‘We want passengers to be safe with us’ – David Alvarez

Last Updated on Friday, 29 January, 2021 at 11:52 am by Andre Camilleri

Malta Public Transport announced that it has invested in new onboard technology that contributes to a safer and cleaner service. The Malta Business Weekly met up with MPT Operations director DAVID ALVAREZ to find out more about the promising solution and its impact on passengers and the environment.

What is driver assistant technology and why is it important?

This is an innovative tool that monitors driving performance on the road, using an algorithm to analyse the key data like acceleration, speed, fuel consumption and how hard a driver brakes. It gives real-time information to the driver so that they can adjust their performance accordingly.

Analysis of the performance is crucial because it tells us more about the passengers’ experience during the journey.

How did the drivers themselves respond to this system?

The reaction by drivers was extremely positive. They now share the results from the day’s performance on social media and compare them with their colleagues. It has created a healthy competition and collegiality between drivers who match rankings and outcomes from their trips.

They immediately understood the reason behind the tool and now show higher motivation to perform better and identify their possible weaknesses.

Does the company assess performance results?

Definitely! We work very closely with the training department to offer specialised training in the areas that individual drivers need to improve on. The improvement in performance was observed from day one as drivers suddenly became more aware of the decisions they take while driving.

When was the system introduced?

The roll-out on buses started in October and now it is installed on all vehicles, so we are gathering data from every trip.

Did customers notice any change?

Passengers may not be aware of the driver assistance tool, but we have noticed an increase in positive feedback on the drivers’ performance in the past months. The system also makes journeys safer. Lower inertia and less braking allow drivers to anticipate risk and avoid accidents.

So, the tool makes public transport safer…

Safety is our top priority. We have been working hard for the past years to make the service safer for both our employees and passengers. And our efforts have just been recognised by the International Standards Organisation, which this week awarded the company the certification for safety. This was an important milestone for us and we are proud of what we have achieved together with our team.

Is this the first ISO certification obtained by MPT?

We have recently also obtained the ISO standard in quality management systems. This standard is based on a number of quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement.

How does the company prioritise safety?

Last year we reported a successful reduction in accidents by more than half since 2016. It was a company-wide effort involving all departments, particularly our training department which is specialised in raising safety standards to avoid accidents.

We are proactively engaged in improving safety: every driver participates in development and special briefings; we run ongoing internal campaigns to educate drivers and increase their safety awareness. In fact, the job of a driver is not just driving, they spend a substantial amount of time in training. Together, we made a great improvement in safety, but our ambition is to eliminate all accidents and we keep working hard towards that goal. We want passengers to be safe with us.

What about the emissions goals of MPT?

Public transport is already one of the cleanest means of transportation, with a very low carbon footprint per passenger.

But Malta Public Transport goes one step further and invests heavily in new, modern buses, in fact, Malta’s bus fleet is one of the youngest and greenest in Europe. Since the beginning of our operations, we have invested in over 250 new buses with Euro VI engines. The most recent vehicles were only introduced in July – a €12m investment in 50 brand new buses.

Can you lower emissions even further?

We are constantly studying new ways to further improve our emissions; the driver assistant system is a clear case of that. Thanks to efficient driving by our drivers, we saw a drastic lowering in fuel consumption. Meanwhile, we keep looking at the latest technologies to continue to improve in that area.

How has Covid-19 impacted public transport?

Although there was a reduction in passenger trips with more people working remotely, we continued to offer the same efficient service to essential workers throughout.

We took important measures to make the service safe. Buses are disinfected frequently throughout the day and each bus is fumigated every night before going in service. We also take care of aspects like the regulation of the air flow during trips. Public transport continues to be one of the safest modes of transport. What we also saw during the pandemic is that a decrease in cars on the road makes the service much more reliable and efficient.

How did employees respond to the pandemic?

The pandemic encouraged employees to collaborate more closely and instilled a sense of engagement. We knew that we had an exceptionally good team, but the team spirit we witnessed during the difficult situation was amazing.

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