The real gorilla in the trucking business room

08/03/2018
John Bendel talks on trucking business uberization

On its Google listing, doft.com calls itself 'The First Real Uber for Trucks.'

They're about a dozen startups too late for that claim. App-based services for drivers have been rolling out for three years now fueled by tech investors. They all bill themselves as Ubers for trucking.

Doft is even late calling itself the 'real' Uber for trucking because Uber Freight, the real, 'real' Uber for trucking, is already signing up drivers at its website, freight.uber.com.

In fact, Uber was meeting (and signing up) drivers at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium lot in Louisville during the Mid-America Trucking Show last week.

Now back to Doft. On its website which warns 'no brokers allowed!' Doft promises more freight, reduced empty miles, and payment within 24 hours. On-demand technology, Doft says, "works to disrupt the old trucking industry."

Maybe so. But disruption is more likely to come from real Uber Freight. However, Uber Freight may not have the impact some - especially brokers - fear. It appears the brokers will be around for a while.

Writing in the Logistics Journal, Tom Hein, CEO of broker software company Aljex, said, "Now along comes Uber, with not millions to spend, but billions to spend - and if necessary lose - to market share."

Trucking can benefit from technology, Heine acknowledges. But trucking technology is already far ahead of the taxi business Uber has decimated.

Taxi 'technology' consisted of a light on a cab's roof or a call to a dispatcher and hadn't changed in 60 years, Heine said. "The taxi business model was ripe for a makeover."

Trucking technology, on the other hand, has been evolving for more than 30 years.

Heine points out that uShip brought an app to trucking 10 years ago. "They were very successful, but they did not change the market," he wrote.

Uber Freight will be 'wildly successful' if they take 10 percent of the market, Heine said. That would make them roughly the size of the largest 3PL/broker, C.H. Robinson.

The immense size of the freight market has room for Uber Freight and for Doft, too, it would seem. But Doft has a steeper uphill climb. Besides Uber Freight, Doft is competing against all the other app-based newcomers like Trucker Path, Convoy, Transfix and others.

They all have to worry about the business gorilla much bigger than Uber: Amazon. According to rumor, the web-based retail monster will become a broker as well. An Amazon brokerage could be as big as C.H. Robinson from the start.

By John Bendel

John Bendel is Land Line freelancer and editor-at-large. A trucker for 10 years, he has been a trucking journalist for more than 14. His inimitable insight and matchless style of writing makes his series in Land Line "Gizmos and Gears" a runaway reader favorite.

Source: TANDEM Thoughts