Fri, 24 Nov 2000

Blue Bird group to use GPS next year

JAKARTA (JP): The Blue Bird group, a leading taxi and bus company, plans to start using the satellite-based global positioning system (GPS) beginning early next year to provide better and more efficient service to its customers, an executive said on Wednesday.

Deputy director for operational affairs, Ateng Aryono, said the company would spend "billions of rupiahs" for the use of the GPS-based in-car positioning system, which would be installed in stages.

The first batch to have the system would be 640 cars from the Silver Bird executive taxis, Ateng told journalists.

"With this system, we can identify the whereabouts of our taxis and meet our customers' calls faster. We will try the system in the first quarter next year," he explained but gave no other details of the system requirements.

If everything goes well, the company would be the first land transportation company in the country using such a GPS-based fleet tracking system.

In Singapore, several of the city's taxi companies have implemented GPS-based integrated voice response systems, or IVRs, which allows customers to request a cab using a telephone keypad. Under the IVR technology, a computerized dispatch uses GPS to locate the nearest cab and then sends it to the waiting customer. With the system, Comfort Cabs can now handle 6,000 calls a day, up from 3,000.

One of the chronic problems faced by taxi users in Jakarta is the often long delay after calling the company. It takes even longer on rainy days due higher demand and macet (traffic jam).

Ateng admitted that the GPS project would require quite a large investment.

"But it's worth it to improve our services to our customers," he said.

The Blue Bird group, which also operates hundreds of taxis under other names, has been in the media spotlight following the recent 45 percent hike in taxi fares in the city, as many claimed the increase would only increase profits for the company and would not do much for drivers or users.

In the Wednesday meeting, journalists were given a tour of the office and allowed to interview a driver, selected by the firm, to explain about his welfare.

The company's senior manager of business development, Noni Purnomo, said: "We're a profit oriented company and need the fare increase to replace our aging cars and expand our business. However, as you have heard we also look after the welfare of our drivers."

The driver, named Rinudiyanto, said he had been working for the company for 14 years and is the chairman of the Blue Bird group drivers union. To the reporters, he claimed that the company was good in taking care of the drivers' welfare.

"Management promised that the 25 percent increase in daily rental fee, over the current Rp 214,000 fee, would only be applied three months after the general fare increase," Ateng said.

Noni said the company has some 10,000 drivers and 6,000 taxis in the capital. The company has expanded the business to Surabaya in East Java, Bali and Lombok.

"We also have a plan to expand the business to Sumatra," Noni said.(dja)