Land Transportation Office

When is a pickup truck not a pickup? 

Isagani de Castro Jr.

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

When is a pickup truck not a pickup? 

A 2002 Isuzu Fuego pickup truck is parked on a village road.

Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler

Don’t let people at the emission testing center fool you with this silly issue 

I’m a first-time owner of a second-hand Isuzu Fuego pickup truck and I brought it for an emission test this week. I was surprised when I was told by a staff working at the inspection center that I had to remove the canopy at the back since having it means my pickup truck isn’t a pickup. 

Yup, assuming that staff is correct, a pickup truck isn’t a pickup if it has a canopy, even if it’s removable, and even if it’s from a company that has been installing canopies – also called camper shells – on pickups here in the Philippines for nearly 30 years. 

I even showed the staff the clamps that can be removed to prove that the canopy isn’t welded onto the back. But he wouldn’t budge; it’s still not a pickup. (If I had the time and the tools, I would have removed the canopy right there and then and the issue would have been put to rest, but I didn’t.)

REMOVABLE. Several clamps keep a canopy in place in this Isuzu Fuego pickup truck. Isagani de Castro, Jr./Rappler

I pushed the issue and asked why, and he told me it’s because the computer camera is going to see the canopy and detect that it’s not a pickup. 

Now how do you argue with a computer? 

So, realizing that I’ve been actually driving a sedan and not a pickup truck, I decided to go back home. 

Now, I checked issuances of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) on the definition of a pickup truck and this is what I found.  

The most relevant is Republic Act 4136 or An Act to Compile the Laws Relative to Land Transportation and Traffic Rules, to Create a Land Transportation Commission and for other Purposes that took effect in 1964.

Since this law took effect 60 years ago, it actually does not have the word pickup truck. It appears that pickup trucks were probably not yet widely used in the Philippines at that time. 

Article II on Definitions as used in this law has Section 3 (b) which says: “The distinction between ‘passenger truck’ and ‘passenger automobile’ shall be that of common usage.”  

I guess people 60 years ago were more intelligent than they are today so there was no need to be more specific. 

How smuggled ultraluxury Bugatti Chirons expose flaws in LTO

How smuggled ultraluxury Bugatti Chirons expose flaws in LTO

Another relevant provision is Section 7 on Registration Classification which has the following that applies to private vehicles: (a) private passenger automobiles; (b) private trucks; and (c) private motorcycles, scooters, or motor wheel attachments. 

“Motor vehicles registered under these classifications shall not be used for hire under any circumstances and shall not be used to solicit, accept, or be used to transport passengers or freight for pay,” it reads.

From my reading of this provision, my pickup truck would fall under “private trucks.” 

Since my problem is the canopy, another relevant provision is Article 4 on Accessories of Motor Vehicles, Section 34, which outlines following accessories: 

  • a) Tires of motor vehicles
  • b) Brakes
  • b-1) Horns
  • c) Headlights
  • d) Taillights
  • e) Stop lights
  • f) Motorcycle and other vehicle lights
  • g) Lights when parked or disabled
  • h) Windshield wiper
  • i) Use of red flag
  • j) Mufflers

Unfortunately, nothing on canopies or camper shells. 

Modification and safety

A further search led me to why the issue of accessories is important: modification of a vehicle affects safety. This is why the Department of Transportation (DOTr) issued Department Order (DO) 2010-32 fourteen years ago.

Is adding a canopy on a pickup truck a modification that is allowed or not?

Section 5 of DO 2010-32 is on Guidelines and Requirements in the Reclassification and/or Registration of Modified Motor Vehicles. It states: “All modified motor vehicles either brand new or in-use may be subject of reclassification and registration subject to the following: 

“5.1: The modifications of the brake system, steering wheel assembly, air conditioning system, suspension and interior and exterior trimmings shall not be construed as a change in vehicle type classification.”

I’m not a lawyer but I would classify a canopy/camper shell as an exterior trimming, which means it does not change the type of a car, especially if it’s from a company that’s been putting them on cars for 28 years.

Under 5.2, the following modifications that involve safety and environment are NOT allowed: 

  • Axle modification;
  • Chassis modification;
  • Extended chassis/body;
  • Additional siding of dump trucks;
  • Extended overhang;
  • Change of rim size;
  • Modification of handle bar and muffler; and
  • Reconfiguration of body dimension and design.

Would a canopy/camper shell fall under “reconfiguration of body dimension and design?” Possibly. 

To make sure, I asked our transport beat reporter to check his source in the LTO if a pickup truck can be registered with its canopy/camper shell.

The reply? Yes, it can be registered with the canopy, there’s just an additional P100. 

There you have it. 

So, don’t let those guys at the emission center/motor vehicle inspection center fool you. Perhaps you know why I was told my pickup truck isn’t a pickup! –


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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.