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The “Virtual” Freight Broker has come to the Transportation Industry

This is the fourth in a series of blogs on Technology in Transportation. The three previous articles appeared in 2013 (http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/quotemytruckloadcom-and-freightopolis-enter-the-automated-freight-brokeragefreight-portal-space, http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/innovation-and-technology-come-to-the-freight-brokerage-industry, http://www.dantranscon.com/index.php/blog/entry/freightsnap--an-exciting-new-visual-tool-to-verify-the-density-of-ltl-freight) and featured 5 interesting companies, FreightSnap, Freightopolis, QuoteMyTruckload, BuyTruckload and Post.Bid.Ship. In this piece, I will examine two other innovative freight transportation companies, Zipments (https://www.zipments.com/) and DashHaul (https://www.dashhaul.com/) that are using technology to transform their segments of the freight industry.

Walmart, Amazon, and Google, among others, are piloting same-day delivery projects in select locations around the country that have enough density and demand to drive the value proposition. However, obstacles persist, and success is contingent on critical mass. Expedited transportation is costly, and last-mile capacity is likely to become even more constrained as e-commerce grows. Moving small volumes over short distances at high speed is a significant challenge.

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Zipments aggregates courier capacity—whether it's a truck, van, or bicycle messenger—in effect, creating capacity that didn't exist before, especially in urban areas. This New York City-based technology company has evolved into a “virtual freight broker for local and regional courier services”. The company serves four types of customers: retail, professional services, consumers, and restaurants. Many startups in the same-day delivery space are searching for capacity to provide consumers with the fastest delivery possible. That's not the case for Zipments that is focused on tapping into latent capacity. So whether it's auto part milk runs, florist delivery vans, or bicycle messengers, there's a huge nationwide fleet of available but untapped capacity. Zipments tries to work with fleet managers to help them better utilize their assets and serve other sectors.

The business is segmented both in terms of the markets it serves and the modes of transportation. Metro delivery is anything less than 10 miles, local deliveries extend out to 20 miles, suburban deliveries reach 30 to 50 miles and regional deliveries would represent going from New York City to Philadelphia or Montreal to Toronto. Zipments doesn’t do many regional deliveries yet, but as their network grows, they expect that segment to expand. There is capacity for regional deliveries; people are passing through these corridors every day.

Zipments expects to support omni-channel initiatives. When it comes to retail, those initiatives generally fall into two categories. First are the small, local retailers that want to have a brick-and-mortar presence close to demand. But they also want to develop online tools and fulfillment that match Amazon. The second omni-channel initiative comprises big-box retailers that focus more on the overall presentation of the service. The company claims that it is “revolutionizing local deliveries and liberating consumers and businesses from traditional dispatch and time constrained services. With Zipments, you can log on, have your courier pick up your package and confirm when it’s safely delivered. What’s more, you can choose the location and time that suits you best.” Zipments lets you call or text your courier directly. The Zipments app can be downloaded from their website.

DashHaul is seeking to transform the way company’s ship and transport full truckload freight. Using a web app, it tries to seamlessly connect shippers and brokers to a location-based network of truck drivers, thereby making truck capacity more accessible. DashHaul strives “to bring shippers, brokers and carriers closer together in an effort to create a transparent and disruption free truckload supply chain”.

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By way of comparison, Dash Haul asks you to think of “Uber” and the network of cab/private drivers they created for consumers. Uber allows consumers to dispatch cabs to themselves on demand. DashHaul is similar, but their network is made up of independent truck drivers and consumers that are shipping companies and freight brokers that need trucks to move their shipments. DashHaul gives shippers and brokers the ability to dispatch trucks to the pick-up location of their shipments, on demand. The entire truckload shipping process for shippers/brokers is automated online. When they have a shipment to move, they can look for trucks, get rates, qualify the carriers, book the trucks, make the payments, print out shipping documents and track their shipments from the dashboard on dashhaul.com.

The same goes for truck drivers. The company claims that it is difficult and inefficient to call for loads, get calls, negotiate rates and send paperwork from the road. Dash Haul has streamlined the entire process. Truckers can check the location of their trucks in the DashHaul Grid and “if a truck matches the location and truck type required, then they will receive a notification ping. From there they will be able to view all of the load details and either accept or reject the offer.” In the near future they plan to roll out an iphone dispatching tool to each truck user in the DashHaul Network. Each user will receive an iPhone that will have the DashHaul app and other beneficial apps like maps and weather pre-downloaded on it. The app will act as a personal dispatching tool or “virtual broker” which will allow the user to accept a load and be on their way with a few clicks on the phone or tablet. The Dash Haul mobile app will be available in 2 to 3 months’ time.

Technology continues to drive changes in the freight transportation industry in 2014. The “virtual” freight broker has arrived.

 

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