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  November 2nd, 2016 | Written by

Trucking: New Apps Streamline Freight Shipment Booking, Even Parking

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  • Trucking is a big industry dominated by small players.
  • Uber-like mobile apps could deliver a more efficient link between truckers and shippers.
  • Broker fees may be as much as 45 percent of local truck prices.

Trucking is a big industry dominated by small players. Thousands of companies, each owning about three trucks, compete for business every day, requiring freight shippers and brokers to sometimes make hundreds of phone calls to find the transportation they need.

That’s not the most efficient system for moving ten billion tons of freight every year.

But now there is a better way. Or at least that’s the promise offered by entrepreneurs hoping to launch Uber-like mobile apps that deliver a faster and more efficient link between truckers and shippers.

Both Cargomatic, launched in 2014, and Convoy, which debuted one year later, promise to accelerate shipping by eliminating the broker-middleman. The apps rely on algorithms to link carriers with shippers, scheduling transportation at a competitive price based on such variables as weight, size, and distance traveled. Trucking companies are screened in advance based on reputation, quality of equipment, rates, and security. Once the connection is made and approved by both parties, the app also expedites billing and payment.

If it works, this system would eliminate a lot of paperwork, a lot of price negotiating, and a lot of extra costs incurred by using a truck broker, whose fees may be as much as 45 percent of the job for local shipments.

There are additional benefits as well: trucks are on the road less often when shipments are booked more efficiently. And when it’s easier to connect trucks with companies that need their services, there is less likelihood of some vehicles returning home with an empty container.

Competition and Consolidation

With nearly 70 percent of all U.S. freight being moved by truck, much of it on short notice, there is certainly a need for any solution that gets cargo where it needs to go in less time and at a lower cost.

In fact, the market is likely big enough for more than one such product. But we are still in the VHS-versus-Betamax phase of industry development, where multiple technologies are competing for dominance. Cargomatic launched in Los Angeles and has since rolled out to New York and San Francisco. Convoy is backed by investors like CEO Marc Benioff. Seven other companies with similar solutions have raised more than $60 million.

Whichever players survive, their impact is likely to be one of consolidation in the trucking industry. Carriers competing for more business may begin merging from small companies to larger players with larger fleets.

Expediting Port Pick-ups

There is also help on the way for shipments originating from marine cargo terminals.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance recently unveiled two new mobile applications to speed the flow of containers through port facilities and along local freight corridors.

DrayQ offers truck drivers real-time information about wait times, so they can choose the best moment to enter a terminal without waiting in traffic. DrayLink connects the drayage community to dispatch, track and record container moves from pickup to delivery, by using Google Analytics and GPS data.

Both apps were created in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Connected Vehicle Freight Advanced Traveler Information System (FRATIS) architecture and StrongPorts initiative. They are now available for free download for both iOS and Android smart phones and tablets.

And yes, there is now even an app that connects truck drivers to available parking spaces. Also available for iOS and Android, Park My Truck was developed by the truck stop industry, and lists spaces at more than 5,000 truck stops and rest areas.