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Away with the transport boundary system

/ 11:39 PM January 08, 2012

The decision by the government to have bus companies pay their drivers fixed wages is long overdue. (I presume the new order includes bus conductors and eventually, jeepney drivers.) The “boundary” system is a big cause of the traffic jams and accidents in many urban areas.

In the boundary system, the driver pays the jeepney owner or bus company a fixed amount (the “boundary”) for driving a passenger vehicle for 12 hours. It is as if the driver is renting the vehicle. What he earns from passenger fares above the “boundary,” minus what he paid for the gas and oil, is his take-home pay. If he is lazy, he takes home less money; if he works harder he earns more.

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It is this “boundary” system that forces the stiff competition among bus and jeepney drivers. They race in the busy and crowded streets in an effort to reach the waiting passengers first, and this often results in accidents. They swerve out of bus lanes and swerve recklessly in and out of traffic in an effort to get ahead of the competition. The drivers know they are violating traffic rules but they are forced to do it, otherwise they would take home less money.

The vehicle owner doesn’t care what his driver does as long as he gets his “boundary.” Whether or not the driver earns for himself, the owner is assured of his fixed boundary. After he buys the jeepney or bus, the owner is sitting pretty. The thing earns for itself without him doing much. It is the driver and bus conductor who do most of the work. This is obviously unfair to the driver and conductor but they are forced to accept it, otherwise they won’t be able to drive anything and earn anything. That is the practice and everybody is doing it.

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The new policy of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) should change all that. Of course the owners will oppose it. And some drivers also will be against it because they earn more by working 12 hours straight instead of the regulatory eight hours.

The new policy, however, will limit the working hours to the legal eight because working beyond that the driver is already exhausted, his reflexes become slower and he becomes sleepy, especially if he drives at night. This frequently leads to accidents. With the new policy, whether the vehicle turns in more or little income, the driver and conductor get fixed salaries.

Better still, they should be getting social security as well as  Pag-Ibig and PhilHealth benefits, with the employer paying part of the premiums. They would also be entitled to the mandatory 13th-month pay and the optional Christmas bonus. They should also be entitled to vacation and sick leaves and women conductors, in particular, to the additional privilege of maternity leave. They will also have security of tenure, except when they are reckless and violate company rules.

This should result in more disciplined drivers, fixed schedules for buses and jeepneys, thus eliminating the need for them to race through the streets to beat each other to passengers’ waiting sheds. In other countries, you can tell the time of day by the coming and going of buses in bus stations (there are no jeepneys in other countries; the jeepney is strictly a Philippine adaptation in response to the combined lack of transportation after the Pacific War and abundance of surplus military jeeps).

In sum, this new “fixed wages” policy should result in more orderly traffic—no more traffic jams provided the traffic enforcers stop the “tong  system” and do their jobs more faithfully.

All the other gimmicks initiated by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority

(MMDA) like the color coding, bus lanes, motorcycle lanes, etc. would be of no use if the present anarchy in the streets continues. The billions of pesos that the government will spend to build a new road from E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City to Mandaluyong would be a waste of money. That new highway would soon be choked with traffic if there are no reforms in the transportation system.

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What the government has been trying to do is to move more vehicles when it should be moving more people instead. That means improving the mass transit system like the elevated rails and the ground-level railroad. They can carry more passengers and run on fixed rails so they are not hindered by other traffic. We can see that from the amount of passengers that the LRT and MRT transport every hour. They are now the fastest transportation in Metro Manila. If you are in a hurry, take the elevated rails.

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. The elevated rails are always packed with passengers. Many more would like to take them, but they back off when they see the passengers packed like sardines. Common sense dictates that the government should acquire more trains and coaches to accommodate more passengers. That would also earn them more fares and eliminate or lessen the need to subsidize them. They may even turn in a profit.

The Philippine National Railways should also acquire more commuter trains and coaches. The rehabilitation and expansion initiative of the railroad is too slow. The railroad is always the cheapest and most efficient transportation  system in other countries. Not in the Philippines.

If the railroad from San Fernando, La Union to Legazpi, Albay is revived, it would take much of the cargo and passenger load from the highways.

One reason for the traffic congestion in downtown Metro Manila is that cargo trucks and passenger buses going from north to south of Luzon, and vice versa, have to pass through downtown. They do not want to, but they have no choice because there are no other roads to get to their destinations except through Rizal Avenue, Edsa and C-5. There should be one or two more highways to bypass downtown Metro.

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TAGS: benefits, Boundary System, MMDA, Transportation, wages
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