The freight industry has seen several digital freight marketplaces in recent years, claiming to connect carriers with shippers and promising to expedite logistics-related transactions. Digital freight marketplaces often function on the premise that brokerages are replaceable and that supplanting brokers with machine learning algorithms will enable seamless logistics.
However, in an industry that has run primarily on paper, fax machines and interpersonal relationships, phasing out brokerages would mean the loss of tribal knowledge accumulated over several decades. Enabling brokerages along with carriers and shippers under one single umbrella and providing them with a technological edge will help revitalize the ecosystem and create a more symbiotically advantageous business model for every stakeholder.
HaulHub Technologies, a logistics startup in the heavy construction niche, has created a platform that seeks to empower every stakeholder in the aggregate and asphalt industry without bias creep within the system. Joe Spinelli, the CEO of HaulHub, states that the company will not replace brokers, but instead looks to be an all-inclusive enabler of the heavy civil industry.
“We call HaulHub a platform for everything. We not only handle the transportation piece of the heavy construction industry but also handle processes like customer ordering and inventory management,” said Spinelli. “Such platforms are prevalent in the auto business, where Ford or General Motors have the visibility to know when to reorder auto parts for their supply chain. But the asphalt industry isn’t quite there; it still runs on emails and phone calls. We are trying to make it more like the auto industry.”
In many ways, HaulHub’s origin lay in Spinelli’s long career within the heavy civil industry, where he worked as a contractor and became inured to witnessing a world that worked predominantly off of paper slips and telephone calls.
“We built the first alpha version of HaulHub and used it for our own construction company as it was designed to solve our problems. Then one of our paving subcontractors was interested in using it, which led to another large asphalt producer asking us about it,” said Spinelli. “So we sat with them to understand their needs and then we put our heads together to build a better enterprise version of this. Our solution was really built while keeping the contractor and producer in mind.”
Over the years, HaulHub added to its services, ending up developing six different mobile applications that cater to specific needs of truckers, plant personnel and construction crews. “HaulHub is now a full ecosystem where you can start with buying material for production and manage all the processes to the point where the product is transported and the sale gets completed,” said Spinelli.
The company has expanded to 10 states in the U.S. and accounts for multi-billion dollar material producers and contracting companies as its core clientele, apart from engaging with smaller subcontractors who work under the bigger firms. On the trucking side, the company has registered several thousand trucking fleets on its platform that haul freight in the heavy construction industry.
Spinelli explained that traction in the initial stages was marred by concerns of truckers adopting smartphones, as they are integral to the functioning of HaulHub applications. However, smartphones have witnessed miraculous penetration within the trucking industry, with truckers now eager to leverage technology to make their lives easier.
“Currently, our biggest challenge is not about adoption, but about meeting our customer expectations. We’ve seen great acceptance among our customers. On our end, we look to set them up with our technology, on-board more carriers, train and educate the industry through videos and downloadable files that we put up on our site,” said Spinelli. “For us, it’s about focusing on operational challenges now, rather than being concerned about sales.”