Truckers are intrigued by the launch of Uber Freight, but they want a lot more details about pricing and how the cloud-based, on-demand, full truck-load freight brokerage will work before signing up.
Independent truckers told Trucks.com they would like to be able to negotiate rates – something Uber doesn’t allow for now – and they want to know if the division of the ride-hailing service will expand beyond traditional trailers to include flatbed and step-deck freight.
“I signed up for Uber Freight this morning because I believe that the more tech tools I have in my toolbox, the better armed my business is to compete for success,” said Jimmy Nevarez, an owner-operator from Chino, Calif.
Nevarez said he believes using apps like Uber Freight to book loads will help keep his two-truck operation running.
He currently uses another freight app called Convoy, which allows him to “bid up,” or negotiate a higher rate on a load if he feels he can’t be profitable with the given rate.
San Francisco-based Uber Technologies has been testing Uber Freight for van and refrigerator deliveries since September, starting in the Texas Triangle area between Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, and launched it nationwide Thursday.
The company believes it can apply its technology matching drivers with passengers in urban areas to placing freight with truckers.
Hours after the launch, Uber Freight Director Bill Driegert told Trucks.com the website was “getting tons of traffic,” but declined to comment about how many drivers had signed up to use its new app.
The new app matches motor carriers with shippers by tapping a button and instantly booking the load truckers want on a first-come, first-serve basis if they agree to the price.
However, Uber Freight is only offering a flat rate for hauling its loads for now – there’s no negotiating. But, Driegert said that the company is taking its flat-rate policy “into consideration about how we can improve the app in the future.”
If the rates are fair and he can make a good profit on the load, Nevarez said he is willing to give Uber Freight a shot.
“If I can sustain a profit, I am willing to give Uber [Freight] a try,” he said. “But I refuse to settle if I know I am not going to be profitable on a load – I have set certain standards for myself.”
By 2020, Nevarez said he hopes to have 10 trucks in his fleet.
Ronnie Sellers, a trucker from Knoxville, Tenn., said Uber’s pledge to pay within seven days is enticing enough to want to learn more about the freight app.
“Right now, I am getting paid about 30 to 35 days out for a load I haul for a broker,” Sellers told Trucks.com. “And there isn’t anything I can do about it because if I complain, I lose out on future loads. Getting paid in seven days would be nice.”
Sellers, who has only been an independent trucker for about 15 months, said he wishes he could build direct relationships with customers, but so far he has had to rely on freight brokers for business. It can take years for independent drivers to build up a client base, he said. But freight apps like Uber Freight might be an option to grow more quickly.
But without changes, it will shut out truckers such as Joey Slaughter, an owner-operator and step-deck trailer driver from Ringgold, Va. The freight app doesn’t provide jobs hauling construction equipment, building materials or military freight.
“I’ll be watching for when they do,” Slaughter told Trucks.com.
Uber Freight is only dry van and refrigerated freight for now, but could expand to hauling other freight in the future, Driegert said.
Driegert said the approval process to sign up with Uber Freight takes less than 24 hours to complete. An interested trucker must enter their motor carrier number, Department of Transportation number, insurance information, type of equipment they have and region of the U.S. where they want to operate.
When truckers open an account on Uber Freight, they’re added to a database of freight haulers. When shippers need a load moved that matches a driver’s equipment and location, details about the load show up in the driver’s Uber Freight account. The driver can then click a button on the mobile app to accept.
Prior to Uber Freight’s nationwide launch, Driegert said he spent days at truck stops in Texas talking to truckers about what they wanted to see in the company’s freight app.
“The message that we want to send is that we are driver-centric, and as we are building the application we want to make it a better experience for the drivers,” Driegert said.