When you’re planning your next trip to Malaysia, you might want to think twice about your mode of transport there.
While carpooling might seem like the foolproof way to get into Malaysia, both in terms of cost and efficiency, it’s actually illegal to provide such services through informal and non-commercial platforms.
In fact, those convicted of doing so may end up being fined or jailed.
This is even though many have offered or utilised carpooling services over the years, even after the borders between Malaysia and Singapore reopened last April.
Here’s what you need to know about carpooling from Singapore to Malaysia (and vice versa) and what different groups of people have to say about it.
Many Carpool Groups on Facebook
On Facebook, a simple search for carpool groups from Singapore to Malaysia would show that many different carpooling services are available for booking through either Facebook or Whatsapp.
And they don’t just have services from Singapore to Johor Bahru and back.
In some of the advertising posts, people claim that their carpooling services can go all the way to areas like Penang.
Some also offer “door-to-door” services, while others boast a wide variety of vehicles, from regular cars to Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and vans.
Based on the Facebook search, at least eight of such groups have over 20,000 members in the groups.
When speaking to Lianhe Zaobao, a 28-year-old Malaysian named Zoe (not her real name) explained that she has to take multiple modes of transportation whenever she travels from Singapore back to Malaysia.
Zoe, who works in Singapore, added that apart from crossing the customs, she also has to spend another two hours on a train before reaching Kluang, her hometown.
She shared that her working hours are not fixed and that she brings a lot of things with her when she travels home, making it inconvenient for her to travel in such an inefficient manner.
Hence, after her friends told her about carpool services that would allow her to travel directly from Singapore to Kluang in the same car, she decided to give it a shot.
She found that it was convenient as she did not have to get stuck in crowds of people.
Now, she uses carpooling services almost every time she travels home.
Even though she has to pay at least $35 for each trip and carpools with strangers, Zoe feels that the heftier price tag is worth it as she does not need to worry about her transport as much.
According to someone with insider information, one-way carpooling services to various areas in Johor Bahru cost $20 to $40, while one-way trips to areas further from Singapore, like Ipoh in Perak, cost around $100.
These prices tend to increase when holidays approach as well.
However, Zoe also recognised the risks that come with carpooling.
As the driver and passengers do not know each other, it would be difficult to receive compensation if accidents occur on the road.
When interviewed by Zaobao, many members of the public felt that carpooling services are priced reasonably and that drivers often provide services of good quality.
In particular, they feel that such services are suitable for families travelling with the elderly and children.
However, some also felt that drivers of these services often drive recklessly and cut the queue when crossing the customs. According to them, this may result in a safety hazard.
A hairdresser surnamed Zhu (Hanyu pinyin) shared that he will use carpooling services around three to four times each year to return to Ipoh.
Apart from not needing to get out of the car to cross the checkpoints, Mr Zhu said that these services are convenient for him as they can also cater to his schedule.
For example, he can choose to start travelling after he ends work.
He added that he has used carpooling services from various operators. He is mindful of but not overly worried about the safety issue.
Regarding safety, he also shared that his driver accidentally fell asleep at the wheel once.
Upon seeing that it was dangerous, he woke the driver up.
He also said that he informs the drivers when he notices something wrong during his trips.
On the other hand, a man surnamed Zhang (Hanyu pinyin) claimed that drivers of carpooling services often cut the queue along the causeway, causing severe traffic jams.
He said that the government should take action as too many vehicles are driving for these carpooling services.
Apart from that, he mentioned that taking a bus is much cheaper.
According to him, carpooling services are not only expensive but also lack insurance, and he also questioned who would be held responsible in the case of an accident.
On a different note, Ivory, who visits Malaysia with her family during the holidays, said that carpooling services are necessary.
She said that it is due to how the elderly and children often cannot squeeze their way through public transport across the causeway.
Additionally, they might not own cars and may not know the directions to where they are travelling to as well.
In her opinion, taxis that ferry people across the causeway also charge exorbitantly high prices.
Regarding how drivers of these carpooling cut the queues at the checkpoints, she admitted that it might frustrate other drivers.
However, she pointed out that much of the heavy traffic comes from how some people drive into Malaysia alone.
On the contrary, she believes that cars filled with people from carpooling services do not contribute to the problem as much as the former.
Hence, she expressed that carpooling services are beneficial to this group of people and should continue to exist.
LTA’s Response: These Services are Illegal
However, despite the positive (and negative) impacts that members of the public have listed, it seems like the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has something else to say regarding the issue.
When responding to queries from Zaobao, a spokesperson from LTA said that it is currently illegal to carry out carpooling services through informal or non-commercial platforms.
The spokesperson explained that carpooling services in Singapore are only legal if they take place through platforms such as GrabHitch and RydePool.
Even then, these services are only legal within Singapore, and these platforms cannot provide cross-country services.
The spokesperson added that LTA would continue to monitor the situation and take enforcement action against illegal carpooling services.
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Additionally, the spokesperson mentioned that those convicted of providing illegal carpooling services may face up to a $10,000 fine, six months’ imprisonment or both.
Those who provide such services without a professional licence or licenced vehicles may face up to a $3,000 fine, six months’ imprisonment or both.
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