Is the “Gig Economy” Coming to Trucking Workforce?
The “gig economy” trend of employment is growing. People are spending more time looking for freelance or short-term work instead of long term employment with a company. In the trucking industry, gig work technology allows owner-operators to contract freight loads independently of brokers. In many ways, owner-operators have always been gig workers. New technology simply streamlines (and disrupts) the booking process.
Conventional vs. Modern Gig Work in Trucking
Owner-operators have always enjoyed more work freedom than company drivers. They choose their own hours and find the work they want through brokers and posted load boards. Gig work does more than give truckers work schedule flexibility. It allows them to build relationships with higher paying shippers, control their own freight rates, and choose the loads they carry.
While some truckers excel in this independent space, others fall into leasing or trucking company contracts that fail to deliver meaningful value. These owner-operators work hard for a low pay rate and struggle to pay all the overhead costs that come with owning an independent business. Long payment turnaround times and negotiations only complicate conventional driver contract work.
Today, owner-operators have a new way to access freight loads and make money. Uber recently launched Uber Freight as an alternative to conventional contracts. The mobile and user-friendly solution may quickly outpace traditional arrangements and give owner-operators a different way to make money on the road. But, the new app may not offer everything trucking businesses need in terms of logistics.
While new apps offer user-friendliness and flexibility, they don’t offer integrated technologies that carriers, shippers, and owner-operators commonly rely on to manage daily affairs. Many technology-driven brokerages and transportation management software companies offer more robust solutions for shippers and carriers as well as their own mobile app solutions.
How Uber Freight Works
Like other on-demand work platforms, Uber Freight allows owner-operators to sign up with the company using a DOT or MC number. The platform offers support for common carriers and shippers. Once registered with Uber, a driver can download the app and use it to book loads according to location and pricing. Drivers and carriers receive payment within a week. The app currently supports 53’ dry van and reefer trailers, but designers plan to expand freight options in the future.
The solution aims to cut out many of the steps in conventional supply line arrangements for easier booking and faster payments. For drivers, this could mean even greater flexibility on the job. An owner-operator can quickly browse through routes and load prices to find the right work for him or her.
Other Trucking Gig Technology in the Works
Uber is already supporting owner-operators, carriers, and shippers that want to use the service for seamless freight transportation, but other companies may not be far behind. Reports from December 2016 suggest Amazon is creating a similar app to connect truck drivers and shippers. In addition to basic booking functionality, the app may offer truck-stop information and intelligently recommend groups of loads that may improve operator efficiency.
As these and other apps enter the marketplace, the way shippers and drivers arrange freight transportation may significantly change. Along with autonomous trucks, the industry is constantly finding new ways to create shipping efficiencies and lower overhead costs. As the gig economy grows, more owner-operators may increasingly rely on user-friendly booking apps as an alternative to conventional booking and payment processes.