The ride-sharing app known as Uber has set its sights on shipping and logistics in recent years. In the same way that Uber has disrupted the taxi industry, the app is looking to do the same to freight shipping.
A new service known as Uber Freight pairs truck drivers and independent fleet managers with suppliers and retailers that need to move large shipments around the country, helping drivers make more efficient use of their cargo space.
As promising as this logistics model may seem, Uber Freight remains a work in progress. Learn more about this new service and how it could impact the shipping industry going forward.
What Is Uber Freight?
Uber Freight is a new service from Uber, the now legendary ride-sharing app available in 78 countries around the world. While Uber Freight is still only available in the U.S., drivers and truck fleet managers across the country can log into the Uber Freight app, select their current location and destination city, and the app will connect them with nearby suppliers that need to move large shipments from one part of the country to another. Drivers with their own trucks as well as fleet managers can use this service to get more business and make the most of their cargo space.
As soon as the driver completes a delivery, he can log into the app to find another shipment nearby to help plan his next trip. This radically reduces inefficiency in the supply chain because freight trucks don’t have to drive back empty-handed to their starting location. They can maximize their newly-free cargo space as they complete a variety of trips around a specific geographic area or across the country.
To start using Uber Freight, drivers will need to upload their qualifications, including a valid copy of their trucking license, truck specifications and other pertinent data to show they have enough experience to complete a delivery.
How Uber Freight Could Improve Shipping Logistics
The trucking and freight industry has been under pressure in recent years. The industry continues to grapple with a dearth of available truckers, reporting a shortage of 55,000 in 2017. That number will likely increase to 174,000 by 2026. Women and minorities also face discrimination barriers when trying to enter the trucking workforce, which only contributes to the problem. Uber Freight could make the industry more appealing to independent drivers looking for work.
Services like Uber Freight also have the potential to make it easier for independent fleet managers to capitalize on the growing demand for delivery services, thanks in large part to the rise of e-commerce shopping. As long as they own their own equipment, they can start taking orders in no time. Independent retailers and suppliers can also move their products around quickly without having to invest in their own transportation and logistics network.
How Uber Freight Continues to Evolve
Since launching in 2017, Uber Freight continues to evolve and improve upon its existing services. Uber got a late start to the game, putting the company at a disadvantage. Other shared-freight booking services like Flexport and Transfix have been gaining ground for years.
To make up for these deficiencies, Uber Freight is offering discounts on truck and vehicle maintenance including gas, new tires and other essentials for the trucking industry. They’ve struck a deal with service providers and mechanics across the county to help their drivers better manage their equipment. After all, it’s in Uber’s best interest to keep their drivers’ trucks in great condition. Otherwise, a flat tire, a poor breaking system or other vehicle problems could lead to some costly delays.
Uber Freight is also using these discounts to lure new drivers into the workforce. With over 1.2 million trucking fleets in the country, Uber Freight clearly has plenty of potential drivers to work with, but many of them aren’t using the app. Finding and recruiting talent continues to be a challenge for this new service, especially as the trucking population ages. As the technology behind self-driving trucks gets better and better, many young people looking for work may be skeptical of starting a career as a truck driver.
Issues and Complications with Crowdsourced Freight Shipping
Uber Freight and similar crowdsourced freight shipping companies have other problems to contend with. For starters, there is no guarantee that drivers will get a return shipment once they complete a delivery. A driver may be thousands of miles from home only to discover that he has to drive back to his original city empty-handed. This isn’t usually an issue for drivers escorting passengers around town, considering they’re usually only a few miles from home at the end of a trip. If there’s no one else to pick up, they can head over to another neighborhood with ease. Freight drivers risk losing time and potentially money if they’re unable to find a supplier looking to ship in their city.
Suppliers and drivers have also become frustrated with the fact that the Uber Freight app provides limited information about a driver. The app shows the supplier where the driver is located and what kind of truck he has. It doesn’t show how long they’ve been driving or if they need a break. With little supervision or regulation, drivers could easily overwork themselves, which makes the roads less safe for everyone.
The Future of Crowdsourced Freight Shipping
As of now, it’s unclear whether Uber Freight and other crowdsourced freight shipping services can correct some of these issues and truly transform the logistics industry. We may see some suppliers and retailers partner with independent fleets for more consistency instead of depending on apps like Uber Freight. Self-driving trucks continue to be a hot-button issue in the industry. As this technology develops, we may see a shift away from human drivers altogether. All this is an effort to improve efficiency and lower the cost of shipping so that more companies can compete with the likes of Walmart and Amazon.
Can Uber Freight make an impact? Only time will tell.