Trucking Group: Apps Cool, But Safety Still Comes First
Uber and Yelp-like apps for truckers are growing in popularity, but the industry's primary association is not entirely on board.
Apps such as Trucker Path and Cargomatic are sweeping the trucking world, and just as Waze and Uber are taking a significant share of the passenger-vehicle market, these innovations hold the potential to transform the industry.
However, American Trucking Associations (ATA)—which represents a $700.4 billion industry with 3.4 million drivers—has somewhat mixed reviews of these new platforms. While it supports the innovation behind these services, the trade association wants to ensure that the safety of both truckers and other drivers on the road stays top of mind.
Not Your Dad’s CB Radio
With its rolling strength as an industry, these apps can only advance and excite truckers.
The Trucker Path app, for example, is something of a trucking-specific Yelp. The app, which has 300,000 monthly active users, offers crowdsourced reviews of rest areas, truck stops, and weigh stations.
Another app in the space, Cargomatic, can be likened to an Uber for cargo shipping. The app allows truck drivers to see listed local shipments, as well as whether they have enough room for them in their vehicle.
Drivewyze, meanwhile, lets drivers skip weigh stations and inspection stops legally, by way of a partnership with 35 state agencies for commercial vehicles. And PrePass also lets truckers bypass the same detours as Drivewyze does, but through an electronic device.
These apps are gaining financial momentum, too. Trucker Path, for example, raised $20 million in a venture capital funding round in June and plans to launch a marketplace-style offering in the late summer or fall, Fortune Magazine reports.
The benefits of such apps could be significant for small truck companies, which make up the lion’s share of the industry. There are 350,000 independent owner-operators in the industry, according to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Further, a whopping 90 percent of the industry’s businesses are small, only holding ten or less trucks.
Safety in the Front Seat
ATA is supportive of this new wave of trucking apps, albeit “very cautiously.”
“At the end of the day, our main concern is distracted driving,” Ted Scott, director of engineering at ATA, said to CNBC. The association prefers voice-controlled apps that will help truckers find freight that needs moving.
“The problem isn’t if an app on a cellphone is touch free. It’s about eyeballs, where the driver’s eyes are,” Scott stressed, adding that the ultimate goal is safety.
“The rule is simple, stay off the phone when you’re driving,” Scott said.
The popular Trucker Path app. (Handout photo)