In 2017, Uber launched an app called Uber Freight. The purpose? To match up truck drivers with freight-hauling assignments, in the same way the company was already matching up car-drivers with passengers in need of a ride.
Uber Freight originally launched only in Texas. The service has since expanded to all of the lower 48 states.
But now in 2018, Uber has a problem. Not enough drivers are using their service.
Tackling The Driver Shortage
Uber Freight isn’t the only company facing a shortage of truck drivers. Since 2010 the demand for qualified drivers has steadily increased, and at a time when many drivers are reaching retirement age and leaving the industry.
That’s why Uber Freight has now launched an incentive program to attract more drivers to its platform. It includes discounts on tires, fuel, maintenance, and the purchase of new and used vehicles. Uber Freight negotiated agreements with various service providers in order to offer these incentives to drivers.
In order to be eligible for these discounts, drivers must book at least one load per month using the service.
Uber Freight also touts its app as a way for drivers to get paid more quickly – in just a few days, versus a typical wait closer to 30 days.
The Future of Uber Freight
Not only is Uber Freight trying to recruit more drivers. Their long-term plan is to team those drivers up with a fleet of self-driving trucks.
Because self-driving trucks currently can only operate on highways and not in cities, Uber wants drivers to first pick up goods from a shipper and move them to a “transfer hub.” Drivers will then hand the load off to a self-driving truck for the highway portion of the trip. At a second transfer point, the self-driving truck’s load will again be passed off to a driver, who will transport the cargo to its final destination.
Last month, the company started testing this plan in Arizona. Every self-driving truck will have a safety driver and a member of Uber’s ATG (Advanced Technologies Group) team sitting in the cab as the vehicles move freight via highways.
Uber Freight’s ultimate goal is to attract even more drivers to its platform, and the use of self-driving trucks is part of that plan. The company’s reasoning is that short-haul trips between shippers, transfer hubs, and final delivery will entice more people to choose commercial driving as a career.
(Long-haul truck drivers most often cite the amount of time they have to spend away from home as the reason they want to leave the industry altogether.)
“The bigger question for us is how do we make sure we get a younger generation interested in this?” said Alden Woodrow, Uber’s self-driving truck project lead.
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