At Php2 per minute, the time component of the fare that users of GrabCar ride-hailing service pay for a trip looks minor. That seems to be the impression when compared to the Php40 base fare that kicks in as soon as you get into the vehicle, and the distance component of Php10 to Php14 for each kilometer travelled.
But looks can deceive. For an hour-long trip over 12 kilometers, the time component makes up anywhere from 36 percent to 42 percent of the projected fare.
No wonder GrabCar drivers are no longer putting up with the extended suspension of the time component in the fares they charge riders. The Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) ordered Grab to stop imposing the Php2 per minute charge on April 20, after it decided that fare component was imposed without regulatory approval.
On the morning of Sunday, September 2, more than 200 ride-hailing vehicle drivers and owners gave up their traditional rest day and instead took to the streets in a motorcade around the offices of LTFRB to press the regulatory body to lift the suspension. Holding a press conference afterwards, leaders of various driver groups related how the suspension of the time charge affected their earnings and livelihood.
The ride-hailing business, which the government officially calls transport network vehicle service (TNVS), is no longer as lucrative as it used to. Many of the former corporate employees who quit their jobs to drive full time are now back working for companies again. Meanwhile, many of those doing it part-time are spending less time driving, especially during peak hour when they are most needed.
Not surprisingly, GrabCar’s allocation rate – the proportion of bookings successfully allocated or assigned to drivers within the first few tries, net of total cancellations – has sharply fallen from above 60 percent in March below 40 percent in July. That explains why most GrabCar customers are having a hard time booking rides.
Despite all that, the protesting car drivers and owners said they’re still committed to continue serving the riding public. In part, that reflects the dual nature of the ride-hailing industry: while it’s a business and a livelihood, it’s also being driven by altruistic considerations.
As one of the leaders of a drivers’ group, Arlynn Camorongan said: “This business is very emotional for (drivers). Why? Marami kaming kwento sa loob ng mga sasakyan na nakita namin. Bahang-baha, umuulan, basang-basa yung baby -- so how can a mother stop driving kung pwede naman niyang i-share yung kotse niya with anybody with the token lang of a little bayad? (We have many tales within our cars. Babies who are drenched by heavy rains amid flooding – how can a mother stop driving if she can share her car with anybody in exchange for a token payment?)"
As well, the commitment to continue serving the ride-hailing public also reflects fresh hopes that the industry’s prospects may take a turn for the better soon. This, after sympathetic lawmakers filed a proposed bill at the House of Representatives recognizing TNVS as a premium transport service that can command higher fares compared to taxis.
Ride-hailing could still be viable “if we are granted appropriate fares that can cover our operating costs,” said Winson Esteras, chairman of the TNVS Community Leaders Council (TCLC), an alliance of several ride-hailing drivers’ groups in Metro Manila. He added the filing of proposed law just filed in Congress. “The proposed fare structure in the TNVS bill will allow for easier adjustments to cover increases in our operating expenses such as fuel prices.”
Following are excerpts from the answers of some of the leaders of the various TNVS drivers’ groups when Entrepreneur Philippines asked them about the viability of ride-hailing as a business and source of livelihood amid rising fuel prices and adverse regulations.
Winson Esteras, Chairman, TNVS Community Leaders Council
(Viable pa) kung makukuha lang namin yung tamang pamasahe versus yung operational cost namin. Itong ilalabas na fare structure na ilalagay sa TNVS bill, kaya siya linagay na fare structure para hindi na siya mahirap itaas once na merong tumaas sa mga kailangan namin sa operational expenses kagaya ng fuel prices.
Jec Asuncion, Chairman, Gruber
TNVS is ride sharing. It’s not primarily a business but a service. Pero di ka naman tatakbo, hindi ka naman magda-drive kung hindi ka makakakuha ng pang-maintenance mo, pang-kain ng pamilya mo. Hindi ito para pagkakitaan na kailangan mataas ang ating pamasahe para mataas ang kikitain natin. As of now, because of yung mga nangyayari, nawala ang 2 pesos per minute, baba ang surge, yun ang nagiging mga dahilan bakit hindi na viable at maraming nang tumitigil na mag drive sa TNVS.
Marami nang nag-surrender ng sasakyan kasi nga hindi na kayang bayaran yung bangko. Imbis na hatakin pa sa akin ng bangko, ibabalik ko na lang kasi hindi ko kayang bayaran. Maraming ganoon.
Yung mga part-timers natin -- marami yan. Pumapasok sila at umuuwi sila sa trabaho nila, tapos bibiyahe sana. Pero bakit pa sila bibiyahe kung mag-aabono rin lang sila sa gasolina? So, it's ride sharing. Hindi ito para pagkakitaan. Ang pinaglalaban namin hindi yung magkaroon ng malaking pera, hindi magkaroon ng malaking income -- just the equitable fare para kami mabuhay nang maayos
Bobby Coronel, Chairman, Team Speed
Hindi naman ganoon kalaki ang ini-expect naming kita. Ang gusto lang po namin ay maka-survive. Mapapansin po ninyo sa social media, yung mga those who want to join us, may mapapansin ka pa bang ganoon? Di ba nawala ? Kasi po may certain issues po tayo gaya ng 2 pesos per minute, tapos yung TRAIN law, so nagkakaroon ng chain reaction sa expenses. So, yung way of living ng TNVS driver and their families is talagang unsteady pero nandito pa rin po kami para suportahan yung mga nanghihinang mga operators. Kapit lang po kasi may liwanag po sa tulong ni (LTFRB Board Member Aileen) Lizada na tumutulong po sa atin para maipasa ang batas at yung fare matrix talagang maayos po.
Arlyn Caromongan, President, GrabCar Manila Delta
With regards to viability, kung iisipin natin ang isang karaniwang manggagawa ay pumapasok nang siyam na oras. Dalawang oras papasok sa trahabo at dalawang oras pauwi, so we are counting 13 hours to 14 hours to earn a basic salary of 550 or 600 pesos a day, minus their expenses. So if a driver will drive 13 hours can we still bring 500 pesos in our pockets? Plus because we are entrepreneurs by nature, of course, the operational expenses and the return on investments, which is our car, should be sustained. Kung viable pa siya, hindi na siya viable at all. Maraming factors kaya nasisiraan ng loob ang mga drivers.
Kung i-interviewhin mo lahat ng drivers, this business is very emotional for them. Why? Marami kaming kwento sa loob ng mga sasakyan na nakita namin. Bahang-baha, umuulan, basang-basa yung baby -- so how can a mother stop driving kung pwede naman niyang i-share yung kotse niya with anybody with the token lang of a little bayad.
Glen Jacobe, President, Tiger City Philippine Transport Alliance (TCPTA)
Mostly po ang pumasok sa TNVS industry e hindi po nila alam. Basta pasok ka lang ng kotse o kuha ka ng driver, biyahe, tapos eto, mararamdaman mo na ang ipit sa monthly, boundary ng driver, mahal na gasolina and marami pa pung nangyayaring ganoon. Pero, we are all positive na maayos po ang mga konting aberya. Mga kapwa ko driver: huwag ho kayong manghihina ng loob kasi kami pong mga leader dito lagi pong nakikipag-discuss with our government na maiparating mo lahat ng inyong hinaing.
Walter Lugay Uy, Philippine Metro Transport Group
I-emphasize ko lang yung iba’t-ibang denomination ng transport system. Meron diyan bus, taxi, jeep, tricycle and other transport. Ang TNVS po talaga, para sa kaalaman ng lahat, is premium service po ang hinahatid namin. Hindi po kami nakikipag-argue sa rider regarding pamasahe which is naka-post na yan sa app. Di kagaya ng ibang transport system na mag-aaway pa sa kalye. Ang TNVS laging ready. Pag naka-receive kami ng booking, i-aacept namin yan. Bakit namin di i-aacept? Trabaho namin yan. Sana lang intindihin ng riding public yung hinanaing din namin. Side by side, magtulungan mo tayong lahat.
Cheryl Barias, Kamuning D’barkadz
Yung husband ko nagda-dialysis. Diyan kami kumukuha ng pang sustain ng medications niya. Dialysis niya is 3,100 pesos per session per three weeks. So, malaking bagay nakukuha namin dito sa pagbibiyahe namin. Sana yung mga nasa government, sana yung 2 pesos per minute malaking bagay sa amin. Yung lang po.
Patrick Macariola, Philippine Metro Transport Group
I-kwento ko lang po: bago ako ma-open heart (surgery), ang biyahe ko is almost 20 hours. Pahinga lang ako, matutulog ng dalawang oras para mahabol ko yung pang-monthly panggastos sa bahay sa pamilya. So now, noong nawala na ang 2 pesos per minute natin, bumaba ang pamasahe, sobrang naapektuhan ako. Umiinom po ako ng gamot pang-maghapon almost 12 na iba't-ibang klase ng gamot. Diyan ko lang po kinukuha ang pambili ko ng gamut, kasama yung panggastos ng pamilya namin. So, sana lang ho, next week, inaasahan namin maibalik na yung 2 pesos per minute. Malaking malaking tulong po sa amin.
Roel Landingin is Entrepreneur.com.ph's Editor-in-Chief and Pauline Macaraeg is Entrepreneur.com.ph's data journalist.