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Transportation & Logistics
Monday | 13 April, 2020 | 11:40 am

The truck stops here

Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: Matthew Kane interviewed hundreds of drivers, loaders and shipping clerks to find out what they needed most.

Broker-free booking of loads attracts shippers and drivers

“If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk,” said British Army Lt. Gen. Robert Baden-Powell, who was also a writer and launched the Boy Scout Movement in 1910.

After selling a successful publishing business, Matthew Kane was at a crossroads at age 40, and he was not ready to retire. He met a group of truck drivers at a veterans’ fundraiser in Washington, D.C., who told him about the difficulties they faced in the industry, from being at the mercy of freight brokers to insurance costs.

“I wanted to know more, so I packed an overnight bag and drove 44 states for eight and a half months, purchased thousands of buffet dinners and coffees at truck stops.”

Besides talking to drivers, he visited industrial parks. “I would jump up on loading docks and get perspectives from loaders and shipping clerks,” which added to his education.

“The more I heard, I got excited. I came home and took several thousands of pages of notes, finding common themes,” says Kane. That’s when he came up with the idea of creating a digital platform on which shippers could book loads without a freight broker, and drivers could accept loads, and all the information and payment details could be worked out rapidly.

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The top screen (above) indicates the pickup and dropoff points, the mileage between the points and an estimated driving time. The second screen (below) shows users the addresses of the pickup and delivery locations.

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Try, try again

“We had early failures. The first three companies I hired to develop the program could not get it done. I spent an ungodly amount of money to get nowhere.”

Kane again studied his notes of conversations with “thousands of women and men drivers. I made a lot of friends out there. Whether they owned a fleet or were a single owner-operator, the drivers felt powerless. I told them I would fix it. I made a promise, shook their hands and kept their phone numbers.

“A friend who was in tech introduced me to the developers I have now. They built out this platform,” which Kane calls RiteLoad. It has become a success. “We have everyone from independent operators all the way to the single largest trucking company in the country, Swift Transportation Co. Our capacity and the number of drivers [signed up] is growing like crazy and shippers are noticing what we built.”

How it works

RiteLoad invites shippers and carriers to sign up in the platform. All carriers and drivers are vetted. “We make sure their CSA scores are good, they have insurance and they are approved.”

According to Kane, “It is ridiculously easy. That’s what cost the most time and money—to make it so easy. Tech guys tend to make things complicated and don’t always think about user experience. We wanted to go from eight clicks to one or two. They would come back with five clicks and I would say, ‘One or two!’”

On the other side of the transaction, shippers input the location of the pickup, information about the load (weight and dimensions, what the commodity is, any special handling, whether it must have tarpaulin covering, how much the shipper is willing to pay in freight costs). From there, RiteLoad calculates estimated mileage. The load is posted and is visible to “tens of thousands of drivers in our system,” Kane says.

“Drivers can determine what they will earn per mile or accept only loads that start within, say, 50 miles of Des Moines and takes them to Florida.

“They can accept the load and take the information. The driver gets city, state and zip code, and that is enough to make an intelligent decision. They click on select load, and now the shipper can, for the first time—instead of a broker sending the cheapest price carrier—be more selective and find a carrier that meets their own criteria.”

Say five carriers respond to the posting. In 30 to 35 seconds, the shipper can tell which carrier is the best match. The shipper clicks one button and sends their contract to the carrier. The driver can sign with their finger on a smartphone. “All that—finding, accepting, signing—can happen in 2.5 minutes,” says Kane.

On the driver’s phone, a button pops up to start the load, and RiteLoad tracks the load with updates every 60 seconds.

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A flatbed trailer has been loaded with large-diameter pipe.

Transparency

Before using RiteLoad, shippers were often working blind, says Kane, not knowing when a scheduled truck would arrive. What commonly happens is if the shipper’s customer calls the shipper to ask, Where is the truck? The shipper calls the carrier and the carrier calls the driver to ask, Hey, where are you? And the same chain then goes backward.

With the visibility offered by RiteLoad, “the shipper knows that the truck scheduled for 8 is running late, but the 9 o’clock truck is early so they can keep loading and unloading.” Instead of a chain of phone calls, estimated arrival time is just a button: “3:30 today. Question answered,” Kane says.

Another issue is paperwork, which is easy to misplace. With RiteLoad, when a truck is unloaded at the receiver, the receiver signs his name on the phone, and there is a time and date stamp. Then mobile app takes a picture of the signature and the receiver gets its bill of lading. “It is uploaded instantaneously and the shipper has all the information to accurately bill the customer, even before the carrier has left the loading dock.”

At the same time, when the driver selects quick pay, the shipper can pay the carrier within 48 hours. “Our system creates a bill and invoice on the shipper’s behalf and on behalf of the carrier, and it’s all done instantaneously,” Kane says.

Flat rate

RiteLoad has removed the freight broker from the equation because the contract is bilateral, between the shipper and carrier. Although this has been desired for decades, it was never done, Kane says.

Math never lies, he continues. Most shippers pay a middleman, the broker, for the convenience of using the broker to find a truck and driver. Posting loads on RiteLoad is free for the shipper. “The carriers pay RiteLoad a flat fee for each connection. There is no cost to download the app; there are no access fees. The only cost is $27.00 for the carrier per contracted load with a shipper.”

Shippers are programmed to believe they cannot move loads without a broker but the RiteLoad concept is “incredibly simple to understand and incredibly simple to use,” which is why the company keeps signing up customers.

“Shippers can automatically tender loads by first-come, first-serve because they trust the pool of carriers, and they can identify certain preferred carriers. The key is transparency.” In many cases, the freight industry is “polluted” with deception: “‘Oh sure, the truck will be there in an hour—and it’s really four hours out. That’s all eradicated. The carrier knows what they are paying and what they are supposed to do,” Kane says.

On the driver side, there is greater accountability by using RiteLoad, he says. “You cannot get away with deception with our platform. It pushes drivers to do the right thing, and they are making more money by not using a broker who takes a double-digit percentage off the top. They are trying to exceed expectations so the shipper selects them again for a future load.”

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Once a driver commits to become the carrier for a particular load, the shipper’s address is immediately shared. Constant updates allow the receiver to be able to anticipate delivery times.

White-glove service

One of the features RiteLoad has is white-glove service. “If you ordered 24 pallets of green widgets and we received 22 pallets of green and two of orange, we will have a service that will solve that differentials,” says Kane.

He estimates that 4 to 7 percent of loads have issues. “The issues we will address are in that range. If you are doing 10,000 loads daily, that’s 700 problems every day,” problems that RiteLoad will resolve for the shipper.

For sales, customer service and tech assistance, he expects to hire at least 1,500 people to provide 24/7 access to RiteLoad. “The lights will never shut off.” At $15 per load, RiteLoad can “assist the shipper through rings of fire and any other hurdles.”

Kane supports veterans; he is a board member for an organization, TruckForVets.org. “We raise money to put a veteran through driving school at no cost, house them, feed them and help them get their CDL license.”

More generally, by eliminating brokers’ fees, drivers can earn quite a bit more money per load, and that “gives them an opportunity to go home more often and see their families. They can make a respectable wage and not strain all the time.”

Truck drivers, says Kane, deal with traffic all day. “As a consolation prize at the end of a 14-hour shift, they get to move into an 8-by-8 box in the back of the cab and sleep in it. They miss their spouses and children; they miss big events.

“Then there are the brokers, taking 20, 25 to 30 percent off the top. The drivers just want to drive a truck. I am proud to have helped them.” MM

PHOTO: http://alanblakely.com/

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