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Opinion: Would e-retailers buy into an ‘Uber of Trucking’?


During RHA National Lorry Week events were held around the country in celebration of our road haulage industry (19 – 24 September 2016). Richard Newbold (pictured below) looks at the issue of HGVs running empty and sees an opportunity, asking, who will be the Uber of Trucking, and would retailers and ecommerce companies climb on board to make use of on-demand haulage?
National Lorry Week 2016The FTA’s 2016 Logistics Report revealed that over 30% of HGVs on UK roads are running empty, including over a third of HGVs in the capital travelling with nothing more than fresh air. This has raised much concern in the industry as empty running, also know as dead mileage, has a major impact on costs for haulage operators.

If a haulage operator doesn’t have a return load planned or a way to find one when taking on a job they may be forced to increase the price for delivery to cover the cost of returning. This has an impact across the whole supply chain and can result in consumers having to pay more for their goods as the cost is passed on.

The picture is worsened when we consider that 22% of all UK surface transport emissions are produced solely by HGVs.

The result of nearly a third of HGVs driving empty?

  • More emissions damaging the environment
  • More fuel wasted increasing prices
  • Higher costs for haulage operators which get passed along to consumers
  • More congestion as more HGVs on the road than are needed

People are looking towards technology as a possible solution to the problem, many asking the question ‘’Who will be the Uber of trucking?’’.

Uber as we know have revolutionized people transport by connecting drivers and passengers with their smartphone app. If someone needs a taxi they use the app to request one and the nearest available Uber driver will get notified.

Uber has improved the efficiency of people transport by connecting passengers to the nearest available taxi rather than passengers calling for a random taxi which may not be the nearest one.

People are now looking at Uber to see whether the same kind of technology can be used in the haulage industry.

A solution is needed now more than ever, especially in the wake of a HGV driver shortage across the country. Figures show the industry is currently 60,000 HGV drivers short and it is predicted that by 2020 there will be a shortfall of 150,000 drivers.

Even empty trucks need a driver, if the industry could work more efficiently to cut down the dead mileage there would be less HGVs on the road and the driver shortage would have less of an impact.

Key contributors in the industry have been searching for a solution, questioning why there is not an “Uber” for trucking. Something that connects haulage operators with empty vehicles to the companies that need their goods delivered, working in a similar way to how Uber works for taxis.

Isn’t the solution that everyone is looking for already here? Doesn’t the Uber of trucking already exist?

Some would argue that the Uber of trucking does already exist and has been evolving under the radar for many years.

Putting empty vehicles to better use

The modern freight exchange platform uses technology to connect haulage operators with empty vehicles to companies with goods that need delivering.

In the early years freight exchanges were nothing more than load boards for hauliers to find extra work but as technology has advance so has the freight exchange.

In a similar way to Uber a freight exchange will automatically alert a haulage operator when a load is added that matches their requirements. It also works the other way around and alerts the supplier when a vehicle is available that could deliver their goods.

Freight exchanges have come a long way and can now seamlessly integrate into transport management systems and telematic systems making the whole process of filling empty vehicles and subcontracting out delivery work quicker and easier.

If more haulage operators were to use freight exchanges we would see a huge reduction in empty running.

The key is visibility, a freight exchange can show you where all the available loads are across the country in relation to your fleet.

In 2015 freight exchange reduced the amount of empty miles travelled in the UK by 251 million miles, resulting in a saving of over 381,000 tonnes of CO2. These figures are from under 2,000 users and only begin to scratch the surface of the potential savings.

Imagine every haulage operator using a freight exchange where suppliers could match their loads with empty HGVs. This would reduce costs to the operator as they wouldn’t be running empty, these cost savings would be passed down the supply chain to the consumer helping give the economy a boost.

The reduction in emissions would go a long way in helping the government reach their 2050 Co2 reduction targets.

The freight exchange is designed to help the haulage industry become more efficient and more companies need to be encouraged to use them.

Richard Newbold is Managing Partner of, the UK’s leading road haulage marketplace.

Photo Credits:

  • Main image – RHA (Road Haulage Association)

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