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Funding secured, Baton takes aim at driver detention (with video)

Startup believes trailer drop yards will get truck drivers back on the road quicker and create efficiencies for fleets

Startup Baton Trucking believes it can eliminate waste and detention through a drop yard network where over-the-road fleets would stage trailers for delivery to their final destination by a local provider. (Photo: Brian Straight/FreightWaves)

If weekly driver miles had remained the same since 2016, the average over-the-road truck driver in the U.S. would be making $1,247.44 per week today. Instead, miles per truck have declined for a number of reasons – electronic logging devices and detention to name just two – and despite the average pay per mile rising from 52 cents per mile in 2016 to 59 cents per mile in 2018, according to the American Transportation Research Institute, drivers are making less.

Since January 2016, miles per truck per week, according to TCA Benchmarking Indices included in FreightWaves SONAR platform (SONAR: MILTR.VCF), have fallen from 2,114.3 miles on March 29, 2016, to 1,825.2 miles as of Dec. 31. With the pay per mile increase, the average over-the-road truck driver now takes home just $1,076.87, compared to $1,099.43 at the lower per-mile rate in 2016.

Miles per truck per week
Since January 2016, the miles per truck per week, according to TCA Benchmarking Indices included in FreightWaves SONAR platform, has fallen from 2,114.3 miles per week on March 29, 2016, to 1,825.2 miles per week as of Dec. 31, 2019. (SONAR: MILTR.VCF)

Unless restrictions on driving hours are eased or significant changes to driver detention are implemented, it’s tough to envision long-term change. But Andrew Berberick and Nate Robert think there is a way to increase miles, and therefore pay, while improving efficiency for fleets and lowering overall costs for shippers.

Their idea may not be novel – they admit some larger fleets already deploy their solution – but the way they are approaching it and the opportunity they are offering to fleets is, and that is where the efficiencies can be gained.

“When a long-haul truck drives into a metro area, once they get into the city and are sitting in city traffic … that final mile of delivery is the most painful [and expensive] for drivers,” Robert explained to FreightWaves. “The pain point is felt not only by carriers and drivers but also by shippers as well.”

Truck driver average daily driving time
Data inside FreightWaves SONAR shows that the average over-the-road truck driver in the U.S. drives 7.59 hours per day (OHOS11.USA) while the average driver overall drives 6.41 hours per day (HOS11.USA). Conversely, local drivers drive for an average of 4.71 hours per day (LHOS11.USA), but they tend to make more stops. (SONAR: HOS11.USA, OHOS11.USA, LHOS11.USA)

Berberick and Robert co-founded Baton. Baton just closed a $3.3 million seed round of funding and expects to launch its drop-zone solution in Ontario, California, and Dallas in March. The funding round was led by investment firm 8VC and includes commercial real estate giant Prologis and SVAngel as investors. (Both 8VC and Prologis are investors in FreightWaves as well).

In explaining the need for such a solution, Berberick cited a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study that found trucks drivers only spend about 6.5 hours per day driving. Data inside FreightWaves SONAR shows that the average over-the-road truck driver in the U.S. drives 7.59 hours per day (SONAR: OHOS11.USA), while the average of all drivers is 6.41 hours per day (SONAR: HOS11.USA). Conversely, local drivers drive an average of 4.71 hours per day (SONAR: LHOS11.USA).

Add in detention time, which SONAR data shows at an average of 156 minutes as of Dec. 31 and is even worse in Ontario at 166 minutes (SONAR: WAIT.USA and WAIT.ONT), and it is no wonder that over-the-road drivers hate those final miles. The FreightWaves Freight Intel Group said that detention costs the industry over $1 billion a year in foregone profits and over $17,000 per truck per year. The findings will be published in an upcoming white paper taking an extensive look at detention’s true costs to the industry.

Truck driver detention time in minutes
A FreightWaves SONAR chart shows the national detention time of 156 minutes as of Dec. 31, 2019,  compared to detention time of 166 minutes in the Ontario, California market, one of the markets that Baton Trucking is launching its service. (SONAR: WAIT.USA and WAIT.ONT)

Baton is trying to change this by opening up drop yards just outside urban areas, allowing drivers to drop a trailer and quickly return to the road. Baton will handle delivery of that trailer to its final destination. According to Baton, underutilized assets cost fleets as much as $500 per day – a $350 million lost opportunity for a 10,000-truck fleet.

“What we’re building is economical today and in the future in five or 10 years when autonomous trucks come out, this will be the model,” Robert said, noting that “we think it is a driver-efficiency problem and we’re helping that by taking out the hours that are the worst part of the journey.”

Berberick said that a trucking fleet could see several efficiencies, including more miles for its drivers and more capacity to haul freight, by freeing up those hours spent waiting at facilities.

“The value for carriers here is the opportunity cost of not having that driver and asset sitting in the city,” Robert said. “It’s about getting that driver and asset back on the road so they can make more profit.”

It also could allow fleets to fine-tune specifications of their vehicles, Robert said. “The problem is that a truck has to be designed as a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ truck that not only has to operate at 55 miles per hour on the highway but be able to handle tighter [city driving],” he said.

Berberick noted that in the future, it could enable the use of more-efficient electric vehicles for the local haul and long-haul trucks optimized for highway driving.

“We’re into really gaining efficiencies. I think one of the reasons many of these efficiencies haven’t happened yet is you need everybody to collaborate.”

Andrew Berberick, co-founder of Baton

Once a trailer is dropped at a yard, the OTR driver can pick up another trailer – Baton can retrieve a loaded trailer from a local location to further improve efficiency. Baton contracts with a local fleet that handles the final delivery. Because Baton would contract with multiple OTR fleets in the area, the local fleet driver is able to drop a trailer at the destination and move on to the next job, cutting detention time to nearly zero and ensuring that driver remains busy. Berberick also said this model allows for more accuracy in hitting delivery appointments, including the ability to deliver during off-peak hours.

“We’re into really gaining efficiencies,” Berberick said. “I think one of the reasons many of these efficiencies haven’t happened yet is you need everybody to collaborate” – shippers, carriers, drivers and real estate partners.

Baton’s founders estimate between a 25% and 50% increase in asset utilization for fleets on delivery day through use of its services, and that translates into as much as 25% increase in miles driven per week for drivers.

Baton is a non-asset-based company, so working with the right partners is critical, Robert added.

“We want to make sure the local delivery network we work with is high caliber and highly vetted,” he said, and for now, that means fleets with W2 drivers. Baton is currently in talks with four of the nation’s top 20 fleets and several medium-sized fleets about participating in the early launch.

“[The reaction] has been overwhelmingly positive,” Berberick said. “When you talk about California in particular … it’s a difficult place to operate and the assumption is this is great because it allows fleets to get in and out of the area more effectively.”

Use of a drop yard can be done by any fleet, but Baton’s founders believe the combination of their technology and the ability to work with multiple fleets at a time will make their service more cost-effective than a fleet going it alone.

Berberick explained that Baton is building algorithms that will “allow us to optimize [the outcome] and allow the driver to load in the most optimal way.” The result will be better economics for the carrier, better relationships with shippers who will deal with a local provider that is able to optimize scheduling, and more money for drivers.

“There’s a trove of data about last-mile inefficiency that we can combine together to make better decisions,” Berberick said.

Baton is also building an application programming interface (API) to make the entire process seamless for customers.

All the drop zones will include automated entry to ensure security. Berberick said the hope is to eventually partner with a “valet” company that would stage trailers on the lot autonomously.

Both Berberick and Robert participated in 8VC’s entrepreneurs in residence program and worked on a number of possible logistics ideas before settling on the concept that would become Baton Trucking.

“A lot of the sales process is a relationship,” Robert said. “We have seen tech people come into the freight industry and think they can solve problems and that’s not how it works. … we see this as [using tech and people]. If you were to ask, are we a logistics company or a technology company, the answer is yes.”


  1. Darrell McDowell

    I think the idea is a good Idea, but it just does what everyone is always doing driving the small fleets out, The small fleets and Owner/Operators with their own trailers, and drivers won’t be able to drop their trailers for this type of use. They would have to have 4 times the trailers they currently run in a small fleet. The Baton idea, is to cater to the large companies. What happens when those companies realize that it is still less expensive to create their own version of this idea. It is not a proprietary idea, so it can be mimicked easily, by much larger carriers for less cost. I wish each person trying to get a cut of the freight charges would be required to be asset based. Maybe then they would understand the actual cost to move freight.

    Small fleet owner.

  2. Brad

    I like what I read in your article. Finally a company looking out for the well being of thier drivers. The idea of having drop yards outside major cities is great idea. As drivers there are a lot of hurdles to deal with. In todays need it now society, Drivers are always under the gun late departures but the delivery schedule doesnt change. The stress to meet the schedule getting into a city your not familiar with. GPS is not always correct when your driving a truck and trailer . So a drop yard will eliminate some of the stress for drivers , get them back to making a decent living.Then maybe the younger generation will take interest in a once lucrative industry.

  3. Larry

    As a local and OTR driver, I think that having a drop yard outside of the cities is a great idea. OTR drivers can drop &pickup loaded trailer’s in these yards and let the local drivers shuttle loaded and empty trailer’s between drop yards and businesses.

  4. Jim Tomblin

    From Feburary of 1992 until October 3rd of 2019 I was an OTR Driver . During my 27 year career as a driver I logged 3 million miles . I have read the foregoing article and irregardless of who compiled the statistics they are not accurate. To begin with the driver pay averages and cpm rates are a joke…many of today’s trucking companies still pay the majority of their drivers way less than quoted stats ….sometimes as low as mid 30’s cpm. One thing that has benefitted everyone is drop and hook operations. Nevertheless , there is still much delay of freight and reduction in driver pay due to retention and although some carriers collect compensation from shippers and receivers they do not pass any or very little to the driver , resulting in lower miles driven and miles pay. I could go on and on about the substance of this startup’s sales pitch being erroneously stated without supporting fact based information.

  5. Lucas

    Drivers have recognized this as a solution for a long time. Problem was, on paper logs, drivers were expected to cheat the system and keep rolling. Companies were dishonest about the reality of paper logs with both investors and regulators. But now, thanks to the ELD mandates, this inefficiency is finally affecting the profitability the carriers, not just the drivers. Any carrier that feels the ELD mandate is negativly affecting their business deserves that pain for the decades of pain they caused drivers.

    1. steve rush

      you just nailed it! The greedy ones will be gone before this is over. what we are seeing right now is not unlike deregulation. In the end the era of the mandate for elogs and the set 14 hour clock will prove to finally favor the driver. To keep this going we cannot let FMCSA change the running clock because it will go right back to the cheating which has caused all of us the pain we feel and have felt for way too long

  6. Billy Phipps

    So you put all self driving trucks hauling trailers locally? Haha!!! What a joke. You put tens of thousands of people out of work with that alone. Then companies push for as many miles as they can possibly squeeze out of each driver otr. Putting people out even longer away from any time with their family. Pay at a rock bottom mileage pay ( which we are already being ripped on)! This is nothing but a way for upper management to pad their own pockets by abusing people priveledge for their own lavish lifestyle. All to compete with status quo’s to their neighbor. This isnt about giving a rats ass about truckers. Not one single company couldnt care less about if a trucker lives or dies or is able to support their family or much less their selves.

  7. Dv

    What OTR driver only driver 8hours a day. No wonder there not making money. And why would a driver only drive 55mph unless your in California and parts of Oregon.
    With these driverless trucks how are they going to get pulled into the weight stations if it’s over weight or any other problems it may happen while traveling. Whos going to be held responsible

    1. Noble1= Shamash (Shemesh/Utu) the Babylonian God of the Sun(god of justice, morality, and truth-(enforcer of divine justice )

      Some does trailer switches from, ie: Montreal to Kingston as an example . One way is 179 miles x 2 round house = 358 miles . They leave from one yard , then switch at a truck stop with a huge parking area which is never fully occupied . The parking lot is really huge .

      Now divide those miles by an average of 54.5 miles per hour . It equals to approximately 6.5 hours of driving time . Include your inspections and a half our break between switching and you’re within an 8 hour work shift .(wink)

      Some enjoy doing those type of short quick runs .

      That being said , I agree that the pay is low . Driver pay should be minimum $42 per hour and time and a half after 8 hours within the same 24 hour period . That’s not going to happen unless drivers unite and take over this industry by restructuring themselves and it .

      In my humble opinion ………..

      1. Stephen Webster

        It is not going to happen as long the trucking companies and the Government keep training new truck drivers both from our welfare rolls and low wage countries. We only need to bring a few farm laborer and local truck drivers from April 15 to November 1 of each year set the farm labor at 1.1 times minimum wage plus a 5 percent increase each year they come back plus free housing and a bike. The local truck drivers at 1.6 times minimum wage plus overtime and a 5 percent increase each year plus any increase in minimum wages. All O T R trucking companies need to provide medical insurance and rooms for medical treatment and sleeping when sick or injured. I am making a presentation tomorrow at 9 00 hours to a group of government officials plus 5 experts on homeless drivers and shelters in Canada

  8. Eric

    Self driving trucks will never work. Maintenance will be to high to compete with the current system. They cant even build a truck that doesnt need new wiring harnesses for the lights twice a year. When the self driving trucks electronics fail it will result in fatalities that will bankrupt the company. I wouldnt bet a thousand on self driving truck let alone millions. You will need specialized sensors to monitor everything and anybody who ever drove a truck knows how many times that faulty abs light comes on and off and on and fixed and back on and pump the brakes and off and park and on then move and back off… good luck with that. Idiots. Salt and weather dont play well with wiring and electronics. A truck drives in a day what your self driving cars do in a month. You dont have a clue what your getting into.

    1. Noble1= Shamash (Shemesh/Utu) the Babylonian God of the Sun(god of justice, morality, and truth-(enforcer of divine justice )

      “Self driving trucks will never work.” .

      You mean like the world wide web was first viewed to be impossible ? Then cell phones ? Then cell phones without “buttons” ? Ect ect ect . Like they told Trevor Milton at NMC that he wouldn’t succeed ?

      How about aircraft ? That too was viewed to be nuts and impossible . Imagine tons in weight flying ? It’s happening .

      They are completely redesigning the trucks like they should have done decades upon decades ago . Look at your television . Does it resemble anything like in the 1980’s ? They improved it didn’t they ? It works doesn’t it ?

      The trucking industry has been asleep , but now waking up . It’s about time they did !

      Now if only trucks drivers could awaken and unite to improve their circumstances collectively . Now that would be something . Don’t tell me that’s impossible . Organized Labour Unions succeed in having labourers unite . Truck drivers can too , but on a much larger scale and eliminate all the middlemen who pick their pockets in the process .

      In my humble opinion ………..

    2. Mark E. Dickey

      Ok so you have to run by the law. So when you ran a log book, you could change your status. No that it’s elog you have to run by at law. Sorry for your lost. This is what happens when people was running against the law. Again sorry for your lost. Find a company that pays good money. Other wise just keep crying.

    3. Bob Hornberger

      There is nothing wrong with the logging devices.The problem is to many drivers are spending to much time in truck stops truck washes rest areas.i havent suffered any loss in wages. So really if they got off there fat lazy asses they would make good money. They company I drive for we have drivers making 100 grand a year.

    4. steve rush

      what they are describing was called a Cartage agency back in the sixties where a local cartage agent delivered the long haul freight and picked up the outbound for the road carrier so this is not a novel idea.
      I suggest that this is a good idea but you may be putting the horse in front of the cart. First you have to raise the rate of pay to all drivers and owner operators and I am not talking a few dollars I am talking a lot of dollars so that truck drivers will all earn $70,000 annually and in that will be paid for all that they do no by the mile but by the hour.

      when is this industry going to get off the back of the most important person in every single trucking company? its the driver stupid pay him what he deserves not what you think he is worth because he only drives a truck.

Comments are closed.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]