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It's quite something when your name becomes synonymous with an entire movement in an industry. That is what has happened to Uber Freight, thanks in no small part to the disruption Uber Technologies Inc (NYSE: UBER) created in the taxi industry. Today in the freight industry, the term "Uberization of freight" is used interchangeably with digital freight brokerage operations and freight matching services.
That equivalence isn't really accurate, according to Bill Driegert, senior director of Uber Freight.
"If you say ‘digital freight brokerage,' it misses the point," he said. "Part of the point of technology is to take out the middleman, to connect carriers and shippers directly."
Driegert, speaking at FreightWaves LIVE Chicago on Nov. 12 in a discussion titled "How the Uberization of freight is transforming logistics," explained how the namesake of the Uberization of freight movement views the progress that movement has been making.
Driegert compared Uber Freight to the well-known ride-sharing service and said the experience includes three prongs: reliability, transparency and flexibility.
The Uberization of freight, though, actually started with smartphones — or at least the possibilities they opened up — and the proliferation of data.
"Ten years ago, we started talking about big data," he said. "Now, we are using that data to get insights that we never could get before."
Data is helping Uber Freight develop its network and offer new tools to revolutionize the marketplace. In September, Uber Freight announced its move to Chicago in the heart of the freight brokerage world. The company has committed to investing $200 million and bringing 2,000 jobs to the city. In late October, Uber Freight announced its expansion to Canada, which followed European expansion in the Netherlands, Germany and Poland earlier in the year.
On the technology side, Uber Freight has not stopped innovating, introducing Bundles in September and expanding Powerloop, which was first introduced in Texas in 2018. Bundles packages headhaul and backhaul loads, reducing empty miles for carriers. Powerloop offers rented trailers to shippers and carriers to be used as part of a trailer pool for drop-and-hook freight.
To illustrate the power of Uber Freight, Driegert highlighted an after-hours issue that appeared on its platform. A carrier agreed to pick up a load at 12:30 a.m., but at midnight, due to a late delivery at a prior stop, the carrier dropped the load. Thanks to the always-on nature of the Uber Freight platform, the load was reposted, immediately claimed by a different carrier, picked up and delivered on time.
"That's what Uberization allows for," Driegert said. In fact, 30% of freight in the network moves outside business hours. "You have a true 24/7 network; it's just not working on the same schedule of a broker ... which means you have more options."
Driegert said that 92% of loads are viewed within 10 minutes of posting and Uber Freight has a 99% tender acceptance rate, which he attributed to the real-time nature of rates.
"Once you start having high acceptance rates, as a shipper, you have a different view of the market," he noted, one with a more reliable network and fewer carriers needed to move the loads. "As a shipper, if I know I can get a rate instantaneously, I know I can get a truck and I can make a decision quicker."
This same real-time view of the market gives carriers confidence that the load they select will be theirs and a broker won't switch it to another carrier offering a lower rate.
The data, Driegert said, is what allows real-time transactions to take place, but it also allows carriers to stay current with shippers' demands. "The expectations of shippers are moving, so we and others are changing as shippers want more visibility," he said.
This includes integrations with SAP and MercuryGate that were announced earlier this year and API development that further speeds the process of gathering real-time rates. Facility ratings are also becoming a bigger part of the process for both carriers and shippers.
"Over half of our shipments have a review," Driegert said, "which tells us the driver wants us [and the shipper] to know about the facility."
The Uberization of freight movement is in full stride at Uber Freight, with few signs of slowing down.
"When you say Uber, it means something in your mind," Driegert said.
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