By Erick Akasa
Liquid Telecom Kenya cut its diesel usage by almost a third last year with the roll out of a car pooling scheme for staff that has saved on new vehicles and cut the company’s diesel bill to Sh9.3m in the second half of 2016, compared with Sh13m for the same period a year earlier.
The transport savings came even as the company’s staff, operation, and business expanded.
The carpooling scheme launched by Liquid Telecom Kenya in July 2016 means that sales, technical, and management staff book their work journeys in a new online system, which then groups staff into vehicles traveling to the same area, so that they share vehicles, instead of each using a separate car or van.
“Carpooling is a key element in achieving a sustainable business, and in cutting congestion and air pollution,” said Mr Ben Roberts, CEO of Liquid Telecom Kenya.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists Nairobi as among the global cities with rising air pollution levels, in a scourge that it estimates is causing more than a million deaths a year, worldwide. In this, car exhaust fumes contribute to 40 per cent of the particulate matter urban air pollution, according to a UN report- ‘Actions on Air Quality’.
Excess traffic is also causing human and wildlife fatalities in road accidents, and economic losses from road congestion. A 2016 report by the World Bank estimates that Value of Time (VOT) lost to travel in Nairobi due to the massive traffic gridlocks costs about Sh80-Sh400 million per workday.
In sum, Nairobi residents lose Sh5bn a year on the costs of traffic congestion, according to a study by Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Against this backdrop, carpooling has been shown to reduce transport costs for companies, road congestion, travel costs for private users, and air pollution, with each 1600cc litre car on the road generating 200 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.
According to research in Colorado, every 100 people who shift to carpooling saves over 1m kg a year of carbon dioxide emissions. “Taking a few cars off the road may not have an immediate impact on traffic congestion, but as more companies and individuals take up carpooling, overall traffic congestion will decrease, and real savings can be made,” said Roberts.
Additionally, the company provides home broadband links to 88 employees using WiMax, Gpon, and Metro fiber to allow its employees to work from home. The staff home broadband links, with a capacity of between 2Mbps and 100Mbps, give employees access to the company servers for reports, and to the company VPN system for the accounts team. Technical personnel are also to access the company’s systems on the home broadband links, which is especially important after-hours when they are dealing with emergency calls, or tracking down issues that need to be sorted out immediately, but do not require their physical presence.
“Our 24/7 cover means that we have staff in the office at all times, but we have equipped our specialists to assist with operations without extra travel to the office. Many of our customers are, likewise, using our Internet to empower their staff to work from home, further bringing home how the Internet itself, and e-commerce, can further cut traffic congestion and pollution,” said Roberts.
An analysis from sustainability consultancy Carbon Trust suggested that working from home has the potential to save companies $5bn and 3m tonnes of carbon emissions a year through reduced commuting.
Liquid Telecom Kenya has also rolled out a new fleet management system that has meant it has been able to expand its business without adding more vehicles. The company runs a fleet of 63 vehicles of its own, as well as 21 hired vehicles.
“Having introduced products like Hai, there would have been a need for more vehicles to cater for the technicians, sales representatives and engineers. But if we had purchased three additional vehicles our fuel cost would have increased by around Sh60,000 per month,” said Erick Nyonjala, Liquid Telecom Kenya Fleet manager.
The company is also adopting new specifications for its hired vehicles, which had ranged from 2000cc to 1500cc engine capacity. It is now replacing these vehicles with new high performance vvTi vehicles with 1500cc engines, low fuel consumption, and low emissions, and has assigned all of the company’s cars to departments, rather than individuals, as part of the carpooling set-up.
Carpooling is becoming rapidly more popular globally, giving rise to a crop of new apps and websites to help travelers and commuters organise shared rides such as; Travel Buddy and Carrambee.com in Kenya, uGoMyWay, Carpool King and findalift in South Africa, UberPool feature on Uber, Waze app and Lyft Inc. among many others.
“More individuals using the same route to work and companies taking up carpooling makes for a win-win and effective initiative in achieving a greener, healthier world,” said Roberts.
Liquid Telecom Kenya has also invested in a telematics system that monitors vehicle mileage and enables scheduling of timely services and maintenance, further reducing environmental pollution through emissions.