Uber Freight is offering its data tools to cargo shippers to match its growing cadre of app-using drivers seeking a greater piece of the $700-billion annual cargo-hauling business.
“Small shippers spend a lot of time figuring out if they are getting a good deal,” Uber Freight Product Lead Eric Berdinis told Trucks.com. “We’re giving them the technology and the super powers to grow their businesses.”
Uber Freight won’t say how many drivers it has, the value of its loads or its investment. It says it has grown from three regional operations to nationwide coverage, doubled its load volume every quarter and tripled the number of employees at offices in San Francisco and Chicago since launching in May 2017. It runs as a standalone unit within Uber Technologies ride-hailing business.
Trying to match drivers and shippers is a logical step for Uber Freight. But competitors like Omnitracs and Descartes also provide apps used in shipping.
Uber Freight Product Manager Stefan Sohlstrom said the digital logistics company had pilot customers using the shipping platform.
“There is a dashboard that allows shippers to easily log in to get a quote and build a load. It provides the carrier with [global positioning satellite] visibility and real-time tracking,” he said.
“Shippers are starting to realize the way they move freight today is antiquated,” he said. “The driver’s relationship with broker can take 20 minutes to four hours to receive a quote. They are at the whim of brokers answering their emails.”
Uber Freight has the right idea in eliminating brokers, said Antti Lindstrom, a trucking analyst with IHS Markit.
“They have data and that drives everything. This industry needs to become more efficient,” Lindstrom said.
It is too soon to know whether Uber Freight’s model will upend the way trucking works, said Chris Spear, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations.
“You see a lot of these companies kicking tires in various business models,” Spear told Trucks.com. “Some have fizzled. Some have got traction.”
Uber Freight also is creating an advisory board of drivers and shippers to help understand the industry’s biggest concerns.
“What we’ve really been doing since Day One is listening to learn how we can improve the life of the truck driver,” said Greg Murphy, community lead for Uber Freight. “A large portion are company drivers. We are well beyond the brokerage model.”
Uber Freight worked with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to develop its owner-operator contract. But the 161,000-member association does not know “how or if many of our members use their app,” said OOIDA spokeswoman Norita Taylor.
Some truckers are finding that Uber Freight allows them to better tailor their drives and to get paid faster.
“I’m loving it. I am making more money than ever, and I’m having to turn away loads,” said Henry Harper, an independent trucker from Austin, Texas.
Harper now books “99 percent” of his loads with Uber Freight. He is careful to screen out physically taxing long-haul routes to stay within 300 to 400 miles of home. Uber Freight pays Harper for a trip within 48 hours compared with waits of up to 90 days by a traditional shipper.
Harper said he earns $75 an hour for up to four hours from Uber Freight when he is forced to wait for a load. That is what the industry calls detention time. Drivers typically get $25 to $35 an hour for waiting.
“They have to be losing money,” Harper said. “They’re really trying to corner the market.”