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FedEx and EMBARQ Mexico: The Napkin Plan

January 5, 2015

Since 2011, FedEx has sponsored a two-year fellowship program for EMBARQ employees to leverage FedEx knowledge in key areas like driver safety and fuel technologies. EMBARQ is part of an international network that helps cities make sustainable transport a reality. Marco Priego, the author of this post, was a member of the first class of FedEx-EMBARQ Transportation Fellows, and is currently the Road Safety Manager at EMBARQ Mexico.  

On December 16, 2010, I received a call from EMBARQ Mexico Director Adriana Lobo asking me to lead a FedEx sponsored workshop to be organized in Mexico City.  At that point in time, I knew only that that company was supporting the EMBARQ network in a range of projects, most notably workshops around branding, fuel technology and asset management for public transport. To be honest, I thought this would just be another day at the office, but I was wrong!

After organizing a workshop on fuels and technologies for public bus systems at the beginning of 2011, our thoughts turned to what would come next in EMBARQ and FedEx’s long-term relationship. I was given the opportunity to lead EMBARQ Mexico’s technical proposal.

I realized quickly that FedEx’s approach is different than many: they want to be involved in projects and to use their knowledge and experts to maximize the impact of the work they support. We knew our next step together had to be collaborative, but weren’t quite sure how to best leverage our common interests and areas of work. Around this time, we had a lunch meeting with Eduardo López, a FedEx team member in Mexico, and he provided exactly the answer I had been searching for, though I wouldn’t know it until later. “Marco,” he said, “do Safety First.” I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I wrote it down it the closest sheet of paper I had – the napkin. With our napkin idea in hand, I attended the FedEx-EMBARQ Transportation Fellowship training week. Every other year, EMBARQ staff from Brazil, India, Mexico, and Washington, D.C., attend a week of training and workshops at FedEx headquarters in Memphis, TN. The fellowship provides a vehicle to translate FedEx expertise across a range of subjects into real, on-the-ground results in developing cities.

That fellowship week in Memphis in 2011, and my conversation with Eduardo, was the starting point for what has since become one of EMBARQ Mexico’s flagship initiatives with FedEx. The goal of Safety First is to catalyze a deep change in public transport systems – especially bus rapid transit (BRT) systems – by creating, disseminating, and implementing a comprehensive set of road safety management tools that allow transport operators to be as safe as FedEx, a big challenge! But we know that this approach to safe, sustainable transport saves lives. Under the Safety First project, we’ve trained thousands of bus operators across Mexico in safe driving techniques, including 100% of the drivers of BRT systems in Mexico City and Guadalajara. Together, those systems serve nearly one million passengers every day. Safety First has since been adapted and replicated through EMBARQ Brasil.

Safety First is just one of the ways FedEx and EMBARQ are creating impact together. Recently, I met with two of my colleagues who recently participated in the second FedEx-EMBARQ Fellowship program. The purpose of this meeting was to plan for the future and amplify our work on the ground. I dubbed the meeting how to build the ‘next Safety First.’ This second generation of Fellows was exceedingly enthusiastic, as I had been, following their training week in Memphis, not only learning from FedEx experts about things like logistics and road safety, but also about their shared sense of importance about our collaborative work. The Fellows have achieved a lot with FedEx support. Our collaboration has yielded several initiatives, workshops, projects, reports, and site visits, many of which have scaled up to become standard across the EMBARQ network. I have seen what were once merely ideas written on a napkin become real, be replicated, and shaped to local realities, improving quality of life for people in cities worldwide.

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