Have you ever wondered why public-transport vehicles—particularly AUVs and vans—in mountainous regions take wide turns quickly on sharply angled curves of steep roads? Not just going up Baguio, but past Baguio and heading toward Sagada. Some wonder if their drivers are reckless or just out to prove something.
The reality in most cases is that these drivers have to keep their two rear wheels firmly on the road so that the driven tires (the wheels that receive power from the engine) keep moving forward. If just one of the rear wheels slightly loses traction or bite on the road, it will lose forward motion and quickly roll back, creating an extremely dangerous situation for both the van’s driver and passengers as well as the vehicle following them up the sharp turn.
Thus the need for these vans and AUVs to take a wider turn in order to keep the tires firmly in contact with the ground, or to build enough speed and momentum in order to counter the moment wherein one of the driven tires loses grip. There’s a notable element of risk in pulling off these techniques: In the wide turns, the possibility of a head-on collision is very high, and in building momentum on a sharp climbing curve, the vehicle risks a rollover if the driver takes the turn too fast.
A limited-slip differential found in older SUVs and pickups can help minimize these dangerous conditions, but as its technical name suggests, it’s a limited-slip, so it can slip, too.
Which brings me to ask: Why, in this day and age of electronic traction control being the norm to get an NCAP safety rating, are base variants of vans and AUVs not equipped with this basic safety feature? These variants, take note, are what’s commonly used as public transport. The technology has been around since the early ’90s for many vehicles in foreign markets, and yet for almost three decades, the entry-level vans and AUVs in our market are not equipped with traction control.
I understand the need to make these vehicles affordable, but adding a little cost on these vehicles—especially considering the number of people who use them regularly—is a small price to pay for both manufacturer and end user. I don’t wish to shake the cage of automotive product planners out there, but please, for road safety’s sake, do include electronic stability control and electronic traction control on even the base variants of these vans and AUVs.
So if you’re enticed by the all-new Toyota Hiace and you plan on taking it out of town, do consider moving up to the GL Grandia and GL Grandia Tourer variants, because they’re the ones equipped with stability control and hill start assist. The Commuter Deluxe is a definite improvement over its predecessors, but for now, it’s best for urban transport duties.