One way trucking can deal with topsy-turvy supply chains created by the coronavirus pandemic is to rely more on digital tools.
Uber Freight on Thursday introduced a bidding system on its load app to give drivers more options.
“It’s vital that carriers and drivers have access to loads with transparent pricing so they can make fast, informed decisions about their business,” the company said in a blog post announcing the upgrade. “That has never been more apparent than it is today, with the freight market in flux and drivers and carriers in our network working around the clock to keep shelves stocked and the country moving forward.”
Uber Freight said it will now let truckers and motor carriers to submit bids and receive feedback on select loads directly in the app.
Uber will notify the carriers if they won or lost the bid.
Winning bidders will have the load temporarily reserved at the winning price, the company said. But all the loads Uber offers will still have an instant book now price for those who want to lock in a load.
“As a complement to our dynamic pricing engine, and by automating and streamlining the traditional bidding process, Uber Freight’s in-app bidding aims to improve functionality for the entire freight marketplace,” the company said.
The system will help Uber Freight better balance supply and demand.
Another digital load tracking and freight matching tool launched a similar function last year.
Trucker Tools calls it “Book it Now.” Trucker Tools is widely used by owner-operators and small fleets to secure loads with brokers in an automated fashion that cuts down on emails and phone calls to find loads.
Truckers on the Trucker Tools mobile driver app get a list of loads on their smartphone, ranked in priority order, with proposed pricing, based on their location and preferences. They choose to accept the load by clicking on the “book it now” button, which automatically books it and sends a confirmation from the broker to the driver. Or the trucker can ask the broker for a better price.
Others agree that the industry needs to become more digital quickly.
“This unprecedented disruption means that drivers and fleets need to be much more reliant on real-time data from all tiers of the distribution model,” said Ray Greer, chief executive of Omnitracs.
He said the pandemic demonstrates how real-time routing and rerouting is key to ensuring timely delivery of essential goods and critical supplies such as protective gear for health care providers.
“The supply chain must be nimble, and that requires streamlining data access and mobilizing it to all employees, including drivers, so they can avoid long wait times at loading docks or unsafe parking areas, and get their jobs done more efficiently and safely,” Greer said.
For now, truckers and motor carriers that don’t have long-term contracts will have to hunt for good rates.
Load pricing information service and freight marketplace firm DAT reported earlier this week that van spot freight volumes fell 20 percent in the past two weeks. National average rates lost 8 cents per mile, to $1.78, reflecting declines all over the country.
“We’d like to say that there’s no place to go but up from here, but that might not be true. When businesses start to re-open, we’ll see improvement in all aspects of the economy, including freight,” said Peggy Dorf, a DAT market analyst.