Skid Marks

New schemes of LTO, MMDA defy logic

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I just want to say: What the hell is our government thinking now? To be more specific, on the new schemes the Land Transportation Office and Metro Manila Development Authority want to implement. There’s the no-plate, no-travel policy that the LTO wants to enforce on July 1, the issue on license plate frame covers and then the crackdown on so-called illegal modifications. Then there’s House Bill No. 3679, filed by Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares, that seeks to ban the usage of HID headlamps on cars. Really?

These plans reek of stupidity, government riding the wave of popularity by trying to go against the flow of what’s in, what’s popular, what’s hot and what’s trendy. Doing so will give the impression that the government has the balls to do what is supposedly right, enhancing the “daang matuwid” battlecry of our car-loving president.

But the reality is that these plans are mere band-aid solutions, lack in-depth research and consultation with people who are knowledgeable about these matters. They are short sighted, not to mention lacking in any sense whatsoever. I can’t believe we voted people who have no common sense to ask knowledgeable people from the industry before trying to implement laws on things they know practically nothing about.

Firstly, the ban on license plate covers. I agree that accessories that cover partially or completely, or obstruct the easy viewing of letters and numbers of license plates should not be allowed. But the government has to cite very specific restrictions, rather than simply putting out a blanket statement that these should be banned. The LTO has to give concrete, specific and exact terms of reference for the implementation of this ban.

On Thursday last week, LTO spokesperson Jason Salvador clarified the agency’s ban on license plate frame covers, stating that only new plates are not allowed to have these covers, frames and other accessories;  older ones are still allowed to have them. But why do we install plate frames, covers and other accessories? It’s because license plates are really flimsy. They bend and tear out easily, have very sharp edges that can injure pedestrians and passersby, and the paint can fade easily after a few washes with a high-pressure water gun.

Lastly, and this has happened to me twice, license plates are easy prey for thieves who steal and sell them to scrap shops for a few bucks. While many of the license plate accessories are gaudy, questionable and oftentimes seemingly useless, many of these also prevent theft and injury, and maintain the plate’s integrity.

Dear LTO and other concerned agencies, please be more exact and more specific, and be reasonable. We will obviously follow your rules if they are sensible.

Secondly, the no-plate, no-travel policy. With the rollout of the new, global standard plates (seven alphanumeric characters in a plain background, with no stupid, ugly, tacky and easily dissolvable and questionable graphics and artwork on really thin metal sheets, which are sharp enough to cut you up), we’re proud that our government can do something right once in a while.

Long waiting list

But despite what the LTO says, there’s still a very long waiting list for license plates, according to car dealerships and car company executives I’ve spoken to. And what about owners of older vehicles who have lost their old-style license plates due to theft, vandalism or accidents, and have yet to receive their new-style license plates? Will they be banned from traveling?

The LTO says there are 15,000 new car license plates and 50,000 new motorcycle license plates available. Yet the 15,000 new car plates are not even enough to cover total vehicle sales for a single month. Last May alone, industry reports show that 22,815 new cars have been sold. Assuming the LTO can come up with 15,000 new license plates every month (very highly unlikely) and that the industry sells at least 20,000 cars a month (below industry targets of roughly 250,000 cars sold by yearend 2014 , or just under 21,000 cars per month), by yearend 2014 we will have 60,000 new cars with no license plates. Basic math please, people in government! And you still want to implement a no-plate, no travel policy?! That’s truly unconstitutional, impinging on our freedom of movement.

Dear LTO, please learn basic arithmetic, then come up with a new target that is realistic, workable and supportive of the motoring industry’s drive to get as many people motorized and independent rather than curtailing our freedom.

Third is HB 3679. Dear Representative Colmenares, I’d like to give you and your technical staff some pointers on HID/xenon gas discharge headlamps. First, HID-style headlamps fitted as original equipment on today’s sports and luxury cars require an ellipsoidal or projector-type lens to properly focus the beam. Almost every Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Lexus and other high-end car has this feature. Will you ban them also? You practically just banned 99.9 percent of Congress (Lower House and Senate) from going to and from work then.

Also, HIDs have 10 times the service life of regular halogen headlamps, which is why more and more car companies, who spend billions of dollars on R&D, are migrating to this technology.

Next, you don’t need to have HID headlights to blind people. Regular halogen headlamps, when not properly aligned (Yes, you align headlights. I can show you how it is done), will blind incoming motorists. The issue isn’t HIDs, the issue is in obligating cars to have properly aligned headlights.

Focus on pressing matters

Third, instead of coming up with a really stupid, short-sighted house bill, why not focus on more pressing matters which will truly enhance safety and security on the road. I’m talking about seriously and strictly enforcing the prohibition on bald tires on trucks and public-utility vehicles. Or focusing on smoke-belching vehicles at the registration/inspection level, not on the streets where various local government units and the MMDA/LTO will create antismoke-belching patrols that apprehend vehicles on the move, causing traffic and endangering government employees trying to avoid incoming cars while apprehending smoke belchers.

And how about strictly enforcing the speed limit on PUVs on the highway by installing the correct hardware (speed limiters, speed cameras and CCTVs for monitoring)? Or building more bridges and highways, improving road lighting and cleaning up drainage canals to reduce the likelihood of flash floods?

Rep. Colmenares, many of us  motoring journalists and members of the car and aftermarket industries are more than willing to offer our technical expertise and some good ol’ common sense FOR FREE to aid you in coming up with motoring-related bills, laws and rules.

Dear government, please ask people knowledgeable on the subject first before deciding to make laws on it. Many of you suffer from hubris; you don’t know what’s going on in the real world because you’re surrounded by too many “yes” men and women, who have their own hidden agendas but who know very little, if any, about the motoring  and the aftermarket industries.

Now I hear rumors as well about the LTO banning modifications on vehicles. Really? Again?! Don’t get me started on that. The only silver lining in this dark cloud is that Sen. Grace Poe wants to ban illegal towing of vehicles. As someone who has been a victim of these illegal towers, I say bravo Madame Senator! I hope you teach your fellow lawmakers more of what’s lacking in Congress: common sense.



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