After three years of expanding as an app that connects truck drivers with available commercial trucking jobs, Uber Freight is evolving from simply a logistics platform into an enterprise SaaS vendor. The trucking division of Uber on Tuesday is rolling out two new products, one of which is Uber Freight Link -- a SaaS platform that helps shippers manage their drivers and carriers, regardless of whether those drivers are part of the Uber Freight network.
Uber Freight now has more than 70,000 trucking companies on its network, which have access to more than 700,000 truck drivers. Still, Uber Freight can't always fulfill an organization's shipping needs.
"If I'm a shipper... maybe Uber Freight doesn't have coverage in a specific location, or maybe
I have a long-term relationship with other trucking companies and want to do business directly with them," Lior Ron, head of Uber Freight, explained to ZDNet.
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Trucking companies that aren't part of the Uber Freight network, he continued, are "a bit left behind... They don't have access to the innovation in the app -- the end-to-end digital management of a shipment, from pricing to booking, to checking into a warehouse and invoicing-- all of the stuff that our digital platform allows you to do."
Uber Freight Link effectively brings the capabilities and services available via the Uber Freight app to a software platform that can manage all carriers.
"Link extends us from a pure logistics player to also offering SaaS services on top," Ron said. "That's an important moment for us, where we can leverage all the technology we've built to offer that to customers that are not necessarily using the Uber Freight network."
The transition from logistics into SaaS technology fits in with the larger Uber agenda, Ron added. Earlier this year, Uber began offering the technology that powers its ride-hailing platform as a service to public transit agencies.
In addition to rolling out Uber Freight Link, the business on Tuesday is introducing Uber Freight Enterprise -- a product that gives shippers more control over their shipment plans, as well as the ability to manage hundreds or thousands of shipments a week.
For instance, shippers can control variables such as the pricing for different shipments -- if a shipment is critical, they can offer to pay more. By the same token, they can pay less for shipments that are low-priority.
The platform also gives shippers visibility and insights into warehouse facilities. Uber Freight drivers can already leave ratings and reviews for facilities, and with Uber Freight Enterprise, an organization can collect and analyze that data for a better understanding of how their supply chain operates.
Uber Freight Enterprise also offers a robust UI that makes it easier to manage hundreds of shipments a day versus just a few. While the new offering is geared toward the enterprise, Ron noted that Uber Freight is already attracting large customers -- more than 100 of its customers are part of the Fortune 500. Large organizations typically use APIs to streamline their transportation management, connecting Uber Freight with other enterprise software systems.
The new product, Ron said, will "allow existing customers to manage their network better, to save money and reduce costs in logistics."
Ron contended that Uber Freight's offerings have only become more compelling since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For one thing, managing supply chain and logistics networks became all the more important when the pandemic quickly and dramatically upended consumer consumption habits. At the same time, the availability of truckers shrunk -- contradicting the basic rules of supply and demand.
Uber Freight was one of the bright spots in Uber's most recent earnings report, published last month. Uber's overall revenue fell 29%, but Freight revenue was up 27%.
"There's been a lot of disruption, and technology will help by offering visibility and transparency," Ron said.