“Not a mythological profession, but an increasingly important figure in the pandemic“. This clarification by Gianfranco Berté, mobility manager of the University Hospital of Parma and the local health authority of the Emilia Romagna capital, is a clear illustration of a figure which is now becoming crucial in companies. Especially post-pandemic and with extensive smart working.
Enrico Giovannini, the Minister for Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility, and Roberto Cingolani, the Minister for Ecological Transition, have signed the decree, thereby implementing the rule included in the “Decreto Rilancio” (Relaunch Decree), which requires cities with over 50,000 inhabitants and companies with over 100 employees (no longer 300) to appoint a mobility manager. The mobility manager “will have to figure out how to spread smart working throughout the week”, Giovannini said, with a view to “encouraging the alleviation of traffic in urban areas and distribute work and school hours“, the minister explained. There is a danger of creating situations where everyone works remotely, for instance “on Fridays, creating a bottleneck on other days”.
The rise of the mobility manager
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the focus back to a figure already present in the world of work. Following the 1998 “Ronchi Decree“ for companies with more than 300 employees, the mobility manager was subsequently institutionalised in 2000. “Things have radically changed now”, explains Angela Chiari, mobility manager of the Municipality of Parma.
While there were 850 mobility managers throughout Italy in 2016, 88% of whom were company managers, this number is now set to increase, given the mandatory nature of the decree. “Nevertheless, from its inception to its latest recast, the objective of the mobility manager has always been to optimise the costs and impacts of mobility on the territory, while paying attention to efficiency and the environment. We had already planned to bring in teleworking four years ago, something COVID has now made commonplace. Our roles have been significantly redefined because of the pandemic“, points out Gianfranco Berté.
Mobility managers will have to figure out how to distribute smart working throughout the week
Cycling to work
The Municipality of Parma’s ‘Bike to Work‘ project is an interesting initiative to promote the use of bicycles for home-work commutes. The results of the call published in early April are so far positive. Companies and employees involved can count on an overall pot of nearly €148,000 in incentives to discourage polluting vehicles and make use of their pedalled counterparts.
Prominent public agencies such as Ausl have adhered to the initiative, joined by private companies such as Barilla and even the Italian Automobile Club. “Our affiliation is one of substance, because we really want to participate, even though we only have 30 employees. We are very concerned about mobility and road safety, and we would like them to be absolutely sustainable”, proclaims the mobility manager of the Automobile Club’s Parma branch.
How does Bike to Work work? “The municipality has an app to assess the means of transport that employees use in their commutes via a GPS that analyses the speed of movement: it is possible to get up to 20 cents per kilometre and up to 50 euros per month per employee. The first project didn’t go so well, but those were unusual, cold months when it was difficult to move around. And yet, even with only 14 companies, we made it and we were the only ones together with Bologna to move forward. We are now more than double that number and more are being added every day. A very good sign that there is a willingness to participate and a desire for a different future”, says Chiari.
The goal is to reduce the use of private cars for commuting and thus curb emissions
The functions of a mobility manager
What are the functions of today’s mobility manager? “The person performing this role in a company has a duty to draw up a commuting plan to reduce the use of private cars for the employees of that company. The goal of a mobility manager is therefore to reduce emissions and cultivate sustainability”, explains Chiari.
In doing so, there is a particularly important dialogue with other mobility managers in the metropolitan area and with representatives of institutions, who can draw interesting conclusions from the work of these company figures. “Public policymakers can improve their policies by gathering more ideas and advice on how to improve mobility in their area. Because of this role, we are able to get discounts and reductions on public transport passes and benefits such as parking racks and parking spaces for employees who need them”, Berté points out.
The figure also has its own importance for companies, despite not always playing a leading role. As Berté, a mobility manager in a public company with an annual turnover of 800 million euros, points out, “this role is not set in stone within a job sector. And yet it serves its purpose because it allows evaluations to be made of expenses such as the company’s car fleet. We have 137 cars driving around the province and now, thanks to the inserted GPS, we can evaluate the kilometres driven and decide whether to change them or not”. Mobility managers also assess alternative solutions. “As a mobility manager, I also had the opportunity to interface with developers of car sharing and car pooling apps, with whom I made agreements to use them for free in exchange for a significant number of participating employees. In the end, that was the key to the whole thing. The important thing is to succeed”, points out Chiari.