After an Uber Volvo SUV in self-driving mode took the life of a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona on March, 18, the company has been facing a lot of scrutiny.
Business partners, politicians, and even the company’s own executives have all been reacting to the tragedy by distancing themselves from the company and/or demanding answers.
With tests of driverless vehicles currently suspended until further notice, the company may shift their efforts to focusing on other areas of the business. Already a giant in the ride-hailing sector, they’ve also made waves in another area of transportation – freight transportation to be exact.
The Uber Freight app is designed to making booking loads as easy as getting an Uber driver for public transport. By uniting the fragmented trucking market and helping small carriers and independent drivers find shippers (and vice versa) the app has shown great potential to decentralize and improve trucking.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, either. Trucking is seeing skyrocketing levels of demand, but rosters are slim. The industry needs to make use of all its resources, and this could mean finding a new way to build networks.
But Uber’s platform is more than just a matching service. It’s now being enhanced with a perk system, known as Uber Freight Plus. This will offer truckers special rewards if they continuously use the service.
A cross between a tiered perk-program and a loyalty system, it offers cards to help drivers save on fuel costs at participating stations. Also at partner organizations, the cards can help drivers save on Goodyear tires.
The cards are also good at Navistar freight centers, even for trucks made by different brands. The card can cover a part of the price for parts and maintenance and can even be used for discounts on phone plans.
Cash cards and employee allowance systems are big in the trucking industry. With drivers often forced to shoulder part of or all the cost of keeping up their rig on the road, they can watch such expenses eat through their paycheck quickly. But with Uber’s system, anyone who uses the app consistently will be able to recoup a lot of their costs.
This is especially helpful given who the app is primarily targeted towards. Smaller carriers and owner-operators are often hit the hardest by costs, with the latter having no company to turn to in most cases. Making it easier for the smaller trucker to succeed is vital for the industry’s future.
Eric Berdinis, senior product manager for the app, says the features are designed to make building businesses around the app much easier. Beyond simply viewing it as a standalone tool, they view it was a system that could help level the playing field and serve as a foundation for strong performance among the nation’s smaller carriers.
He also said the discounts they’d negotiated could even beat out those offered by larger trucking companies, and confirmed the discounts wouldn’t be a temporary perk, but rather an ongoing part of the app.