Symmetrical three-wheeled motorcycles (2 front wheels, 1 rear; 1 front wheel, 2 rear), like the Bajaj RE or Yamaha Niken, haven’t quite taken off in the Philippines mainly due to the fact that they’re lumped together with motorcycles with sidecars (tricycles), typically used for public transportation. As such, these unconventional motorcycles have been subject to the same rules as for-hire tricycles and have been relegated to the shoulder on national highways, while banned completely on busier roads.

A new LTO memo may change all that, opening the door for more exciting three-wheel models that are becoming popular these days.

New LTO memo reclassifies three-wheelers from tricycles image

A newly released memo by the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Memorandum Circular No. 2020-2227,  calls for Private and For Hire three-wheeled vehicles as well as Quadricycles to be primarily classified as Motorcycle-Tricycle or Non-Conventional Motorcycle. From these two main categories they will then be sorted into subcategories: three-wheeled vehicle (L5), Light Quadricycle (L6), and Heavy Quadricycle (L7). These subcategories will determine their Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC) as well as restrictions. The heavier classes will actually pay the same MVUC as light cars.

In addition, the memo also says that these vehicles may pass certain roads where they were previously banned, subject to the LGU’s discretion.

“Considering that specifications of these types of vehicles have advanced through time, operation of tehse vehicles along secondary national highways may be allowed if there is no altenate route designated by local government units (LGUs) and shall take the outermost lane or the right most portion of the road. In addition, with respect to the powers of LGUs in relation to traffic management, they may prohibit or allow the operation of these vehicles along roads within their jurisdiction.”

New LTO memo reclassifies three-wheelers from tricycles image

This new development in three-wheeler classification was heavily lobbied by Trimotors Technology Corporation, distributors of the Bajaj RE and Maxima three-wheelers.

Trimotors lobbied for three years for the proper registration and classification of their vehicles. Top executives from the J-del group of companies, which Trimotors is part of, has been continuously coordinating with different government organizations to make this possible, which will allow their vehicles — primarily sold as private vehicles — to be driven on more roads.

What does this mean?

This new development doesn’t quite allow these three-wheeled vehicles (2 front wheels, 1 rear or 1 front wheel, 2 rear) on all roads as hoped yet, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Perhaps with the help and persistent lobbying of more stakeholders and more brands that have three-wheeler models and quads in the pipeline, the LTO may finally realize that not all three-wheelers are tricycles. In addition, based on the loose definition of quadricycles, side by sides and quads may even be considered street legal as well.

Who knows? If Yamaha, Piaggio, Harley-Davidson, Can-Am, Kymco, and Morgan — all of whom have symmetric three-wheel models — join in lobbying for a change, these symmetric three-wheeled models may finally be allowed on EDSA, Commonwealth, C5, and possibly even highways. Many of them have engines larger than 400cc. It's just a matter of adjusting the rules to allow them.