Metro Manila traffic

Longer wait time? Grab’s holiday fleet stalled by LTFRB corruption scandal

Lance Spencer Yu

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Longer wait time? Grab’s holiday fleet stalled by LTFRB corruption scandal
(1st UPDATE) Without a holiday fleet, brace yourself for the Christmas rush as demand will pick up starting December 15 onwards, peaking from December 20 to 25

Amid the festive bustle, Grab users might find themselves waiting longer for their rides, as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) corruption scandal that went pfft put off Grab’s plans for a holiday fleet expansion.

Historically, demand for GrabCar soars during December, which is expected to spike up to 45% by the second week of December. To mitigate this, Grab usually activates a “holiday fleet” of additional but temporary drivers, particularly around airports. But this year, that won’t happen.

Wala kaming (We don’t have a) holiday fleet. We asked for it. I think they tried,” said Grab Philippines country head Grace Vera Cruz.

Why? It turns out that the recent corruption allegations that rocked the LTFRB got in the way of talks with Grab.

That was the same scandal that led to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. suspending LTFRB Chairman Teofilo Guadiz III for roughly a month, before he was reinstated. The allegations included bribes and “grease money” that supposedly made their way all the way up to the Department of Transportation and the Office of the President.

Even with these allegations now withdrawn and Guadiz back in the LTFRB, the chairman’s suspension caused a near-month disruption in discussions right as the holiday season was coming around.

“He got suspended, and then he got reinstated. I think that disrupted the plans a little. Up to now, wala pa kaming (we don’t have) news about it,” Cruz told reporters.

Even if the government approves additional units for Grab now, Cruz said they would be pressed to find drivers willing to be part of the fleet for only a month.

Cruz said that as of now, Grab still has a big enough fleet to serve customers, making them “optimistic” that booking reliability will be higher in 2023 versus 2022 during the holidays. From October to November 2023, data from Grab showed that 9 out of 10 bookings got allocated with a car on average – higher, a Grab official said, than their record from the same period last year.

Demand, however, may stretch the fleet thin come December 15 onwards, as Christmas parties and celebrations see more people move around the metro.

With that comes the dreaded holiday traffic.

“What makes it worse is the traffic,” Cruz told reporters. “Even if demand increases by only, for example, 30%, hindi pa rin siya enough kasi ‘yung fleet ko dati (it still won’t be enough because my fleet before) that does 100 rides can only do 50 rides. So, kailangan ko pang doblehin ang fleet ko (So I still need to double my fleet) because of the traffic.”

Measures in place

Earlier in 2023, Grab said it had activated an additional 4,000 GrabCar drivers from its recent pool of 10,200 transport network vehicle services (TNVS) franchises given to them by the LTFRB in August.

The ride-hailing service is also trying to make the most out of its current fleet through GrabShare, which was recently relaunched in the first quarter of 2023. The service matches multiple people going in the same direction and allows them to share the same vehicle.

Customers can also use multi-taxi type booking to search for a ride across multiple vehicle types at once, be it four-seater, six-seater, or taxi.

Meanwhile, Cruz said that Grab is pushing to expand in other regions of the Philippines, including “a lot of areas in Mindanao” and “tourist areas in Visayas.” Grab is also eyeing 5,000 to 6,000 more TNVS slots in Cebu, which is “super-undersupplied,” according to Cruz. – Rappler.com

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Lance Spencer Yu

Lance Spencer Yu is a multimedia reporter who covers the transportation, tourism, infrastructure, finance, agriculture, and corporate sectors, as well as macroeconomic issues.