This weekend, FreightWaves lost a founding father and friend who passed away suddenly. We are deeply saddened to lose such a humble and wonderful man from the FreightWaves family and trucking community.
Ben Murphy, a long-time resident of Allen, Texas was originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin and maintained his diehard devotion to the Green Bay Packers his entire life. He was one of the first FreightTech innovators, having grown up and served as an executive in the business that his father started, Integrated Decision Support Corporation (IDSC).
IDSC developed one of trucking industry’s first fuel optimization software packages (Fuel Advise); truck-to-load matching networks (Netwise); integrated dispatch software platforms (QDSS) and even the industry’s first-ever truckload rate per mile index (TruckloadRate.com)
IDSC was creating artificial intelligence in the 1990s and early 2000s that exceeded many of the platforms that are in the market today (but back then no one called it AI). In fact, many of the original optimization, matching, and route guidance systems that have been implemented throughout the industry were based on the work and offerings of Dr. Murphy, his son Ben, and the team at IDSC.
It was at IDSC in 2003 that I met Ben Murphy. He was a thirty three year-old Chief Operating Officer at one of the most successful trucking technology companies. At the time, I was running Xpress Direct, an on-demand division of US Xpress. He and I became immediate friends who shared the dream of using the same data that individual carriers had access to, but across the entire trucking industry.
IDSC was sold to TMW Systems a few years later and Ben stayed on for about four years after that. He took a brief stint as a houseboat captain on Lake Texoma, but then decided to join me as an executive at my payments company, TransCard. He was uninspired by payments and wanted to go back to his first love: trucking.
He ended up becoming a product executive at McLeod Software and was involved in a number of product rollouts at the fleet technology company over a few years. Having sold my interest in TransCard in 2014, Ben and I reconnected and discussed the chance to build the company we had dreamed about for years: a company that unites data from fleets, shippers, and suppliers across the trucking industry to drive actionable outcomes. We also imagined creating a tradable futures contract based on U.S. trucking spot rates.
Ben was more dedicated to his family than an idea, so he waited until we secured funding before jumping all in. With his involvement as a ringing endorsement to investors (he was able to bring confidence to early investors that we had the experience to execute on the idea), the business secured its initial funding.
As we focused on creating a trucking futures market, Ben was the one that helped evaluate partners and organize the methodology for the contracts. Having seen tools used for traders in the commodity markets (i.e. Bloomberg-like terminals), it was Ben who envisioned creating a similar product in trucking. With this, we set out to create SONAR, a freight market dashboard and the first of its kind in the freight industry. He oversaw the development and product design.
Ben would play the role of product visionary, designer, and QA tester, all the while dealing with my continuous stream of unimportant design requests that he would have to prioritize. He would always choose to do what was best for the product, even while taking undeserved heat from me.
On one occasion Ben threatened to resign if I got in the way of a release that fixed a lot of issues for users. Knowing he was serious, I agreed to let him proceed. He turned out to be right.
SONAR continues to be a smashing success, in no small part due to his vision, execution, and commitment to details.
In the 15 years that I knew Ben, I rarely knew him to be wrong about anything. He was cautious to offer an opinion up, unless he had data to support his arguments. Often times, he was the loyal partner that would jump through fire to make things happen to please those he loved, without questioning direction. If he disagreed, he would be the first to make an argument that was well-thought-out and grounded in facts.
Ben never worked on any product for fame or fortune; he did it because he loved the challenge of big ideas and wanted to provide a great life for his family. In fact, he always wanted to stay in the background, deflecting any attention that singled him out. If he knew that I was writing about him, he would be so embarrassed and ask me to take it down. But, being such close friends, he would also encourage me every step of the way.
He was committed to his wife, Nadine and three children Samantha, Kaitlyn, and Ryan. He wouldn’t fly on a plane with his wife, out of fear that something might happen that would deny them a chance to ensure their kids were always loved and cared for.
The people that were closest to him shared different stories about him, few of them the same. He was a deeply private guy, but loyal and consistent as they come. The trucking industry has lost a major visionary and dedicated servant this weekend, but his work will live on through those people and products he mentored and developed, and his family.
I am sure he is up in heaven riding his Harley, cheering on the Green Bay Packers, and looking over his family and friends.