Uber for Truckers: 3 Apps That Are Changing the Industry
Truckers are no longer in it for the long haul. Research reveals there's a driver deficit in the United States, with an estimated shortfall of 73,500 truckers this year — up from 38,000 in 2014. Several factors are to blame: a surge in diesel prices, super-strict strict government regulations and the social isolation of life on the road. New tech could overcome these problems. Mobile apps such as Cargomatic, Transfix and Convoy connect truckers and carriers, cutting out the "middleman," just like Uber does. Could they reverse the current driver shortage?
Cargomatic, available on iOS and Android devices, unites shippers and carriers. Truckers log into the app, find a shipper and transport goods. There's no paperwork, either -- Cargomatic takes care of all billing and logistics. Currently, the Venice, California-based startup matches truckers with shippers in metro areas in California and New York, but the company has plans to expand to other markets.
"We're just trying to aggregate all these different independent operators and make them available for the large shippers," says Jonathan Kessler, CEO of Cargomatic. "We give the ability to shippers to work with all these independent operators from the local level. We use technology to ensure the service is better. You can see where the trucks are. At any given moment you know where your shipment is."
Shipper-carrier apps, like Cargomatic, have changed the traditional freight paradigm. For decades, most truckers have worked exclusively for one company. They've transported cargo over long distances. They've spent hours, days and sometimes weeks away from their families. Now, new tech makes it easier for drivers to take short-term, short-distance jobs whenever they want.
Transfix, which operates throughout the Lower 48, serves as a freight broker for trucker drivers. "Quality loads. Guaranteed quick pay. Fewer deadhead miles. Free trip planner," says the company on its website. Just like Cargomatic, the app connects owner-operators and small carriers with shippers. Truckers log into the app on their computer, smartphone or tablet, choose a load that matches their preferences, read the job specs and decide whether to accept or decline a project. It's an on-demand service for truckers who want to operate independently, free from the shackles of large courier companies.
"Everything is done manually, from tracking a shipment to contacting drivers," says Transfix CEO Drew McElroy. "It takes four hours to execute a shipment from soup-to-nuts, whereas, in our world, we've automated so much of the process that it takes 15 minutes per shipment -- and that number is dropping every day."
Convoy, a self-described "Uber for trucking," uses clever algorithms to match drivers with shippers. Jobs, which are delivered directly to a mobile device in real time, are varied -- full truckloads, half truckloads, pallets -- allowing truckers to choose projects on their own terms, especially if they crave a work-life balance. "We think of ourselves as regional and local trucking," says Convoy CEO Dan Lewis. "For the work we're doing today, our drivers should be home that night. Sometimes they may be driving a full day and sometimes they may take a job that lasts an hour, but they can be at home at night."
Unlike Cargomatic and Transfix, the app only notifies appropriate truckers for a project based on their location and vehicle. Drivers have a limited time to accept a job before it's offered to someone else. The technology has proved popular: Convoy raised $2.5 million in venture financing from investors.
As truckers complain about long hours and the impact long-haul jobs have on their social life and sleep patterns, shipper-carrier apps provide on-demand, short-notice jobs without any of the hassle. This new tech has already encouraged drivers to return to their trucks, and could spur future truckers-to-be to join the industry, too.