Car, truck or SUV breaks down? In time of COVID-19 quarantine, don’t expect rescue
Cars and trucks that break down on the road risk getting no rescue as repair shops and towing companies remain closed as they were not on the list of essential service providers exempted from the Luzon-wide COVID-19 quarantine.
Only a week has passed since the enhanced quarantine has been imposed in Luzon, but a truck owner in Laguna is already worried that he might not have any working truck left before the end of the lockdown.
Ten out of his 50 trucks are already in need of repair. But without any repair shop or dealership open, he could not get the parts needed to get his business back in shape.
“No parts for sale. No support system. No repair. No one’s maintaining our trucks,” he said in a phone interview, asking to remain anonymous since he delivers live chicken for a popular fast food chain.
“Businesses that are directly related to food, like deliveries and their workers, are allowed to keep operating. But what about the support system of the industry that would ensure our operations would continue?” he said.
This and other exclusive interviews with stakeholders in the supply chain point to another oversight on the part of the government, after guidelines on the enhanced community quarantine left out some sectors that were thought at first to be unimportant.
But support systems, such as repair shops and dealerships, are still critical, even though people would only realize their importance when these are suddenly removed from the equation.
One of the leading assistance providers of private cars in cases of roadside emergency said it has been finding it difficult for its tow trucks to go in and out of Metro Manila.
The problem, however, is that many of its repairs are done in dealerships in the capital.
“When someone needs towing assistance because of a breakdown or a road accident, they call us and then we are the ones who dispatch the tow truck,” said a company official.
Business has not been good so far. Before the lockdown, it used to be able to tow 50 private cars every day nationwide. But now, it could only tow up to eight even though there are still more people asking for road assistance.
“Many of our repairs we need to bring to Manila. But the dealerships where we’ll bring the vehicles are close,” said the tow truck operator.
“Apart from the restrictions at the checkpoints, the towing tends to not push through anymore because no one would receive the car [at the dealership],” he said.
The official, however, agreed that his company’s services are not necessarily essential at this time, especially since there is an order to stay at home.
The business only caters to private cars, not commercial trucks that carry important cargo.
So, a car repair can wait until after the lockdown, he said. Unless, of course, the car owner is a doctor.
“There was a doctor last night who wanted to tow his or her car. But there’s nothing people can do about it because towing is not part of the [quarantine’s] exemptions,” said a tow truck provider, who has tow trucks on standby in Bulacan and Pampanga.
“There are jobs exempted from the quarantine. Many of them bring their own cars and sometimes you really can’t avoid car problems,” he said.
Perhaps the safest place to have car problems is at the expressway.
The Automobile Association Philippines is still operating 24/7 as the exclusive towing provider of a number of expressways in Luzon.
AAP’s Emergency Roadside Service tows both personal and commercial vehicles to the nearest exit, but it is no longer its responsibility to make sure the vehicles get the needed repair.
At that point, it is up to driver to find a repair shop, assuming he or she could find one.
But even AAP is not faring well in this difficult time. Since March 15, a company official said that the volume of vehicles they service had dropped by more than half, especially since fewer cars and trucks now use the expressways.
“We are operating at a loss,” the official said.
Company revenue has dropped more than 80 percent in the first week of the quarantine compared to the same week last year. AAP is the exclusive towing service provider of South Luzon Expressway, Skyway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, and North Luzon Expressway.
But unlike towing companies outside expressways, AAP has no choice but to carry on. Expressways are important to make sure cargoes get to their destination as quickly as possible. Broken trucks would only cause traffic create bottlenecks at a time when every second counts.
“We can’t afford not to. We’re just thinking of this as part of our social responsibility,” he said.
Edited by TSB
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