More on “Uber” for trucks, and Phil Cahley gazes into the (near) future

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While Uber and its competitors are battling the taxi industry world-wide, I’m wondering how technology like this will impact the trucking industry in the very near future. As I’ve been researching, Uber-like platforms are already playing in this pool south of the border. They’re only about a year old but companies like Cargomatic, Transfix, DashHaul, and Keychain Logistics are offering Uber-like delivery services for LTL and TL shipments, using owner operators and smaller fleets with their own operating authorities and insurance.

And the concept is so simple: Drivers with Smart phones book on loads when they are clear, all done through an app that effectively eliminates the dispatch desk; customers get a good rate and can track the progress of their delivery vehicle from where it books on the call until the cargo is delivered; payment happens exceptionally quickly (from 24 hours to 10 days) after a picture of the POD is received from the same Smart phone (effectively eliminating the billing department and more overhead from the small carrier or independent owner).

Sound good? The Uber-like provider skims 20% of each move and some allowances are made for detention (usually if the driver is held up more than an hour).  In some cases the rates are negotiable, while other providers like Cargomatic, preset the rates. These companies justify the 20% by saying that it’s freight the driver would not have access to anyway, and besides, they’ll tell you their fee is probably less than the commission taken by “static” load boards and brokers.

Simple, but I’m thinking this concept will wreak havoc with traditional carriers and load boards alike. If the Uber clones can offer more work, more efficiency, why bother putting your truck on with carrier? Get a Smart phone, the apps are usually free, and start trucking. I’m under no illusions that trucking is fundamentally different from taxi services, but the different variables, i.e. hours of service, type of equipment, can be plugged into any app and made to work.

I’m hoping this is a clarion call that for a big change that’s coming our way and we should be prepared. But while I’m seeing profound disruptions coming to the world of couriers, load boards and LTL carriers, my friend, Phil Cahley, more visionary than myself, writes via email:

“This is interesting; with Uber and its competitors coming, coupled with Driverless vehicles, delivery drones and cheap RFID technology, we will probably witness a giant quantum shift in delivery and automated warehousing/procurement probably within the next ten years.

3D printers and the ability to manufacturer goods through smaller venues with tighter time frames and response to introduce new products faster and cheaper (rather than big factories abroad), may also jump start “nearshoring” (manufacturing goods within North America again).

This will no doubt bring about shifts in the economy, possibly reducing China’s economic might; making goods production cheaper, faster, quicker to market and economical to deliver, custom manufacturing of “personalized goods” also comes to mind.

More efficient production, near shoring could also signal beneficial shifts for climate change.  With Google already having driverless technology and rife to sell it, it probably makes the most sense to introduce it into the market through transportation; before they will ever get regulatory approval with the big car companies and governments and the perceived liability.

Firms like Amazon will no doubt push (with their deep pockets) the RFID and drones, and perhaps some of the bigger entities (couriers) will see the merits and dive in too.”

So how about it, are you ready for the Great Leap Forward?




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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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