Convoy Inc., an on-demand trucking start-up that aims to be the “Uber of trucking”, is partnering with consumer goods giant Unilever North America to streamline freight operations using an Uber-style strategy.
The four-year, multimillion-dollar deal announced Tuesday will use a smartphone app developed by Seattle-based Convoy to match loads of Unilever products to trucking companies within minutes.
“Unilever is one of the largest companies in the world, yet they’re incredibly agile and forward thinking, especially in their approach to supply chain innovation,” said Convoy co-founder and Chief Executive Dan Lewis. “Their vision to reduce manual processes and make trucking more efficient aligns directly with ours.”
The app – created by developers with experience at Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Uber and other tech companies – is free for trucking companies to use. It generates pay rates on the spot, allows trucking companies to dispatch loads to truckers electronically and offers free fleet-tracking services.
Convoy acts like a brokerage, working with shippers to create a rate scale for truckers and taking a cut before loads are assigned. Payments are processed within 24 hours of load delivery – a rarity in the trucking industry, where drivers often wait between 30 and 60 days to be compensated for the loads they haul.
Several hundred companies, from owner-operators to midsize fleets, are already using the Convoy app, as are thousands of drivers, according to Convoy spokesman Rob Toledo.
He declined to give financial details of the deal with Unilever but said the arrangement includes tens of thousands of shipments of Unilever products.
Initially, Convoy was part of a pilot program that included several other similar companies, Toledo said. Unilever evaluated each firm’s performance and then, several months ago, moved to a single pilot program with only Convoy.
Some of Unilever’s best-known brands include Dove beauty products, Degree deodorant, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Lipton teas. Two billion people use its brands every day, according to the Unilever website.
In 2015, Unilever boasted revenue of more than $9.5 billion and currently employs about 9,500 people in North America.
“We are very impressed with Convoy’s approach to technology-enabled trucking services,” said Reginaldo Ecclissato, senior vice president of Unilever Supply Chain Americas.
He said Convoy has “delivered a progressive app to address many of the long-standing issues facing the driver community.”
Convoy’s platform can guarantee truck capacity for both scheduled and spot market freight while enabling more direct routes, lowering operating costs and providing real-time GPS on all trucks, according to the company.
Since launching in April 2015, Convoy has grown to 61 employees and has raised $18.5 million in venture capital funding. The company said it is backed by Greylock Partners, an elder statesman of Silicon Valley venture capital, as well as by top executives of Amazon, eBay, Salesforce, Dropbox, Expedia, Instagram, KKR and Code.org.