Customs chief Lina warns vs truck driver shortages

MANILA, Philippines – Newly installed Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Alberto Lina warned against a possible truck driver shortage following a visit to the Batangas port.

"We don’t have enough truck drivers to relieve the current ones when they get tired, as most of them have gone to the Middle East as [overseas Filipino workers] where their skills are sought after," Lina said in Filipino.

He added that it would be difficult to replace the ones who have left since a driver needs specific skills to operate trucks.

Lina estimated that around 15,000 new drivers are required to make up for the shortfall.

The customs head was in the Batangas port to see how operations could be improved, and to address any issues to avoid seeing port congestion similar to what Manila ports faced for most of last year.

The truck drivers are needed to speed up the processing of cargo at Batangas Port, which handles mostly oil barrels and cars, the Customs chief said.

Without enough truck drivers, cargo cannot be moved off the port and delivered.

Another issue he raised was that brokers may not be aware of the port’s 24/7 policy.

Lina reiterated that the shortage was a concern of the BOC as it could directly affect port operations and trade facilitation due to late shipments.

Sometimes, shipments run into each other and cause a pile-up,  and it might be the BOC that gets blamed for it, he said.

Lina confirmed that he was asking for help from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in addressing the matter as these are the agencies responsible for driver certification.

He added that he specifically asked the two organizations to speed up the processing of licenses and plates, which he said would have a tangible effect on trade facilitation. –