Trucking is one of the most popular industries in the U.S. Not only is it America’s preferred method of freight transportation, but it is a large source of jobs in all 50 states.
Even the mere mention of truck drivers brings to mind images of frontiersmen from previous centuries – braving uncharted territory on wheels and blazing a path that numerous others behind them can then follow.
But just because trucking is a powerful industry and a crucial cornerstone of the American economy doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems. And one of the main issues the industry faces deals with its own fragmentation. Smaller carriers and independent operators can’t always get matched up to a shipper that needs available capacity. And when they can’t, it often leads to wasted time and wasted money.
The smaller players in trucking have to rely on brokers just like the major carriers do. But rather than going through established brokerage companies, these small companies and independent drivers rely on voice brokers. Such brokers simply call up warehouses and see if there’s anything they can carry at the moment. But in many cases, often about a quarter of the time, trucks end up making the trip carrying little or nothing.
But now trucking companies of all sizes are beginning to turn toward apps that let them see what is available to carry at various locations ahead of time – thus allowing them to drastically cut back on waste. And major companies in the U.S. are beginning to see the potential of such systems – and not just trucking companies, either. Investment groups are getting involved, and this could help skyrocket the use of tech-based trucking platforms that match drivers up with shippers in the most efficient manner possible.
Alphabet’s investment arm, CapitalG, just put $185 million into Convoy. This tech-based trucking network allows shippers and trucking companies to connect, thus removing the broker from the equation and cutting out a cumbersome step of the standard shipping process. It represents a big step forward in trucking in terms of efficiency and could be just what the field needs to put the industry back on track.
Alphabet has already invested into their own autonomous driving solution, Waymo, which has already made plenty of deliveries around the U.S. With other major tech players like Tesla and Uber investing in trucking, it is clear that trucking is being viewed as a potential goldmine where technology could spur an influx of progress.
Convoy CEO Dan Lewis said: “A lot of the people in Silicon Valley are talking about automated driving as the biggest change in transportation. If you look at the opportunity now, it’s really about efficiency in the networks and efficiency in the brokerage process.”
Trucking has always been about networking. Regional and district shipping networks mean continuous business and stability for trucking companies. Taking the broker out of the equation, at least in the traditional sense, doesn’t break this network – it simplifies it.