Emirates Transport is turning to new technologies to ensure a profitable and environmentally conscious future for the company and its partners
Despite a legacy that stretches back nearly 40 years to 1981, Emirates Transport (ET), the UAE’s government-owned public transport provider, is a company that still sees the most exciting opportunities in its future. In particular, it is increasingly seeking to harness the possibilities of new technology to better serve the transportation and logistics needs of its partners in the UAE and allow them to focus on their core businesses.
At the helm of this process is its Emirati general manager, Mohammed Abdullah Al Jarman, who has more than 30 years’ expertise in the field of financial and investment work and institutional leadership, in addition to being the chairman of the board of a number of companies affiliated to the corporation. As part of ET’s ongoing modernisation efforts, for instance, Al Jarman has overseen an ambitious data centre project that is specifically architected for cloud IT delivery, in which a growing percentage of applications reside outside of enterprise data centres.
Additionally, ET has initiated the region’s largest “unified tracking system” which will provide advanced analytics capabilities, including better quality, cost savings and uninterrupted customer service through better asset planning and utilisation. The new system will make use of predictive analytics to mitigate or avoid potential challenges, such as the late arrival of a vehicle due to traffic congestion or weather, as well as analyse driver behaviour.
Our main goal is to maintain our position as market leaders by focusing on efficiency and quality”
There’s good reason to believe the company will achieve its desired objectives, too. Under Al Jarman’s guidance, the ET team has been able to achieve a remarkable – and profitable – transformation. In 2017, for example, the company announced a net profit of AED244.2m ($66.49m), up 34 percent from 2016, with revenues up 6.8 percent to AED2.55bn ($694.25m).
At the end of 2017, the company’s headcount stood at 23,752 employees, along with a fleet of 24,898 vehicles and a vast infrastructure network of 43 working sites, run from its central headquarters in Umm Ramool.
The company provides a total of 34 services – eight primary and 26 secondary – across seven distinct divisions: school transport, transport and leasing, auto services, corporate services, logistics services and support services.
The company’s strong results, Al Jarman says, are just the beginning of a five-year process that will see ET rise to new heights.
“Our main strategic goal for the next five years is to maintain our position as market leaders by focusing on efficiency and quality and to sustain growth by targeting new investment opportunities in the provision of transport management services,” he tells Arabian Business.
“We will also work towards developing business and key activities, and directing them towards automation and transport technology, and, of course, promoting innovation and building new capabilities.”
A key aspect of ET’s plans for the future, Al Jarman notes, is to help improve the UAE’s environment – or at least offset his industry’s negative impact on it. “Mass transit is an essential part of the transport culture that ET seeks to establish in the community, and this is an ideal solution to a number of global challenges facing the transport sector, particularly the need to reduce emissions, carbon footprint and traffic congestion,” he says.
Mass transit is an essential part of the transport culture that ET seeks to establish in the community”
ET’s environmentally-friendly practices now take many forms, a number of them focused on buses. In the first half of the year alone, the Al Etihad Centre – a subsidiary of ET that serves a mixed clientele from both the government and private sectors and individual motorists – converted 320 vehicles to operate on compressed natural gas (CNG). Since 2010, the centre has modified more than 9,500 vehicles to the dual petrol and CNG model.
Additionally, the company is currently hard at work implementing sustainable solutions to its own fleet, which includes 10,251 large, medium and small buses, including 5,765 school buses. The company has also worked with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) to convert 8,096 vehicles into hybrids, in addition to providing maintenance services for 2,340 vehicles that were previously converted.
“The main idea lay in modifying diesel buses to operate through a dual fuel system for both diesel and natural gas,” Al Jarman says. “This project has several benefits from both the environmental and investment perspective. For example, it reduced fuel costs overall by 25 percent, thereby reducing carbon emissions.”
In November 2017, the company reached an important milestone when it began the final testing phase of what is widely regarded as the region’s first electric school bus, manufactured in cooperation with China’s Shanghai Sunwin Bus Corporation. During the design process, ET officials visited Shanghai Sunwin’s factory in China on a number of occasions to ensure that the UAE’s specifications were met, while Shanghai Sunwin technicians came to the UAE to assess the impact of the country’s climate and other conditions.
“The bus accommodates 45 students and has zero emissions, whereas similar traditional diesel or petrol powered buses consume 0.347 litres per kilometre with corresponding numbers in emissions,” Al Jarman explains. “In a sincere effort to provide effective infrastructure for bus operations, two integrated electric charging stations have been established and equipped to serve these buses.”
The buses, Al Jarman adds, can be fully charged in just four hours, and are capable of travelling distances of up to 100km in extreme operating conditions, all while running their air conditioning and other electronic systems. The bus is designed to comply with the UAE’s stringent school bus regulations and, during its pilot phase, is operating on routes that accurately simulate a school bus’s daily journey and operating conditions.
The Year of Zayed was a good opportunity for ET to add more diversity to its existing initiatives”
These initiatives have already paid off: a study conducted in cooperation with the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence revealed that ET’s carbon footprint continued to decrease, particularly when taken in comparison to its recent, ongoing growth in revenue and the size of its fleet, which accounts for 97 percent of the company’s carbon footprint.
Al Jarman proudly notes that ET is among the most active government entities when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR), which has formed an important part of the company’s outlook since its inception in 1981.
“Ironically, our CSR strategy started with one singular founding initiative – the noble task of providing transport services to government schools,” Al Jarman says. “From there on, ET has won awards and accolades over the years for its various CSR initiatives.”
In 2017 – as part of the UAE’s Year of Giving – the company set up more than 22 CSR initiatives, ranging from Umrah trips to Mecca for distinguished but low-income drivers and other employees to free medical tests, volunteering drives and the maintenance of old houses in Umm Al Quwain.
“The corporation has developed a comprehensive CSR programme, which includes a wide variety of activities and initiatives in various areas of social responsibility, placing it among the leading corporate institutions, particularly due to its remarkable success,” Al Jarman says. “The Year of Zayed was a good opportunity for ET to add more diversity to its existing initiatives. Another 18 were added to the ongoing 22 CSR initiatives, which were implemented through the corporation’s various departments and branches across the UAE.”
Notably, two of the initiatives were among those highlighted at the UAE Ideas Conference in November: the “Support a Colleague” programme launched in cooperation with the Dar Al Ber charitable association that allows employees to receive financial support from their co-workers for a variety of reasons, such as children’s tuition fees and sudden surgery, as well as the “Umrah Trips for Employees” initiative.
In June, the Government Transport Centre – a subsidiary of Emirates Transport – announced contracts worth AED33m with a number of local and federal government entities. As part of the agreement, ET will provide 140 vehicles to a number of new government clients – including the Environmental Agency – Abu Dhabi, the Dubai Land Department and the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology – for periods of between two and five years.
Some of the centre’s other government clients include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Federal National Council and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. Under its contracts, it currently operates more than 5,000 vehicles and employs nearly 2,000 drivers.
When it comes to the future, Al Jarman is quick to point out that ET is, at the end of the day, a support services provider, rather than a simple transport services provider. “Our main goal is to assist our partners in mobilisation and transportation, thereby allowing them to focus on their core business,” he notes.
“In this way, our business too has grown by 30 percent in the number of service requests and 23 percent in the value of those service requests. This is a genuine indicator of the excellent standard of services provided and the amount of business generated across the UAE.”
In the future, Al Jarman says that ET’s key areas of focus will be innovation and “shaping the future”. “This value is about committing to providing an environment that encourages creativity and innovation, and constantly seeks to adopt the latest processes, innovative services and management practices that address the customers’ needs, while simultaneously responding to their expectations and aspirations.