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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Did the LTFRB Ban Hatchback Vehicles for TNVSes Overnight?

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board or LTFRB greeted 2018 with a shocker to Transport Network Companies or TNCs: hatchbacks with a displacement below 1,200-ccs or 1.2-liters (round-ups are okay, according to this report) aren’t allowed anymore as Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS) vehicles. Given the LTFRB’s rather unpopular reputation of late, social media lashed out immediately on LTFRB board member and de facto punching bag Atty. Aileen Lizada on the government’s archaic or in their LTO own words, primordial standards. But is there a reason for all this uproar or is the LTFRB simply following the law?

In this case, the law is on the side of the LTFRB.

Throughout all the legal wrangling between TNCs such as Uber and Grab, and the LTFRB, several Memorandum Circulars were put in place to better guide companies, operators, drivers, and riders on standards that govern this young industry.

One of the first such circulars, Memorandum Circular 2015-017 and 2015-18 talks about the different requirements for the application of a TNVS such as a “zero tolerance on drugs and alcohol”, no smoking policy, and even the requirement for TNVS to display which TNC they are accredited with via a sticker on their vehicle visible from at least 50 feet away. Any mention of minimum vehicle standards? None.

While TNCs may be right in that there are no mentions of minimum vehicle standards in those two circulars, one just needs to look at the Department of Transportation and Communication (now the Department of Transportation) Department Order 2015-11 which details TNVS standards. In the line where it mentions vehicle body type, the Department Order simply mentions:

“Sedan, Asian Utility Vehicle, Sports Utility Vehicle, Van, Sport Utility Vehicle [sic] or other similar vehicles.”
In plain English, it says there: sedan. Hence, hatchbacks are definitely not allowed.

If that’s not enough, the LTFRB issued their own circular, Memorandum Circular 2015-004 that outlines the minimum dimensions, safety, and comfort features of a taxis (which TNVS are expected to follow as well). There are two tiers, one that covers vehicles with a piston displacement of 1,200-cc (1.2-liters) and one with piston displacement above 1,200-cc (1.2-liters). In both cases, the mentioned body style is that of a sedan.

Interestingly, the same circular outlines the required safety and convenience features of these vehicles such as front 3-point seatbelts and rear 2-point seatbelts, a third brake light, side impact beams, remote trunk opener, and get this, dual SRS airbags. It also states a minimum of 650-mm of rear legroom when the front seat is fully retracted backward, and a minimum trunk space of 310 liters.

So why did TNCs continue to run non-compliant units then? It has to do with Memorandum Circular 2017-032, specifically in the heading that talks about Dropping and Substitution. There, it’s stated:
“Hatchbacks and other four (4) door compact or smaller sedan with Piston Displacement not less than 1,200-cc (rated) may be allowed as proposed unit or substitute unit provided that the unit is compliant with the minimum dimension, safety comfort features prescribed under MC No. 2015-04.”
Thus, the LTFRB actually relaxed their requirements in 2017 and are allowing hatchbacks for as long as they have an engine no smaller than a 1.2-liter engine and measure 3,990 mm in length, 1,625 mm in width, and 1,455 in height. The wheelbase must at least be 2,405 mm and must have basic safety and comfort equipment.

In other words, TNCs knew about this. It wasn’t a midnight rule change that most people would like to have you believe.

Whether or not TNCs conveniently swept the “90-day” provision under the rug to their drivers and operators is best left for another story, but it’s clear that the LTFRB is just following its own rules and regulations. Call the LTFRB inconvenient, call them archaic, call them stupid even, but nothing changes the fact that this is the law. And since Memorandum Circular 2017-032 was published on December 2, 2017 (it was signed on November 29, 2017), the 90-day deadline means that all non-compliant TNVS vehicles must be off the road (or substituted) at the latest by March 2, 2018.


  1. Yung mga baby bus sa Cavite na kahoy bintana and half ton putty sa body OK pa din mag operate?

  2. That 300l requirement for trunk space, no small hatchback can have. That's effectively Yaris/Jazz country there.

    A requirement for dual SRS airbags too? That disqualifies most entry level Korean brands like the Accent and Rio.

    Dura Lex, Screw Lex.


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