In my 2012 year-end blog on Trends in Transportation, I identified a number of areas where I expected to see some changes in 2013. One area I highlighted was the expectation that we would begin to see more Innovation in Transportation. In my view, Freight Transportation has lagged other industry sectors in the Innovation space. I also questioned the shelf life of the current transactional model of Freight Brokerage. Many freight brokers still rely on faxes, phone calls and e mail to run their operations. In this era of tablet computers, social media and smart phones, this industry would appear ripe for modernization.
When you look at the consumer travel agency business, an industry somewhat analogous to freight brokerage, one can see the transformative power of innovation and technology over the past ten to fifteen years. It looks like some of these changes are finally coming to the freight brokerage industry. Here is a peak at two companies that are likely going to transform this sector of the freight business.
While some freight brokers have automated some elements of their businesses, nobody has fully automated the entire brokerage operation. Buytruckload.com (http://buytruckload.com/ ) has made a serious attempt at automating all of the core brokerage functions, at least for full and partial truckload services. The company opens for business on Monday, April 8.
Fifteen months ago, Sean Devine, the former Vice President of Pricing and Engineering at Con-way Freight, and John Labrie, the former President of Con-way Freight formed a company, Partage LLC, a “wholesale” freight broker that supplies truckload capacity to retail freight brokers and logistics service providers. As part of the development of Partage, these gentlemen and their support team created a fully automated pricing engine. They also created a large carrier rates data base. By automating all of the pricing functions and by not using any sales personnel, they were able reduce SG&A costs. This has enabled them to offer very attractive pricing to their retail clients. In the short time that Partage has been operating, they have created a $30 million business.
Buytruckload.com goes a step further by automating all of the pricing, booking and tracing functions. This company will be a retail provider of partial (e.g. 5 pallets or 5,000 pounds and up) and full truckload service – – – dry van, refrigerated or flat bed – – – to domestic American shippers. Down the road, the company will be adding the functionality to quote and book intermodal and cross-border loads.
The company’s value proposition is that it believes it can be offer “the best price” all the time. By removing the costs of most brokerage operations, buytruckload.com expects to be the industry’s low cost provider. Shippers should expect to save $100 a load on a typical $1300 load. As Sean Devine commented to me, “people will use us because they know they are getting a good deal.” Users benefit since they save the time spent shopping around to secure multiple rate quotes. Moreover, since the rates will be lower than other suppliers, this saves the time consumed in carrier negotiations.
The company’s pricing engine is quite sophisticated. The data warehouse contains historical rates on a large range of lane pairs. It also contains seasonality factors, rates under various transit time scenarios and a host of other variables. A shipper can enter the origin and destination information into the Buytruckload.com website and see a number of pricing options based on a range of pick-up and delivery dates. Users can then select the option (e.g. team drivers for expedited service, five day rather than three day transit time at a reduced rate) that works best for them. Once a decision is made, users then book their loads and the system executes the operation and processes the paperwork. There is no human interaction.
Buytruckload.com is targeting a range of shippers from small firms to Fortune 500 companies. They will be launching a major marketing initiative to create awareness and build traffic. This will be a company to watch.
Post Bid Ship (http://www.postbidship.com ) has taken a somewhat different approach. The company was founded to by two MBA graduates from the University of Arizona’s Entrepreneurship Program in 2010. Micky Thompson is CEO of Post Bid Ship., Inc. while Jarret Hamstreet is the COO. Micky brings an internet business development background while Jarret comes from the trucking industry. The company’s mission is to help shippers, brokers and carriers make more efficient use of the internet to manage their freight operations. This company is also automating the freight tendering process by creating a “dedicated online marketplace.”
“We originally built our service for direct shippers and truckers, but after a few months of testing, freight brokers who are involved in 20-percent of all freight transactions were involved in more than 80-percent of our transactions,” said Micky Thompson, CEO for Post Bid Ship. Freight brokers are the fastest-growing customer segment for Post Bid Ship, yet the company had not designed a product to fully meet their needs. Thompson continued, “After witnessing brokers’ fast adoption rate, we knew we needed to build a product designed specifically for them, and we needed to do it quickly.”
Micky advised me that brokers are coming to the site for two primary reasons. First, Post Bid Ship helps them find capacity that they cannot obtain through their own data bases. Second, they save time by not having to call 5 or 10 carriers to cover a load.
Shippers, carriers and freight brokers can register for the service. The basic standard service is free while some of the value added packages range from $29 to $199 per month. Users can post their loads on the Post Bid Ship system and tender them to all of the carriers that express interest. The carriers that register create a profile. The profile contains preferred shipping lanes, equipment availability and other key pieces of data.
When a shipper or broker enters a set number of designated loads, the software matches them against the profile of each carrier in the data base. The system then comes back to the shipper with proposed rates and the carriers available to move the leads. A shipper can enter a “Maximum Bid Rate” so carriers and brokers know up front if they can meet or beat the rate and make a profit. The shipper then interacts directly with the successful bidder.
Post Bid Ship now has over 1800 carriers with over 220,000 trucks in their data base. There are now over 3000 active users on the system. Post Bid Ship’s services include shipments from 100 pounds and up, whether a box or pallet, all the way up to full loads, for both over the road and intermodal. They provide services to Canada, the United States and Mexico. Users are saving an astonishing 51 percent on average per load. Micky explained to me that shippers and brokers are benefitting from the additional capacity available and by being able to take advantage of back haul and private fleet rates that are not offered to them elsewhere.
One of the most interesting features of the system is how carriers are checked before they are allowed on the system. Post Bid Ship scrutinizes everything from their operating authorities to their safety ratings and CSA scores to make sure they deliver a quality service to their users.
The company is now beginning to offer a variety of Service Plans. The Enterprise Plus plan provides a user with basic TMS functionality including a connection to QuickBooks. A future plan will allow shippers to conduct annual bids and then create a contract to manage the relationship.
Buytruckload.com is positioning itself as the Expedia.com of the trucking industry; Post Bid Ship sees itself as “as the Priceline.com of the commercial freight industry. Just as Priceline.com sells empty hotel rooms and airline seats, Post Bid Ship helps . . . trucking firms operating across North America sell empty trailer space.” It will exciting to monitor the success of these two dynamic game-changing companies as they seek to harness some emerging technologies and apply them successfully to the freight brokerage business.
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