Uber launches new freight service

This past May, Uber set out to ease a few of the pain points truckers and logistics providers were facing. SC Logistics Director Suzanne Dickerson discusses this new player in the logistics marketplace, ahead of Uber Freight’s presentation at this fall’s inaugural SC Logistics Tech Talk.

Issues like the hours of back-and-forth negotiation over the job and the costs and waiting for payment are just a couple of things that slow down moving freight. With the launch of Uber Freight, Uber aims to streamline the entire process for both carriers and shippers.

“Uber believes that by focusing on drivers’ pain points they can solve the industry’s biggest challenges,” Dickerson said. “The company describes it in this way ‘Happy drivers means happy shippers, and ultimately everyone benefits, including the end consumers of the goods.’ A platform like this addresses the issue of empty truckloads and optimizes capacity utilization by piggybacking on loads already in transit and delivering goods at a considerably lower price.”

By downloading the app and connecting with Uber via email, shippers can get a quote for a load and quickly list it for pick-up. Shippers can plan weeks in advance for cargo transport or find someone day-of to move freight. Carriers can book the loads that work best for them, no matter the hour, clearly see the price for the transport, get instant confirmation and quick payment within seven days.

While the Uber Freight model is similar to the supply and demand pricing model of its passenger app, Dickerson says there are differences as well.

“This time Uber isn’t the first player in the game,” Dickerson explained. “A number of online freight marketplaces have launched in the past three years, including companies like Cargomatic, Overhaul, Coyote, Truckstop.com, Transfix and others. This new virtual broker/online freight marketplace provides a load-board platform where shippers can place the freight they need transported and drivers can choose cargo from the convenience of their smartphones.”

Uber Freight’s Senior Product Manager Eric Berdinis believes that there’s an opportunity to differentiate their service from those already in the marketplace.

“We’re technically a brokerage and we do that so we can take ownership of the freight and pay our drivers and carriers quickly,” Berdinis said.

While it’s not entirely a new concept, Uber Freight will make the existing marketplace more convenient for everyone involved. In the process, it could change the way freight transportation is approached and regulated.

“The freight transportation business is much more regulated than passenger transportation, which could complicate the market environment,” Dickerson said. “This new trending model of the ‘shared economy’ could potentially challenge established regulations, though.”

While the company originally only offered the new service in Texas, Uber Freight announced in August that it plans to expand into new territories, including South Carolina, and that more personalized load matching features will be added, which should help it to deliver on its promise to improve the playing field for truck drivers.

“Uber Freight looks like a promising new business model for South Carolina,” Dickerson said. “We will need to use every tool in our toolbox in order to extend the life of our physical infrastructure and optimize our next generation freight transportation systems.”

Uber Freight will present on Nov. 1 as part of SC Logistics’s speaker lineup for its inaugural Tech Talk in Charleston. Learn more about the program and purchase your tickets here>>