Uber Technologies Inc.'s freight brokerage division, UberFreight, today launched a free software platform for shippers that provides access to its network of carriers with real-time rates and a direct connection to freight capacity providers, the firm said in a blog post.
The Uber Freight for Shippers platform offers rate quoting, load building, load tracking, and document management, Uber Freight Product Manager Stefan Sohlstrom said in an interview.
The move follows Uber's announcement Aug. 8 that it would operate the Uber Freight division as a standalone business unit and increase the parent company's investment in that unit. Uber declined to share details at the time about the amount or target of its investment.
Uber Freight now says it is initially launching the Uber Freight for Shippers platform to support business on 53-foot, dry van, full-truckload shipments, and intends to expand it to additional modes in the future, according to Sohlstrom.
By giving it away for free, the firm is targeting this platform toward the lower end of the market, where the majority of mid-market and small-and-medium size shippers rely on a collection of spreadsheets, email, and phone calls instead of a central software system for booking freight, Sohlstrom said. "Most of our external product focus has been on the carrier side, with an app to build up our carrier network," said Sohlstrom. "But we've also been meeting with shippers to learn how they ship, and what their pain points are. For example, they really dislike when brokers tell them one quote but a couple hours later, they say it is no longer available."
Uber Freight acknowledged that there are number of other freight-matching products on the market for linking shippers and carriers directly, but said its version will support more granular visibility than comparable platforms because it will leverage its connection to UberFreight's existing carrier network to create a tighter integration between the shipper and carrier segments.
That visibility will let shippers track loads with global positioning system (GPS) data and view time stamps from every event along the load's trip, instead of relying on carriers or brokers to share that information, the company said. "Usually shippers put their hard work on a pallet, then close the [truck] doors and basically say goodbye to it and don't know it has arrived until their client tells them," Sohlstrom said.
Asked whether launching an Uber for Shippers platform wouldn't take business away from Uber Freight's brokerage operations by putting shippers directly in touch with carriers, the company said that both products were part of a larger scheme. "The shipper platform won't take anything away from the rest of the business, it's simply another part of the Uber Freight ecosystem that helps us seamlessly connect the best drivers with the best loads," the company said in an email statement. "Uber Freight is essentially building 'Uber for Trucking,' which means improving all sides of the industry—including our carrier app and shipper platform together."
By building its new platform in close collaboration with shippers, Uber Freight says the product will use technology to help transform a process that would typically take shippers hours to complete and often leave them in the dark on market prices and whether they were getting the right carrier.