It was the writing on the wall, or as Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in 2014, “the icing on the cake.” After Uber’s stated mission of “reinventing transportation” in 2016, the official launch of Uber Freight recently should come as no surprise.
Uber Freight is an app that replaces the traditional middle man in linking up shippers and truckers. The app lists available jobs and routes and tells drivers what they’ll be hauling and how much they’ll be paid. Once they arrive at the destination and deliver the load (Uber Freight says payment will be paid upon delivery), they can then use the app again to find the next load.
According to Uber, the app will help “level the playing field” for trucking companies and should be easily adaptable for independent owner-operators.
The company plans to leverage its operational experience with the global success of Uber car rides in lieu of taxis, plus its technical expertise, to adapt to the long-haul freight business.
For example, Uber Freight says it will pay $75 detention time after a driver’s wait passes the two-hour mark. Using GPS, the app will also track the load and let shippers know when a loaded driver arrives at the delivery destination.
It’s not the only app of its kind out there.
Cargomatic is the product of a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and a Los Angeles tech expert and Convoy is a Seattle-based startup that launched in 2015.
Like Uber Freight, these types of companies use algorithms to match up two parties with freight transportation needs and also handle financial arrangements such as billing and payment.
Convoy founder and CEO Dan Lewis told Forbes that a fragmented world of a host of different trucking companies, shippers and brokers trying to arrange, move and track freight is ripe for improvement, especially where the middle man is concerned.
“Anything that makes the middle work faster, more efficiently and transparently, saves money at both ends,” Lewis said, adding that a broker using a phone to make freight connections is outmoded.
Amazon reportedly is working on a similar service that would match drivers with companies that need goods delivered.
After its acquisition of Otto, Uber is of course working on delivery of the self-driving commercial cargo truck, and demonstrated the fact with a short beer run in Colorado last year with the driver in the sleeper. It isn’t ready for prime time, however.
Otto is at the center of a lawsuit, with Google’s self-driving car division claiming Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer who founded Otto, was using the startup as a shell to steal Google’s self-driving technology and use it for Uber.