Last year, Uber's interest in the shipping and trucking industry started to take shape with the (now controversial) purchase of Otto. A few months later, reports started swirling that Uber would be creating a platform to connect drivers with cargo in the same way it currently connects drivers with passengers. That service, simply called Uber Freight, officially launched this week.
Like Uber did for the cab industry, Uber Freight is meant to upend and streamline the currently arduous process that goes into packing a truck for shipment. Currently truck drivers rely on a broker or other service to negotiate rates and book cargo. In Uber Freight, drivers that are vetted and approved by the service can find cargo nearby, along with the shipping distance and payment info. Drivers simply tap to accept the job and navigate to the pickup. The company also promises to eliminate payment headaches, by paying "within a few days, fee free" rather than the usual billing cycles that can be 30 days or more. Drivers can also get compensated for layovers or time spent waiting to load shipments.
While Uber is positioning this as a win for truckers and small business owners, their real competition will come from Amazon. The online retail giant is developing its own trucking app to help eliminate the costs associated with third party freight brokers. As a major shipper, Amazon is also working on oceanic freight and optimizing air cargo loads to keep costs down. Uber, meanwhile, will eventually try to eliminate drivers altogether. That reality could still be years away, but Otto's self-driving truck has already made an autonomous beer run in Colorado, even though the company claims their LiDAR system still needs some work.
In the meantime, drivers can download the Uber Freight app for Android and iOS.