Grab recommends motorcycle ride-hailing be covered under Malaysia’s new PSV rules

A GrabBike motorcycle driver, left, and a Go-Jek motorcycle driver wait for orders in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

Close on the heels of Malaysia announcing its in-principle approval for motorcycle ride-hailing services, Grab on Friday recommended that such services be regulated strictly under the country’s new public service vehicle (PSV) rules.

The Singapore-headquartered ride-hailing major, whose arch rival GOJEK stands to benefit from the government’s green light to bike-hailing services, said Malaysia needs a separate set of stringent, motorcycle-specific safety features under PSV regulations.

“While the government considers the legalisation of motorcycle ride-hailing in Malaysia, we believe it is important to address the single most critical aspect of this service – the safety of motorcyclists, passengers and the broader community – taking into account local road infrastructure, traffic conditions and safety records,” Grab Malaysia head Sean Goh said in a statement.

The PSV regulations in question were announced by the Malaysia government last year and require all e-hailing drivers to acquire a PSV licence. The Transport Ministry in July granted an extension of three months for drivers to obtain the licence to ensure a smooth transition to the new regime.

Earlier this week, GOJEK founder and CEO Nadiem Makarim and GOJEK president Andre Soelistyo met Malaysia prime minister Mahathir Mohamad as well as transport minister Anthony Loke and youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq.

On Wednesday, Malaysia’s cabinet unanimously approved GOJEK’s and local player Dego Ride’s applications to offer bike-hailing services in the country. It may take up to two months for the youth and sports, and transport ministries to work on the fine print for the implementation of these services.

The entry of GOJEK into Malaysia, the birthplace of Singapore-headquartered Grab, may prove to be a serious challenge to the latter, which has been dominating the local market since Uber’s exit from Southeast Asia.

A GOJEK spokesperson told us that the startup “highly appreciates the warm welcome and support” extended to the company for starting operations in Malaysia.

“We are always looking for opportunities to bring our technology to benefit more people and users in Southeast Asia. This will naturally include carefully reviewing the local opportunities, challenges, and regulations that exist. Ultimately, we want to support governments as they develop the broader digital economy ecosystem in ways that are inclusive and foster innovation,” said the spokesperson.

The decision to allow GOJEK’s two-wheeler services in Malaysia has drawn some flak from consumers who see the move as favouring a foreign entity.

Dego Ride founder Nabil Feisal Bamadhaj was quoted by Free Malaysia Today as saying that the government should prioritise local players, giving them the opportunity to carve a name for themselves.

Nevertheless, he welcomed the government’s decision to allow such services to operate in the country as it paves the way for the startup to relaunch its operations. Dego Ride had originally launched motorcycle ride-hailing services in the southern Malaysian state of Johor in 2016. The government banned such services in 2017 citing safety concerns. Last year, transport minister Loke had said that the country would not legalise any two-wheeled services.

According to a study conducted by the Malaysia Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS), road fatalities in Malaysia are expected to reach 10,716 by 2020, with motorcyclists accounting for a major share.