The Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program is a large-scale initiative of the Philippine government aimed at transforming the entire public transportation system. Launched by the Department of Transportation (DoTr) in 2017, it “envisions a restructured, modern, well-managed and environmentally sustainable transport sector where drivers and operators have stable, sufficient and dignified livelihoods while commuters get to their destinations quickly, safely and comfortably.”
A key component of this program is fleet modernization: replacing public utility vehicles (PUVs) that are more than 15 years old with those that are safe, reliable, efficient and environment-friendly.
In April of this year, DoTr mounted an exhibition, “Public Transport Modernization Expo: Modernong Sasakyan, Progresibong Bayan,” at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, to showcase the modern PUVs and give them the public, particularly the operators and drivers of PUVs, a lowdown on the benefits of the modernization program and its components.
Among the prototypes on display were low-floor public utility buses, jeepneys and e-tricycles. The exhibit was also an occasion for the attendees to ask the manufacturers and body builders of the PUV prototypes questions regarding the design of the vehicles, their technical specifications, performance and efficiency, among other things.
Isuzu Philippines Corp. was one of the participating brands. It put on view three prototypes, all sharing the Isuzu QKR platform, which run on a Euro 4-compliant 4JH1-TC diesel engine capable of providing maximum power of 106 PS at 3,200 rpm and maximum torque of 230 N-m from 1,400-3,200 rpm.
One of the prototypes, a collaboration with Centro Manufacturing Corporation, was the Isuzu-CENTRO Class II jeepney substitute, which had a 23-passenger standard type cabin, side-facing fixed foam seats, sliding windows and electric folding service door. The Isuzu-ALMAZORA Class II prototype, meanwhile, had a special structural body designed by Almazora Motors Corp., and featured side-facing fiber glass seats with cushions and panoramic glass windows. The third prototype Isuzu Philippines displayed was a collaboration with Santarosa Motor Works called Isuzu-SANTAROSA Class III PUV, which had 23 front-facing seats and Galvannealed sheet body panels. All three were fully air-conditioned.
“Our latest PUV display is a result of the test and development process we had with our previous prototypes. We try to work with different local body manufacturers to give our transport groups more designs to choose from,” Hajime Koso, president of Isuzu Philippines, was quoted as saying in a press release. “Rest assured that we work closely with them to ensure the quality and safety of these new products,”
Hino Motors Philippines, the official distributor of Hino trucks and buses in the country, also participated in the expo, showing off its modern jeepney prototypes. These prototypes came in four variants: Hino four- and six-wheelers for Class II and III in air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned versions. These Euro 4-powered Hino jeepneys had a seating capacity of 23 to 30 passengers.
The Hino Class III model is minibus-like with front-facing passenger seats. The Hino Class II PUV, which was designed to look more like a conventional jeepney, had side-facing passenger seats and covered open-air windows and could accommodate standing passengers.
“Our active participation in the government’s project is driven by our Hino’s Total Support mantra. We are committed to providing reliable and innovative transport system solutions for the welfare of all our stakeholders — including our natural resources such as the air we breathe. We believe that this is the first step toward an upgraded and greener transport system,” Vicente Mills, Jr., chairman of Hino Motors Philippines, said in a statement.
The Bureau of Philippine Standards of the Department of Trade and Industry has set standards on the dimensions of PUVs. Class 1 vehicles have a passenger capacity of nine to 22. Class 2 vehicles can carry more than 22 passengers who can either seat or stand. Class 3 vehicles can accommodate of 22 or more sitting passengers. Class 4 vehicles have the same seating capacity as Class 3 vehicles, but they have provisions for cargo.
Last July, DoTr dispatched 150 modern jeepneys to operators. These vehicles had side doors, doing away with the old rear entrance of conventional jeepneys, and a higher ceiling for standing passengers. There were units that had provisions for persons with disabilities, a Wi-Fi connection, a global positioning system or GPS, closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera, dash camera, speed limiter and automatic fare collection system.
Thomas M. Orbos, undersecretary for road transport and infrastructure at DoTr, was quoted in a BusinessWorld report as saying that the rollout of the modern jeepneys was only the first step in providing commuters with the public transportation they deserve.
“Commuters are suffering from smoke-belching, unsafe, and damaged jeepneys because this was what we’re used to. That shouldn’t be the case. It’s the government’s job to give the public what they deserve,” he said.