Rethinking traffic: The TABS experience

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AS Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities across the country continue to search for schemes and solutions to address vehicular traffic, one sector’s experience in handling the problem offers insights worth considering.

The Port of Manila (PoM) is part of the often-unseen engine that drives the fast-growing Philippine economy. Vessels from around the world dock there to pick up and deliver the goods that the country trades. An industry report released by Lloyd’s List and Containerization International ranked the PoM 36th among the top 100 Container Ports worldwide, on the back of the growth in the Philippines’ gross domestic product. According to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) website, the Port of Manila “registered a 4.3 percent hike in container throughput, with principal facility the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) posting a 4.4 percent increase in containers handled.” According to MICT operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), MICT broke the 2,000,020-foot equivalent units (TEU; in shipping, the measure of the number of container units) last year.

ICTSI-operated Manila International Container Terminal, the country’s largest trading gateway.

Shipping activity is monitored as a pulse of global markets. Fortune magazine wrote in 2014: “Nearly 90 percent of goods traded across borders were transported by sea during at least some part of their journey to your shopping cart.”

When those traded goods are held up by traffic at the port en route to their respective supply chains, the impacts are far-reaching.

To address traffic at the MICT, operator International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) drew from its own experience at the Victoria ICT in Melbourne, Australia, where it had deployed a terminal traffic management platform.

Working with the same Australian technology solutions provider 1-Stop Connections, ICTSI last year rolled out the online Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS) at the MICT.

Schedule, penalize, incentivize
The TABS platform is able to schedule the movement of container trucks moving in and out of the MICT. Setting appointment slots for container truck pick-ups and drop-offs rationalizes their presence on the road; trucks now enter Metro Manila road system just in time to make their appointments, allowing a more managed and consistent flow of trucks spread across the entire day.

Container trucks that arrive at the MICT outside of their appointed slots are penalized with fines of P1,500 per violation.

On the other hand, those that volunteer to pick up and drop off containers at identified off-peak days and hours, are incentivized with rebates from P300 to P500.

With TABS, truckers can increase the trips made daily; cargo owners can move goods more promptly; and, with volume and scheduling made more predictable, the terminal can allocate resources more efficiently.

Think big pic
The problem of traffic that TABS addresses has implications beyond the boundaries of the MICT. Because trucks trace supply chain routes throughout Metro Manila, the TABS database has been made accessible to the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). The MMDA knows that it can query the database via text messaging to find out which trucks are booked for appointments at MICT–and which have no business being on the road during truck-ban hours.

The coordination with MMDA has given more teeth to the enforcement of the TABS scheduling system.

Recognition
Eighteen months since it was officially deployed, TABS has gained approval–and has been recognized for its success.

In 2016, the Philippine Institute for Supply Management and the Society of Fellows in Supply Management handed ICTSI the GawadSinop Corporate Award for Excellence in Supply Management Practices, in part because of TABS. This year, the Public Relations Society of the Philippines, which considers TABS a PR program, gave ICTSI its highest corporate award, the Grand Anvil.

And Thailand’s leading container terminal Laem Chabang Port–itself faced with traffic problems similar to Manila–has been coordinating with ICTSI to learn from the success of TABS.

So, is Philippine traffic hopeless? There may yet be lessons to unlock from the Port of Manila’s experience with TABS and its schedule-penalize-incentivize approach.

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