When Tim Henry and Toan Nguyen Le met, they were working at Uber Freight, helping match shipper loads to carriers. They saw, though, that the industry was focused on developing technology that benefits the corporations and that the driver — the most important part of any delivery — was not part of the equation.
The result is constant driver churn and a lack of qualified drivers.
Haul is trying to address this through an on-demand platform for CDL holders that connects fleets looking for drivers on a temporary basis with CDL holders without a truck.
It has closed a $3 million seed round of funding led by RPM Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm. Additional investments came from current investors GFC and Hack VC, as well as new institutional investors Pipeline Ventures, Next Coast Ventures, Signal Peak Ventures, Heroic Ventures, Service Provider Capital and Vectura Ventures.
“Haul brings a unique solution to a long-standing problem in the trucking industry — matching drivers with assignments,” said Marc Weiser, managing director of RPM Ventures. “Haul’s business model is attractive because it leverages technology to rethink the employment model and solve pain points for both drivers and fleets.”
Angels bring diverse experiences
As interesting as the mix of investors is, the diversity among the angel investors is also unique. Tim Barton, founder of FreightQuote.com; Jett McCandless, founder and CEO of project44; Robert Nathan, founder of LoadDelivered and Logistical Labs; John Larkin, longtime industry veteran, with prior experience at Stifel Financial Corp. and now operating partner at Clarendon Group; and Leo Jolicoeur, COO of DriveWyze, all bring significant transportation-related experience. Chris Thomas, the co-founder of Assembly Ventures, the Detroit Mobility Lab and Fontinalis Partners who has also invested in transportation businesses, and Matt Pierce, co-founder of a digital employment platform for nurses, Trusted Health, round out the angels.
For angel investors, often it is the founders who make all the difference.
“One thing I’ve really enjoyed is the dynamic of the founders and their complementary skill sets. It reminded me of myself and my co-founder. I think it is a yin and a yang,” Pierce told FreightWaves. “Their background from both a trucking and a tech perspective was something I really liked.”
Pierce’s business, Trusted Health, is a similar model to Haul that operates in the nurse space. Both make the workers W2 employees, and while his background is not in transportation, Pierce does have extensive history in this type of employment platform. He also founded Hired.com.
“As an angel investor, I think, not just an angel, but really all investors, you want to spend your time and money in places that excite you and where you can add value,” he said. “I don’t know [anything] about the trucking industry, but I know about the staffing industries. … I felt like my expertise really complemented the skills of the founders.”
Pierce said that he views Haul as “taking a traditional offline staffing model online.”
Certified drivers on the Haul platform are matched to assignments of various lengths that fit their schedule, pay and skills preference. For fleets, Haul provides vetted and certified drivers to operate their trucks for on-demand, semi-temporary and long-term assignments.
“The investment dollars will allow us to accelerate our road map, building best-in-class compliance and intelligent matching products, making it fundamentally easier for drivers to find assignments and meaningfully increase their earning potentials.” Nguyen Le said. “We’re witnessing a structural shortage of drivers in our country. Our singular focus is to build exceptional products and services for our drivers that aims to address the current shortage and high turnover.”
Attacking industry pain points
McCandless has successfully built project44 into a technology powerhouse, is intimately familiar with the challenges facing the industry, and thinks Haul has an opportunity to drive change, which is why he made an investment.
“They’re taking on two challenges that are critical to the success of the industry, both of which I’m very passionate about,” McCandless said. “Haul is improving quality of life and work for drivers, while also helping carriers improve customer experience. Carriers and drivers are at the center of our transportation infrastructure, and it’s critical that they work together harmoniously. The hiring process plays a big role in this relationship, and Haul offers a forward-looking approach.”
Like Pierce, McCandless sees great potential in Henry and Nguyen Le.
“The team that founded and is running Haul was a key reason why I got involved,” he said. “Tim Henry and Toan Nguyen Le are both domain experts with a great amount of integrity and a winning mindset. They have the three basic traits that are foundational for successful entrepreneurs: great communication, resourcefulness and accountability. I look for these traits in all the entrepreneurs I work with.”
Thomas also noted the “ideal industry pedigree” of the founders to address the industry’s challenges.
“They are confident, but not cocky, and are genuine in their desire to both help independent CDL drivers and empower fleets of all sizes,” he said.
Thomas was attracted to Haul by the team it has put together and the opportunity he believes is there to address industry issues.
“I believe the opportunity is immense,” he said. “As I have mentioned to Tim and Toan many times, as trucking becomes more transactional, labor will be disassociated from the fleet, and to optimize it will need to be more agile and have the ability to move between fleets. Haul can power this new model, empower drivers and provide valuable risk mitigation to carriers.”
Throughout the pandemic, Henry said Haul has been able to expand its operations, which now include coverage in California, Texas and Georgia.
“In spite of the economic uncertainty that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to demonstrate solid growth in 2020 and to show potential investors the spectrum of companies we were able to bring on board, that range from less than 10 power unit fleets to Fortune 500 companies,” Henry said.
Henry noted the funding represents a validation of what Haul has built to date and will allow it to continue to develop its business model.