Photo by Michael Varcas

DOTr okays hatchbacks as TNVS units

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade signed a Department Order permanently allowing hatchbacks and subcompact cars for transport network vehicle service (TNVS) operations.

This came after Tugade ordered the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to implement its Memorandum Circular (MC) 2018-005 allowing hatchbacks as part of public transport for three years during a transition period.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said that the order would take effect immediately after its publication at the UP Law Center.

The MC allowed hatchback vehicles to operate as TNVS units during the transition period but with a cheaper fare rate and are only allowed to operate within Metro Manila.

However, only hatchbacks that were part of the master list of 55,000 units and whose applications were filed from March 5 to December 15, 2018 were allowed to operate.

DOTr Undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Mark Richmond de Leon earlier said that the LTFRB will need to amend its MC to permanently allow hatchbacks to operate as TNVS units.

“In bigger metropolitan areas like London and Tokyo, hatchbacks are allowed to operate as public transport. If first-world countries and cities allow it, why can’t we? These vehicles are more fuel-efficient and, thus, are good for the environment,” De Leon said.

“We are giving the commuters their transport options. Kung gusto niya na mas mura ang biyahe niyamag-hatchback siya(If they want cheaper fare, they can choose a hatchback),” he added. 

Grab response

Meanwhile, in a statement, Grab welcomed the DOTr directive, even as it asked the LTFRB to allow pilot testing for TNVS hatchbacks. “We are grateful to Secretary Arthur Tugade for this directive. It shows his magnanimity and a deep sense of fairness for all those involved. Grab has been coordinating with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the DOTr to resolve hatchbacks issues,” said Grab Philippines president Brian Cu.

The country’s leading transportation network company had campaigned for hatchbacks not to be purged from the master list, saying that “safety is never compromised in either hatchbacks or sedan as most, if not all vehicles sold in the market today conform to international standards of safety and roadworthiness.”

Grab Philippines public affairs head Leo Gonzales said in the letter sent to the DOTr: “A hatchback is a vehicle with a hatch-type rear door that opens upwards and often a shared volume for the passenger and cargo areas. The essential difference between hatchbacks and sedans is the trunk and engine displacement. Generally, a sedan’s cargo space is a separate compartment. On the other hand, hatchbacks have no divide between the rear seats and cargo space allowing for ample storage. Therefore, hatchbacks and sedans are very much alike… In fact, all the vehicles sold in the Philippines including hatchbacks conform to international safety standards called the UNECE standards (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe), to which the Philippines is a signatory,” Gonzales added.  

The Grab release noted that “MC 2018-005 expressly states that accredited hatchback units shall be allowed to operate subject to the following conditions: 1. Hatchback units shall be accepted subject to a transition period of three years in order for the peers to recoup their investment. 2. Hatchback units shall only be allowed to operate within Metro Manila.”

Cu said, “Consistent with the DOTr’s statement that hatchback TNVS units provide a more economical option to the public, we propose that hatchbacks be permanently allowed to operate as TNVS.” 

Grab also compared the engine displacement of the smallest hatchbacks versus motorcycles – implying that if lesser-displacement two wheelers are allowed to be driven on highways, then bigger-engine vehicles such as hatchbacks should be, too. 

“Similar to how the DOTr has approved the pilot implementation of motorcycle taxis for public transport, hatchbacks should be afforded the same opportunity to serve the commuting public on a supervised pilot test,” Cu said. – With Kap Maceda Aguila

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