Uber Freight added a new feature to its smartphone app Monday, targeting small trucking fleets. The company’s digital load board also matches independent truckers with shippers.
The “fleet mode” tool of the Uber Freight app is aimed at fleets with 10 or fewer trucks. It allows dispatchers to find and assign loads based on multiple drivers’ availability without leaving the Uber Freight app, said Eric Berdinis, senior product manager at Uber.
“After launching Uber Freight, we had a lot of small fleets wanting to work with us but couldn’t because the app was designed for owners with one truck,” he told Trucks.com.
The ride-hailing company sees freight hauling as an attractive area for expansion. The business is splintered, providing hundreds of thousands of truckers and thousands of motor carriers as potential clients. Nearly 90 percent of all motor carriers operating in the U.S. have six or few trucks, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking industry.
It’s also big. Trucking hauls nearly 71 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation. The industry accounts for about $676.2 billion in freight business, or 79.8 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes, according to the American Trucking Associations.
There’s more as truck capacity remains tight and there is more freight than available trucks to haul it. That’s pushed business to Uber Freight as shippers plug into its network of drivers for help, Berdinis said.
There are about 6.6 loads for every available truck trailer, according to DAT Solutions, which tracks freight and rates. A year ago, there were 3.5 loads per every van.
Uber Freight has tested the app with a handful of small business truckers such as Phil DeKnight, owner of DeKnight Enterprises of Marshalls Creek, Penn. His company has just three drivers.
“So far, it’s been helpful for me to communicate with my drivers before booking loads,” DeKnight told Trucks.com.
The goal of fleet mode is to improve communication between dispatchers and drivers who can connect via the app, said Xinfeng Le, an Uber product manager.
“This allows dispatchers to log in and view the list of available freight loads and see their drivers’ availability,” Le told Trucks.com.
Once the dispatcher assigns a load to a driver, they will receive a notification and can respond back if they’re available to haul it, she said.
“We hope to get rid of some of the inefficiency that exists today with a lot of back-and-forth communication with dispatchers and drivers,” Le told Trucks.com.
Uber launched its load-matching app in Texas in May 2017. It has since expanded its services nationwide.
The use of mobile trucking apps is on the rise and has the potential to become a $35.4-billion market by 2025 in North America, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan.
For now, the app only offers a flat rate for truckers hauling its loads — there’s no negotiating.
Another freight app called Convoy allows truckers to “bid up” or negotiate a higher rate if they judge the rate is too low to make money hauling the load.
In the months that DeKnight has been using the Uber Freight app, the rates for loads “have been competitive.”
The app also includes details about the loads, including pickup and delivery times, which other load boards don’t include, he said.
“Before, I would spend a lot of time on the phone finding out more information about a load, then have to check with my drivers to see if they have enough hours to haul it, only to find out that the load’s gone,” DeKnight said. “I don’t have to do that now.”
The federal hours-of-service rule for truckers limits them to driving no more than 11 hours a day within a 14-hour workday. Drivers must then be off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
Uber Freight pays drivers within a week once they receive confirmation that the load has been delivered, Berdinis said.
“A lot of small carriers spend a lot of time chasing down receivables after 30, 60 or 120 days — we eliminate that problem for them,” he said.