Trucking Industry Under Pressure: Pandemic Impact and NLEX Toll Fee Hike Spark Protests and Challenges

The Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations, or "ACTOO," held a massive demonstration on July 21 against the elevated tolls on the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), which significantly disrupted traffic in the City of Manila. Trucks from various trucking companies in the Philippines, particularly from ACTOO, obstructed multiple lanes of the busy street of Manila during the demonstration, which was held in the morning. The truckers' dissatisfaction with NLEX's perceived disregard for their complaints and worries was evident in the demonstration.

The overflowing effects of the Pandemic

The pandemic's overflowing effects have significantly impacted the trucking sector in the Philippines. Representing the logistics and hauling industry, the association vehemently demanded an immediate halt to the toll charge increase, particularly focusing on NLEX Corporation. Truckers and container trucking operators assert that the timing of the rate hike contradicts the government's directives to reduce transportation costs, potentially leading to inflationary pressures.

Furthermore, the escalation of the Ukraine-Russia conflict in March 2022 resulted in a surge in fuel costs. Additionally, shifting customer behaviors due to the pandemic also hindered trucking rate adjustments, amplifying the challenges for the industry.

Recent toll fee adjustments, starting from June 15, imposed additional charges for Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3 vehicles within the open system, impacting truckers and container trucking operations with fees of P7, P17, and P19 for each respective vehicle class.

Stronger and More Persistent Protests

Stronger and More Persistent Protests are expected from truckers or some trucking companies in the Philippines if their demands are not granted. The ACTOO, specifically its Central Luzon group, has warned of additional protest actions, with more than 200 vehicles planning to participate in future demonstrations. In defense of the new rates, NLEX Corporation stated that they underwent thorough regulatory reviews and approvals, as part of the authorized NLEX periodic updates between 2012 to 2020.

Salt to the Wound

However, the general community of truckers bears discontent that extends beyond the toll fee increase, as they believe the government has long neglected their industry. The recent toll hike only adds to their grievances, with concerns ranging from regulatory issues (e.g. requirement of individual stickers per city or municipality across the country, to the burdensome redundancy in logistics and port operations caused by changing regulatory processes and systems, and others), unjust apprehension of truckers, volatile fuel prices, and more, leading to additional costs and bureaucratic hurdles for trucking companies in the Philippines. These mounting challenges underscore the urgency for the government to address the trucking industry's issues comprehensively, offering essential support to sustain their operations and drive the country's logistics and economic growth forward.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Philippines' noteworthy improvement in the recent World Logistics Performance Index is a positive indicator of progress. However, to achieve even higher and stronger performance, it is crucial to address the critical issues prevailing in the logistics industry such as those from the trucking sector, especially concerning the recent toll fee increase and the lingering impact of the pandemic. Listening to the concerns of stakeholders on the ground, including trucking operators burdened by excessive taxation and operational costs, is essential. Fair evaluations of the necessity and timing of such increases will be instrumental in striking a balance between development and equitable costs. Collaborative efforts between the government and the trucking community can lead to the formulation of effective and supportive policies, fostering sustained growth in logistics and contributing to the overall economic advancement of the nation. By creating an enabling environment for a thriving trucking sector, we not only benefit the industry but also enhance the Philippines' logistics performance as a whole.

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