Edge Logistics, a Chicago-based truckload freight brokerage, announced Wednesday morning that the mobile version of its digital freight-matching platform CAPACITY was now live in Apple’s App Store and available for download.
Edge officially launched CAPACITY in January after developing its Preferred Lane matching algorithms and web portal in a collaboration with LeanTech, which provided a dedicated technology team based in Medellín, Colombia.
The CAPACITY platform is an important example of a smaller brokerage successfully developing and scaling its own technology platform. Edge President William Kerr said his team had onboarded and verified more than 8,000 carriers onto the platform and that, so far, CAPACITY had been used to move 15,000 truckloads representing 40% of Edge’s year-to-date volume and $8.5 million, or 30%, of Edge’s year-to-date gross revenue.
CAPACITY is an important example of how cloud technology and near-shored developer teams have lowered the barrier to building proprietary technology with a sleek, intuitive user experience. Largely automated, semi-private freight marketplaces will continue driving broker productivity — CAPACITY already has at Edge — by removing the noise and friction of spot market load boards.
Edge moves most of its freight with small and midsize fleets, not owner-operators, and anticipated that about 80% of CAPACITY’s users would be desktop-based, while 20% would be mobile. But many more drivers and dispatchers than initially expected were using the platform on their phones: about 43% were using a phone or tablet to log in and 57% accessed CAPACITY through a desktop computer. When that trend proved to be fairly consistent, Kerr made the decision to develop an IoS application for carriers. This new carrier app is actually Edge’s second application. It previously developed a customer-specific solution for receiving freight that made it much easier to process documents and scan barcodes.
“Despite facing a crazy market and having decentralized operations, we are very proud of the Capacity launch,” Kerr said. “We’re really trying to build our network of the future around carriers who are successful using our technology.”
The concept behind CAPACITY is simple: Provide shippers seamless visibility and competitive market rates while speeding the velocity of transactions by offering relevant, attractive freight to highly qualified carriers. The user experience for this relatively small digital freight marketplace has evolved in a slightly more complex way. CAPACITY pushes loads to carriers via email, text message and push notifications so that they don’t have to stay logged in to an application waiting for shipments they like to appear.
“We bring freight to the carriers,” Kerr said. “We recognize that we’re a smaller broker and we don’t expect them to sit in our network and portal waiting for loads to pop up. They get automated offers in emails, texts and push notifications depending on how they set up their app. So far it’s mostly through email. Our model is bringing the load to the carrier and making the experience extremely easy to give them all the information they need to make an educated decision, accept or counteroffer, all without having to log in. Then they can continue to get offered those loads on a list or individual basis — we ask the carriers to participate at whatever pace works for them.”
The load details that Edge is able to provide through CAPACITY make the marketplace more efficient than load boards. By including customer-specific and facility-specific information in the initial offer, carriers immediately know whether they can meet shipper requirements and arrive on time and whether they’re set up for payment. At the same time, Edge knows more about its carriers and is able to give its customers access to much higher quality capacity than traditional load boards.
“It’s all about access to our available freight and it’s all built around Preferred Lane technology,” Kerr said. “Our algorithm takes all of our data from the last six years and uses it to offer freight to carriers. The offer we make to the carrier is customer-specific — while load boards might have a lot of carriers participating, they’re not necessarily comfortable with the shipper and the non-monetary variables they can’t see. We find that the overall quality of performance from a random carrier versus relationship carrier is not even close.”
CAPACITY’s technology has improved the productivity of Edge’s brokers, allowing the shop to punch above its weight in the marketplace. Kerr said that off-the-shelf technology had allowed Edge to move between 12 and 14 loads per broker per day consistently, but that in 2020, CAPACITY had pushed that productivity metric up to approximately 36 loads per broker per day. That means that Edge is now bringing in $1.4 million of gross revenue per employee, well above the often-quoted benchmark of $1 million per employee. Kerr said that Edge still has a long way to go though. His long-term vision for CAPACITY is to execute 100 loads per broker per day, which he believes is possible with the right freight mix and carrier portfolio.
August was CAPACITY’s best month so far for bookings, Kerr said, helped in part by the platform’s ability to onboard more than 1,000 new carriers from Edge’s network through automated offers. The overall proportion of Edge’s freight that gets executed in CAPACITY continues to grow, driven by a superior user experience.
“What carriers like about Capacity the most is the simplicity. They don’t have to jump through a lot of hoops to log on and book a shipment,” said Carter Cambest, vice president of operations at Edge. “They can go in, view their offers, book or make bids and immediately receive a rate con, without even having to talk to anyone. That user experience has been a huge part of our growth in Capacity. Another great contribution the Capacity mobile app will provide is that it will allow our carriers to continue to have the same functionality and simplicity on the go as 40% of our user base uses Capacity on a mobile device.”
The CAPACITY mobile app’s interface is modern and intuitive, allowing carriers to look at all available loads,”my offers” or simply sort by hot loads. Carriers can swipe on loads for more information and book them or make a counteroffer. Kerr said CAPACITY’s pricing is based in large part on user behavior in the app itself and is designed to drive liquidity in the marketplace.
“There’s a certain level of market fairness that’s built in because pricing is generated by how carriers accept and decline loads,” Kerr said. “There’s a lot of visibility and transparency in our current rates based on how the carriers are participating. We’re trying to be less cloak-and-dagger than brokerages have been in the past and we’re trying to bring carriers realistic market options on time.”