There has been a noticeable spike in interest on digital freight marketplaces over the last few years, which has led to companies in the niche to innovate and expand features to cater better to their clientele. Uber Freight, the freight arm of Uber Technologies Inc. has introduced a new feature called the “fleet mode” which is targeted to enhance the experience of small fleet owners on the platform.
“Everything we have done since we launched a year ago has been around improving the driver experience,” said Eric Berdinis, senior product manager at Uber Freight. “We have heard a lot of feedback from drivers, who have said that they wanted to not only use the app to book load themselves, but wanted a standard business to maybe buy a second truck or third truck. They need Uber Freight to manage the entire fleet and not just the one driver.”
Fleet mode was developed as an extension to the existing app, which allows small fleets to manage multiple trucks all considered under the same fleet. “If you are the owner of the fleet, then when you book a load, you can assign that to one of your drivers. You can also see if they are available and manage the entire business in one app,” said Berdinis.
Xinfeng Le, product manager at Uber Freight weighed in, explaining that users can log into their Uber Freight account, and see a scroll list of their drivers and details regarding each of them. “They can assign loads to their available drivers and then wait for the driver to respond. Once the driver responds, the dispatch will be shipped. In the case where the driver does not take the load, the dispatch will be reassigned,” she said.
Uber Freight understood the relevance of such a feature after observing the fragmentation in the industry. Of the 500,000 trucking fleets that exist in the U.S. today, more than 80% of them have 6 or fewer trucks running for them, making them the primary target audience of Uber Freight. Berdinis insisted on the significance of catering to this segment of the industry and that helping small fleets grow was of prime importance to the company.
True to this, Uber Freight has been continually innovating and introducing features that reduce the hassle of searching and booking loads for fleets. Before the onset of the fleet mode tool, the company launched Uber Freight Plus, a program where users could avail a fuel card, maintenance and truck discounts.
During the development of the fleet mode tool, the company had constant communication with its driver community, tweaking and optimizing the feature to be its best possible version. “Over the last month, we have had a test version of the fleet mode out for a small group of carriers, and they have been able to help us refine the features before we launch it,” said Berdinis.
For Uber Freight, competition in the digital freight marketplace niche does not seem to be a cause for worry. “There aren’t many products or services that unite drivers and carriers to book freight on their own,” said Berdinis. “We might be one of the only ones out there, where you don’t have to call and get details on the load.”
Uber Freight also addresses the late payment problem, by promising carriers their money within a few days after they deliver the load. “Carriers spend a lot of their time in tracking payments and invoices from brokers and shippers. They need cash on hand to keep their business running, and it could take longer than 60 days for payment – this could be the difference between sustained business and going out of business,” said Berdinis.
Berdinis asserted that Uber Freight would continue pushing boundaries to elevate the driver and carrier experience in the industry, by finding creative ways to develop features that their users are asking for. “Unlocking fleets is a big challenge that we are now excited to be embarking on. For a while, the only app users that could really use the product were the independent owner-operators,” he said. “And now that we have a way for fleets to manage their drivers, and so we can take that challenge head-on.”