One thing that sets back the Philippines compared to its Asian neighbors is its transportation system—or the lack thereof.

While the integrated transit systems of Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea offer seamless and efficient transfers to and from one’s destination, the Philippines lags behind with its bevy of privately-owned buses, jeepneys and cabs plying the highways in dog-eat-dog fashion.

“I think it’s possible to have a similar transport system as that of our Asian neighbors, but to a different extent,” claims Donovan Yu, CEO of Journey Tech, an IT company that provides business solutions to the motoring, transport and logistics industries. “The transportation industry in these countries are managed by government, so when the government says this is what they’ll do, everyone follows. All the drivers and conductors are paid a fixed rate by the government,” adds Yu, “so they don’t need to wait and fill up the bus before they move. That’s why buses in other countries follow a strict schedule. You know what time a bus is going to get to a certain stop, and they don’t stop anywhere except their designated locations.”

It definitely explains the minimal traffic congestion experienced in these countries. Ideally, Yu says that trains are supposed to be the people’s main mode of transport. “Buses should only come in second,” he says. “The idea is that people take the train, get off, and have buses take them to the inner cities.”

In the Philippines, however, buses are the undisputed kings of the road. And because bus drivers and conductors are paid in terms of sales commission, the tendency is to wait until vehicles are filled up before moving on to the next stop. It is this dilemma for which Journey Tech seeks to provide a solution. “Journey Tech started with the vision to come up with the first integrated card that can be used in any mode of transportation,” shares Yu. “Something similar to Hong Kong’s Octopus card,” he adds.

Reducing Inefficiencies

The five-year-old company currently has three products: the ATTS or Automated Transport Ticketing Solutions; MARK (Mobile Asset Real-time Keeper); and AMPS (Armada Management Portal Solutions). “All are designed to focus on a single-minded goal—to reduce inefficiencies,” says Yu. “We’ve developed these transport solutions with the local market’s needs in mind. I think it’s about time our local transport and logistics business become innovative and competitive by employing technologies that have supported the growth of these industries in our neighboring countries,” he adds.

The challenge, of course, lies in the cost and acceptance of bus companies used to the traditional way of doing business. “Right now, buses use the manual or paper-based way of ticketing, which costs them probably around P50 per day for all the tickets they issue. With the ATTS, costs are doubled,” Yu says of their IT-powered ticketing solution. “But,” he asserts, “there are a lot of other tangibles that they have to take into consideration.”

The ATTS utilizes a ticket management software and handheld ticketing device that eliminates manual ticketing efficiencies. “It offers benefits that include access to records anytime and in real-time, monitor cash flow, maximize profits, and more importantly, prevents theft and fraud,” shares Yu. “The good thing is that passengers are protected if they’re unaware of how much the actual fee is. Because all the fees are in the system, the conductor can’t defraud them by marking up the price a couple of bucks higher,” he adds.

It’s also easier for bus companies to generate payroll. “Whereas in the past, they would get all the mano-mano tickets to compute for the payroll, with the ATTS they don’t need to anymore because the sales are automatically docked into the system as they come,” says Yu, adding that the technology is well-received by their clients. “Before, it took so long for them to come up with a management report because they had to manually input ticket sales into Excel. Imagine how many tickets are remitted a day. Now it only takes them about an hour,” shares Yu.

Creating Value

While Yu and his partners are in talks with different government agencies like BIR, LTFRB and DoTC to lobby for the use of its ATTS technology, its GPS-tracking brand, MARK, is currently the company’s cash cow. “We launched MARK three years ago, and it has grown 100 percent,” says Yu. “This is mainly because GPS has become a basic requirement for trucking in terms of safety and security,” he explains.

MARK is currently the only GPS system supported by a 24/7 Command Center station that actively tracks vehicles until it safely reaches its destination. “If you’re a trucker and your truck normally operates in the middle of the night, you can outsource your monitoring to us,” says Yu. “We also provide emergency assistance services for vehicle breakdowns, towing, ambulance service, or if you need a link to the police, we can activate that for you. It’s all happening in our office in Sucat. That’s what sets our GPS apart—it’s what we call a transport risk management product. It minimizes your risk of hijacking, fraudulent activities of employees, bad driving habits, etc.,” he adds.

AMPS, a web-based fleet management system, is also used by a number of companies today. “We have a telco client that has a lot of dispatched vehicles and they use AMPS to monitor utilization—it gives them a better idea of how much it costs to manage their fleet, make sure preventive maintenance is done properly, and because all accidents are recorded, they know about driving habits and what penalties to enforce,” shares Yu.

With the advantages of these solutions available in the transportation, logistics and motoring industry, the local transport business could very well be on its way to becoming world-class. The tipping point, Yu says, would really be the national government’s support for the deployment of these products. “We’ve already gotten the approval of both the BIR and LTFRB, we only need the blessing now of the DoTC. If they give us the go-ahead, these agencies will mandate it to all the buses, such that everything will be automated. From there,” says Yu, “we can even progress to even bus stops having ticketing machines, rather than from the conductors. It really has to be a government initiative.”

Published in the February 13,2012 issue of Manila Bulletin.