A friend of my father-in-law approached me to ask if there have been studies on requiring Philippine drivers to get personal insurance before being issued a driver’s license. I replied that I am unaware of any study or studies on this topic. I told him, though, that there have been discussions to require bus and trucks drivers to get certification from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to drive these large vehicles. The certification is the same required in other countries for foreign drivers seeking working in those countries. And so, prospective OFW drivers would have to take up the certification course at TESDA in order to qualify as drivers in other countries. These discussions were made at DOTC together with the LTO and the TESDA prior to 2010. Since then, I have no knowledge if such discussions were continued or if someone or some group pursued this. Based on what we see now on our roads where buses and trucks have been involved in many road crashes, I can only conclude that the certification initiative was not pursued for one reason or another.
The reason I was asked whether there were studies on the topic of driver insurance is that the person is part of a group (he didn’t reveal it to me and I didn’t ask him about the name) seeking for a bill to be filed for this insurance to be required prior to being given a license to drive. He told me that this is based on the system in the US, where prospective drivers are required to get insurance as a prerequisite to being issued a license to drive. The premium for the insurance is dependent on the record of the driver and increases significantly with the person’s involvement in a road crash where he or she is proven as the guilty party. The premium also increases when drivers are found to have violated traffic rules and regulations, and the data based on citations or tickets issued by apprehending officers are transmitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which is the equivalent of our Land Transportation Office (LTO). The idea is for drivers involved in crashes or frequently violated traffic rules and regulations to be charged a higher premium until a point when there will be no legitimate companies willing to insure the driver because of his record. Alternatively, the driver might be forced to give up on driving because he or she could no longer afford the steep premium resulting from his/her own actions on the road.
This is actually a good idea and one that probably is worth looking into in more detail by our LTO if it is to use this as a way to reduce errant drivers on the road. I would propose that higher premiums should be required of public transport drivers who would be responsible for a lot of lives. Truck drivers can have their premiums dependent on what kind of trucks they drive. Perhaps higher premiums are for those driving tankers or lorries carrying sensitive or high value freight. The bottom line, of course, is how such a system can be operationalised or implemented. There is also that thing about enforcement and the sharing of information between apprehending entities (e.g., PNP, local police or local government staff) and the LTO for the data required to assess a driver’s record whenever he or she renews his or her license. There will always be loopholes and/or fixers somewhere but these should not deter the authorities from seeking a better system than what we have now where drivers can “get away with murder” sometimes quite literally.
The DOST-MIRDC has built another prototype vehicle for its Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) project. The vehicle is larger than the one at the University of the Philippines Diliman as each vehicle would have a capacity of 120 passengers (seated and standing). They are also building another elevated test track at the MIRDC compound across from the main DOST compound in Bicutan, Taguig City, and along Gen. Santos Avenue. This is a significant upgrade from the 30-passenger capacity vehicles at UP Diliman (60 for a 2-car train) as a 2-car train with 240 passengers means much more capacity for a real line using such vehicles. To compare, 5-minute headways along one direction could carry 720 passengers per hour for the UP Diliman prototype while the Bicutan model can carry 2,880 passengers per hour.
Two prototype AGT vehicles with maximum capacity of 120 passengers at the MIRDC compound in Bicutan, Taguig City.
The design is very much the same as the first prototype vehicle, with its distinctive look including the snout, headlights and skirt.
The vehicle looks like it was inspired by the large provincial buses that, if seats are configured as benches and the body is stretched to be longer, can accommodate more passengers.
I don’t know how long this elevated test track will be but to be able to have substantial tests for the new vehicles this should be longer and would need to be extended beyond the MIRDC compound. That means the tracks would pass through land occupied by the Polytechnical University of the Philippines (PUP), which is a state university, and Camp Bagong Diwa, which is under the Philippine National Police. Can this line serve the areas along Gen. Santos Avenue? I think so but it will be competing with tricycles and jeepneys. Tricycles are the dominant public transport mode here despite Gen. Santos being a national road. Taguig City would have to find a way to address issues pertaining to a reduction or phase-out of tricycles as the communities in the area might be dependent (unfortunately) on these for their livelihood.
I had posted on one of my social media accounts about the idea of a merger of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) to become the Department of Land Use, Public Works, Transportation and Communication or DLUPWTC (that’s definintely a mouthful). While it was April Fool’s, I got a lot of comments agreeing with the idea. One friend even gave a short history review noting that DOTC used to be DPWTC and what is now DPWH used to be DPH.
The idea of a merger of agencies is not a new idea nor is it a novel one if you look at the potential more closely. In fact, the Japanese already did such mergers many years ago when they created “super ministries” in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. These would be like merging the NEDA, DTI into one agency, the DPWH, DOTC, HUDCC, HLURB into another agency, the DepEd, CHED and DOST into a single entity. Such was undertaken in order to promote efficiency in government services in Japan by streamlining the bureaucracy among agencies that are supposed to have strong linkages if not overlapping responsibilities.
This idea makes sense for the DPWH and DOTC, and more so now that there seems to be a dearth in leadership over at the transport department while the public works and highways department is enjoying a resurgence, revitalized by a strong secretary. While these two agencies have cooperated for the longest time, much is still desired for a seamless collaboration where DOTC might serve as The Planning Agency while DPWH might be The Implementing Agency. They would probably work best under the guidance of a single strong leadership who would have a vision for a much improved future transport for the country and a knack for how to realize this vision.
Think about it and suddenly its not a joke worthy of April Fool’s Day.