Benguet Truckers Buckle Under NLEX Fee

As a result of the 80% hike in toll fees at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Benguet truckers and traders warned that they may soon be forced to increase their prices to cope with the increased delivery costs.

BY Kim Quitasol
Northern Dispatch
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BAGUIO CITY— Benguet traders delivering fruits and vegetables to Metro Manila decreased by almost 50% due to the hike in toll fees at the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex).

Benguet farmers produce most of the vegetables and fruits sold in Metro Manila. To get the products from the province (246 kms north of Manila) to the capital, traders have to hire trucks which pass through NLEX during delivery.

According to Benguet Truckers and Traders Association (BTTA), only 208 out of their 400 members are still delivering products to Metro Manila.

BTTA President Benito Hipolito said the 80% increase in toll fees at the NLEX is too expensive for vegetable dealers. He added that the allowable weight load, which is 13.5 metric tons per axle load for delivery trucks, is low. At such weight limit, he said, there would be minimal return of investment for traders.

Hipolito asked the Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC), concessionaire of the NLEX, during the Benguet Forum last week to grant BTTA a higher toll fee discount, if not a higher load capacity. However, an MNTC representative refused BTTA’s request.

MNTC Marketing Director Renato Ticzon said that his company can no longer afford to give higher discounts. He added that MNTC actually suggested a higher toll fee rate but the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) reduced it to the present rate.

Ticzon also said that if they increase the per axle load limit at the NLEX, the road will not live up to its seven-year maximum life. This would mean premature repair and rehabilitation of the road, which would cost more, he said. He added that MNTC does not have any other source of income aside from its road users.

BTTA said that for one-way use, the P80 ($1.47, based on an exchange rate of P54.42 per US dollar) that six-wheeler trucks used to pay is now P507 ($9.32); the P120 ($2.20) for 10-wheeler trucks is now P609 ($11.19). This means six-wheelers pay a total of P1,014 ($18.63) and 10-wheelers pay P1,218 ($22.38) for toll fees for a single trip to Manila alone.

BTTA Treasurer Sharmaine Hora said that with the present toll fee rate, dealers earn a little over P1,000 ($18.38) per trip. She added that dealers using 10-wheelers spend P10,000 ($183.76) for truck fuel, P1,500 ($27.56) for driver’s salary, P500 ($9.19) for the helper, P1,500 ($27.56) for food and the P1,218 ($22.38) toll fee, for a total of P14,700 ($270.12) per trip. She said that with the 13.5 MT per axle load limit, the average gross sale of the goods is a little over P16,000 ($294.01).

Hora added that the implementation of the expanded value added tax (E-VAT) means an additional P1,000 ($18.38) for fuel despite the recent rollback in prices of petroleum products. She said that truckers, in order to cope, would soon be forced to increase the prices of their goods which end consumers would eventually shoulder. Northern Dispatch/Posted by Bulatlat

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