Freight transportation experts Armstrong & Associates recently surveyed 27 companies said to provide “Uber for Trucking” solutions and found that none of them actually do so.
The researchers conclude that “Digital Freight Matching” (DFM) is a much more apt description of the services these firms offer, even those who describe themselves or are characterized by the media as Uber for Trucking.
“The principle is simple: DFM companies use digital platforms to match a shipper’s freight with available carrier capacity,” Armstrong observes. “The goal is to better utilize motor carrier capacity by offering a convenient, digital app to connect shippers and carriers.”
The DFM sector has attracted over $180 million in venture capital investment since 2011, including $67 million in 2016 alone. The need for these services is real, Armstrong points out.
“The numbers are compelling,” the researchers say. The U.S. trucking market is valued at $700.3 billion. Estimates of empty miles range from 10-23% while ecommerce fulfillment costs rise.
“The natural response is to improve inefficiencies in the trucking industry with an Uber-like solution,” Armstrong admits. “After all, Uber addresses a similar problem (underutilized capacity in taxis) with a similar solution (a mobile app matching demand and supply).”
Trucking differs from ride-sharing in that Uber provides a commodity service, while trucking does not. Trucking requires specialized equipment, intermodal, shipments, and deals with service issues, including equipment breakdowns.
Many DFM providers reject the term Uber for Trucking. Instead, their apps incorporate technologies in novel ways, accounting for the complexities and nuances of the trucking industry.
By leaving Uber for Trucking behind, Armstrong hopes DFMs will focus on technologies and business models to help the industry move forward.