Is the problem Grab or LTFRB? 

Commuters who rely on @Grab to move around Metro Manila are probably as frustrated as I am with the long wait to book a ride. I have had to wait almost an hour to get a booking. 

Well, from a conversation I had recently with a Grab driver, we may have to put up with the inconvenience until who knows when. As the cliché goes, things will get worse before they get better. 

The Grab mobile application says the problem is the slow processing by the @Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) of applications to join the Grab fleet. But the driver said the problem was more complicated than that. 

In the first place, many Grab cars bought before the pandemic had been repossessed because of the owners’ inability to pay the amortization, as nobody needed a ride anywhere. People could not leave their homes due to lockdowns and quarantines imposed because of the corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. 

Those who managed to keep up with their payments and still have cars are having second thoughts about rejoining Grab. The driver said LTFRB opened recently registration for 8,000 prospective Grab vehicles but applicants came in trickles. 

It seems that, because Grab is considered public transport by the LTFRB, lending banks change the terms for borrowers who want to drive for the company, defined by the agency as a transport network vehicle service (TNVS). The driver said banks asked for what was in effect additional down payment – some charging more than others – and shortened the repayment period. 

He said, while he had to give his bank less money than other drivers, repayment was shortened by a year, effectively raising the monthly amortization significantly. To meet the higher amortization, he said he had to spend more hours on the road than before – from eight to 12 hours a day. 

People who got on board Grab like taxi operators by having several units driven by individuals paid through the “boundary” system (they remit to the car owner a specified amount at the end of a work day), have also soured on the idea because of the high fuel prices making it difficult for drivers to earn enough even just for the boundary. 

And, just like with Uber before, other TNVS companies also draw their drivers from the same pool where Grab gets them. After all, drivers have to be authorized by LTFRB to participate in a TNVS. Drivers decide whether they will take a Grab booking or one from another TNVS. 

The idea that competition may make Grab service better seems irrelevant if there are not enough vehicles to service passengers.  

So, for TNVS clients, “normal” is still a long way off. 

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