Metro Manila residents may have started to believe that heavy traffic is the new normal and they will just have to learn to live with it.
But not Yuri Sarmiento, President of 1-TEAM, or 1-Transport Equipment Aggregator and Management Inc..
“The traffic problem may be due to a lot of things. But if we try to address the issues one by one, it gives us the opportunity to bring about positive change,” Sarmiento said.
“1-TEAM was organized to improve the jeepney transport system in the Philippines. We start by improving the values and lifestyles of jeepneys drivers, the main users of our roads. It is not just about replacing old jeepneys with new ones, but also adopting new business models, modernizing systems and developing correct values among drivers, conductors and operators,” Sarmiento said.
Read Related Story: Jeepney undergoes safety, fuel efficiency modernization facelift
1-TEAM is a social enterprise that aims to uplift the lives of drivers, operators and other transport workers.
At the forefront of the jeepney modernization, 1-TEAM empowers its drivers by professionalizing them and providing them with the right technologies, and more efficient mobility strategies such as on-time dispatching, GPS tracking, designated stops and automated fare collection system.
1-TEAM partly got its inspiration from Makati City’s Electric Jeepney or Ejeepney project, of which Sarmiento was the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The ejeepneys are now also running on the roads of Filinvest- Alabang.
“The E-Jeepney was a novel idea to fight air pollution. At first, the government was not supportive so it was hard to get a franchise 14 KAPATID ANGAT LAHAT STORIES from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to operate the public utility ejeepneys,” said Sarmiento. “At that time, many were laughing at the idea of a vehicle running on electricity, with so many misconceptions against it, such as passengers getting electrocuted onboard if it starts to rain. To allay their fears we offered free rides in Makati.”
Read Related Story: British band Coldplay ride the iconic jeepney around Manila
Not only did the project prove that electric vehicle technology works but it also became the testing ground for inclusive business ideas such as operating under a fleet management, switching from a boundary system to fixed salaries for drivers, promoting gender equality by hiring women drivers, and instilling road discipline by designating unloading and pickup stops. “At first, we got a lot of complaints because commuters were not ready for those changes. But after six months, they got used to it and we saw improvement in the flow of traffic. That’s when we learned that all we had to do was to properly explain the sustainable transport strategies to the public, and like a seed, nurture it with a lot patience. Soon both drivers and commuters were following the rules.”
The Makati e-jeepney finally got its franchise in 2012 and instantly became the symbol for change.
With the success of e-jeepney, Sarmiento hoped he could help improve the Philippines’ transport system on a larger scale. He joined lawyer Vigor Mendoza, a pillar in the public transport sector and chair of party-list group 1-UTAK (1-United Transportation Koalisyon), to form 1-TEAM. Their vision was to create a sustainable transport system that promotes inclusive growth for all.
Read Related Story: Electric vehicle industry targets 6,000 units by 2018
“We had to start with people as jeepney modernization is not just about changing vehicles but involves changing the mindsets as well. We first introduced the concept to the jeepney operators, sharing our vision on how to improve operations and offering to fix their old vehicles and modernizing them. We conducted a lot of values formation seminars for them as everything starts and ends with the drivers,” Sarmiento said.
In the old system, an operator employs a driver who pays a daily “boundary” (share of the day’s earnings) of at least P600. The setup left no money for maintenance, resulting in frequent breakdowns of jeepneys causing traffic jams. About 90 percent of the jeepneys in Metro Manila are more than15 years old with no proper maintenance. Under 1-TEAM’s Fleet Management System, operators are given a chance to acquire brand new jeepneys.
With drivers receiving salaries of more than P1,000 per day, 1-TEAM helped them open their bank accounts and receive their money thru ATM cards for the first time.
1-TEAM: “WE HAD TO START WITH PEOPLE AS THE JEEPNEY MODERNIZATION IS NOT JUST ABOUT CHANGING VEHICLES BUT INVOLVES CHANGING THE MINDSETS AS WELL.”
“We usually help our drivers upgrade their driving skills and knowledge of traffic rules as well as improve their ability to provide a unique passenger service experience,” according to Sarmiento. The program weeds out undisciplined drivers so they would learn to appreciate what 1-TEAM offers.
TESTIMONIES FROM DRIVERS
Allan Ocampo of Commonwealth, Quezon City, said that with his fixed salary, “My family is able to eat three meals a day and I can provide my children the things they need in school.” He also had the opportunity to go the mall with his family from time to time.
Furthermore, Ocampo said the 1-TEAM training taught him to dress properly and how to behave as a professional driver. He learned to respect himself and to treat people, particularly passengers and traffic officers, with respect.
Arvin Domingo, also one of 1-TEAM’s drivers, said that the company made his life easier because he was driving a better and easier to operate jeepney and did not have to worry about the maintenance of the vehicle. “Before, we spent our earnings for the maintenance and repair of our jeepney. But now, 1-TEAM takes care of that,” he said.
The fixed schedules of 1-TEAM gave him more free time and made his job easier while giving him sufficient income. In the past, he said he worked longer hours but earned less.
“I KNOW WE HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO, BUT MEANINGFUL CHANGE CANNOT BE DONE OVERNIGHT, AND AS LONG AS WE ARE IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF OUR DRIVERS, OPERATORS, CONDUCTORS AND MECHANICS, I KNOW WE ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK. POVERTY IS NOT BROUGHT ABOUT BY CHANGE, RATHER POVERTY IS THE RESULT OF OUR REFUSAL TO CHANGE”
– Yuri Sarmiento, 1TEAM President
1-TEAM now has 30 brand new eurocompliant diesel jeepneys and 200 electric vehicles. An additional 65 diesel jeepneys are expected soon.
“I know we have a long way to go, but meaningful change cannot be done overnight, and as long as we are improving the quality of life of our drivers, operators, conductors and mechanics, I know we are on the right track. Poverty is not brought about by change, rather poverty is the result of our refusal to change,” Sarmiento said.
When asked about his plans, Sarmiento said, “In the next three years, we hope to be able to operate 10,000 brand new jeepneys, with well-trained and disciplined drivers. We just want to have a better transport system in the country as we Filipinos deserve better.”
The changes that 1-TEAM has introduced may not have made a significant impact yet but they are slowly making a difference that is beginning to be felt, especially in Marikina City, its home base.
This story is part of a series of articles written by GO NEGOSYO writers being published by GoodNewsPilipinas.com as part of our support to Philippine businesses.