azreen Octavious, 24, said being an e-hailing driver had allowed him to make an honest living since 2018.

“My family and friends are very supportive of my decision to become an e-hailing driver because it allows me to generate income in an honest way. I love to drive around so it is a job that fits me well.

“I meet all kinds of people every day. Some are bubbly while some are quiet. Of course, I’ve had my fair share of impolite passengers but I continue to persevere. I think it is important to have a good grasp of customer relationship management when you are in this line of job,” he explained.

Azreen said there were challenges for e-hailing drivers even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that the improvement made by Grab helped significantly to mitigate one of the main challenges — the cancellation of rides.

Azreen Octavious with his e-hailing vehicle

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were impatient passengers who would cancel rides just because they did not want to wait for five minutes.

“I encountered a lot of joy bookings back in 2018 and 2019. When passengers book ridiculous rides, I have no choice but to drive over to the destinations. Sometimes, they’ll just cancel the rides.

“One of the furthest routes that I have driven was from Plaza Merdeka in the city area to a junction in Tebedu. Since the cancellation fee was imposed, I have not encountered any joy bookings anymore.

“I used to earn around RM100 a day. With the current situation, I consider myself lucky if I can earn up to RM50. We do not have many students or tourists roaming around so there are not many passengers,” he added.

Azreen shared that besides being an e-hailing driver, he is also a unit trust consultant with Public Mutual Berhad, an independent contractor with Coway Malaysia and most recently, a part-time degree student.

He hoped the Covid-19 pandemic would be over soon so that the demand for e-hailing service in Malaysia would rise again.

Abdul Hamid Noreffendi

Meanwhile, Abdul Hamid Noreffendi said that he appreciated the flexibility he enjoyed as an e-hailing driver.

The 24-year-old student said that the job helped to lessen his parents’ financial burden.

“I am currently finishing my studies in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering. I usually work three to four hours in a day.

“This part-time job allows me to earn my own pocket money. My parents are very supportive of my decision because they want me to manage my own earnings. However, my mother advises me not to go out and work if the number of Covid-19 cases is high,” he explained.

Like Azreen, Abdul Hamid said that he was earning more before the Covid-19 pandemic when there were more passengers. 

He decided to join Grab instead of other companies because of the privileges available and felt assured by the large number of users using the platform.

“Grab offers a variety of benefits to its drivers such as insurance. Through GrabBenefits, which is a benefit programme that rewards existing driver-partners, we can enjoy savings across several categories including fuel rebates, vehicle maintenance and accessories, healthcare as well as lifestyle and travel.

“Most importantly, Grab only takes a maximum of 20 percent commission which I find reasonable. Grab also has a large number of users so naturally there are more demands for its services,” he said.

MySejahtera QR code and hand sanitisers for passengers.

“Before the pandemic, there were many passengers but nowadays, sometimes I would go home empty handed. 

“I would not recommend anyone to become an e-hailing driver during this pandemic as there are not many passengers nowadays. It is better to become a food delivery rider because people prefer to stay at home and go for this kind of service,” he said.

On the likelihood of getting exposed to passengers who could potentially be Covid-19 positive, both Azreen and Abdul Hamid shared that they would ensure all the passengers adhered to the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Abdul Hamid explained that it had become a ritual for him to disinfect and sanitise his car after each passenger. 

“I would ask the passengers to scan the MySejahtera QR Code once they enter my car and I make sure that they are wearing their masks during the journey. Once I have dropped them at their destination, I will open the windows for ventilation.

“At the end of the day, I will sanitise the door handles, use alcohol disinfectant spray and vacuum my car. It is quite tedious but I think it is better to be safe than sorry,” he said.