They’re calling it the “Uberization of trucking.” In a nod to Uber, the company that’s currently disrupting the cab market, trucking may soon be cutting out their own middle man.
The “Uberization” of trucking essentially describes how new entrants into the market are using tech platforms as digital truck brokers. By using automation, scale and data transparency, there’s new ways to deliver opportunities to buyers and sellers.
Brokers Aren’t the Enemy
There are some companies who are saying they actively want to eliminate brokers from the supply chain, while others simply want to optimize the experience. For independent-full-truckload drivers, this might garner some attention.
Perhaps portraying brokers as the bogeymen is taking the easy way out. It’s worth mentioning that many of the start-ups that want to eliminate brokers are federally registered brokers themselves. As long as they can deliver on their freight and carrier capacity promise, the technological aspect might not need to set them apart.
In truckload, established players are beginning to capitalize on technology to improve their efficiency and freight transactions. Also, longtime proponents of owner-operator load matching are making big pushes to optimize load board systems for multiple fronts.
The pushes are coming in the area of on-demand data availability, real-time rate information, and usable marketing opportunities. Even so, some parts of the truckload world are still living in the pre-internet era. Some are saying that far too much is still happening on paper or on the phone.
Automation Isn’t the Only Answer
For many, automation is great for speed, but not always great for the bottom line. The ability for two parties to negotiate price is crucial to ensuring profitability isn’t hurt.
One area where a hybridization of both methods is being highlighted is in services provided by independent dispatchers. In today’s negotiation-heavy spot market, these services are widely used by owner-operators.
Due to the complicated nature of truckload matching, quite often people find that it’s still easier to work with a dispatcher, even if there’s a fee involved. The problem lies in many brokers not having a mobile strategy.
Whether automation is or isn’t the answer, the entire industry will need to shift to the new technological economy. In some cases the load board response might not be a phone call, but instead a text message inviting you to download the broker’s app.
There’s an App for That
As companies look for more ways to innovate and provide a compelling reason for truckers to utilize their services, many are turning to smartphone apps as a way to do the same job in a better way.
Some outfits are offering native smartphone apps whose controls are integrated into whatever transportation management system that broker uses. They are able to push the load or tender info out to the driver from within the app. The driver then can choose whether to accept the information and put it into their pending queue.
For transmission, the smartphone app is used to take pictures and deliver document images back to the broker for proof of delivery. In some cases brokers utilize scan engine technology to clean up and enhance lower quality photos. Many apps also offer two-way messaging within the app for situations where real-time communications and negotiations are required.
Trucking’s Big Tent
In the end, as technology continues to disrupt industries and change the way we do business, brokers, apps, truck drivers and carriers will all need to co-exist in a way that’s beneficial for all. An ideal world would have technology companies creating apps that allow carriers to do business with the brokers they already have relationships with.
Considering there’s an immense variety and wide degrees of specialization in trucking, one ubiquitous technological solution is still far off. The needs of shippers and carriers will evolve with technological solutions and absorb them into current processes. Efficiency can be increased without eliminating the need for already established brokers and partners.