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Sources: C.H. Robinson delays rollout of controversial changes to digital platform

Computer glitches blamed for Project Infinity launch postponement; carrier reps wary of removal of human element

Photo credit: C.H. Robinson

C.H. Robinson, one of the world’s largest 3PLs, is delaying the launch of a controversial program known internally as Project Infinity as the company’s IT department works out various bugs discovered during testing of new updates to its Navisphere platform for trucking companies, sources say. 

Former and current carrier sales representatives claim the company’s push toward having trucking companies utilize C.H. Robinson’s digital broker platform will break up long-standing relationships with carriers as well as impact their bottom lines, which are largely based on commissions. 

“This is a strong-arm tactic that will really hurt carriers and C.H. Robinson employees,” said one source.

Sources told FreightWaves late Monday that Robinson (NASDAQ: CHRW), headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, initially planned to roll out the program early Tuesday, one day ahead of the publicly traded company’s Q4 2021 earnings report.

A new date hasn’t been set, but the goal is to launch the project later this week, a source familiar with the situation told FreightWaves.

A C.H. Robinson spokesperson said the company is unable to comment as it is in a quiet period ahead of Wednesday’s earnings report, but disputes some of the claims made by sources familiar with the project. 

Carrier reps fear their customers may not be fully prepared to navigate the new changes to the company’s Navisphere platform and its automated pricing structure to book connecting or future loads online.

“The plan is to not allow carrier reps to book freight on any loads 72 hours out, forcing all loads to be booked online, using an automated tool that sets prices,” a source familiar with the project told FreightWaves. “C.H. Robinson is doing a 180-degree turn on carrier relationships the company’s business model was built on under the guise of offering new online tools.” 

C.H. Robinson carrier reps have concerns about carriers showing up with the wrong equipment as some details about the freight, including whether they are dry van or reefer loads, are not provided during the booking process. Updates to the platform won’t be immediately available for truckers hauling specialized freight, including tanker, flatbed or hazmat.

“Carrier reps currently work to keep their trucking companies happy, keep them viable and keep the trucks moving because our jobs and our success depend on it,” a source said. “C.H. Robinson just eliminated the incentive to do that.” 

If carriers are forced to book loads through its updated Navisphere platform instead of a carrier rep, when problems arise with pickup times and locations, some have concerns that there won’t be a human on the other end tracking those loads and addressing drivers’ issues.

“Right now I am responsible for every load I book across the board and I track each load from the time it is ordered until the time it is delivered,” a source familiar with the new digital platform told FreightWaves. “When you take the human element out of it, who is going to answer the calls or emails when a driver is held up at a shipper’s for six hours or is delayed because of weather or other issues? 

A C.H. Robinson spokesperson said representatives will be available to help users of its digital platform if issues arise.

Prior to publication, C.H. Robinson issued the following statement to FreightWaves:

“C.H. Robinson is constantly investing in our industry-leading Navisphere platform, adding new features and functionality to deliver high-quality products and value for our customers and carriers. Project Infinity is an internal project name, as we name many of our work streams. As a company, we believe the future of our industry will be more digital. To that end, we are continually innovating to provide new and differentiated value to our customers, carriers and employees. This project will bring even more choices to carriers so they can book when and where they want, using our technology and working with our outstanding carrier reps as part of our full suite of services.”

Disclosure: C.H. Robinson was named as one of the top FreightTech 25 companies at FreightWaves’ F3 Virtual Experience in November. The 25 companies were determined by a handpicked peer group of CEOs, industry leaders and investors actively investing in freight. 

This is a developing story

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Clarissa Hawes

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected]