Uber Freight builds connections with truck drivers at MATS

Uber Freight had a prime spot at the entrance to the show floor last week at the Mid-America Trucking Show, hoping to draw attention to its services as well as its new Uber Freight Plus program.

Uber Freight may be a technology company, but Jeff Ogren, community manager, says the company is still about people. That’s why the company was front and center at the Mid-America Trucking Show last week in Louisville with a big display in the lobby showing offer its freight board and talking about its new Uber Freight Plus card.

“We’ve invested heavily in events because we’re a driver-first company,” he told FreightWaves. “We’re a technology company, but there’s still a human element.”

Events like MATS allow the company to solicit feedback from drivers, whether that be comments on the app or ideas for feature offerings. “Right now it is about educating the freight market because there is a new way to book freight,” Ogren noted.

Eric Berdinis, senior product manager, reiterated the driver-first mentality of the company.

“There are a lot of other apps, but none are really thinking about the driver experience,” he said. “We really want to build that community, especially for the small fleets …that can’t get the same discounts and benefits [of the larger fleets].”

Last week, Uber Freight launched the Uber Freight Plus program, a fuel card and discount program.

Uber Freight Plus participants receive up to a 20 cents per gallon discount off the retail price of fuel through the use of the Uber Freight Fuel Card powered by Comdata. The discount is available at TA/Petro Travel Stops nationwide. A smaller discount of 15 cents is available at Roadys – a collection of independent truck stops in California, Texas and Illinois.

The fuel card will include some additional benefits such as tracking IFTA and fuel reporting, Berdinis said. The fuel card also provides access to maintenance discounts and 30% off Goodyear tires, resulting in an average of $130 off per tire. In addition to the fuel discounts, the company has also struck a deal with Navistar to offer between 20% and 50% off truck maintenance – a huge expense for many small fleets and owner-operators. The discount applies to all Navistar parts, including its all-makes line of parts. The size of the exact discount varies based on fleet size and maintenance needs.

And for those looking for savings on new and used trucks, Navistar is providing Uber Freight Plus members up to $16,000 in customer value for the purchase of a new truck (value depends on specs), and up to $4,000 rebate on the purchase of a used truck.

To be eligible for the program, drivers must haul at least one Uber Freight load per month. The new truck discount does not become active until you have hauled 10 Uber Freight loads, but the discount can be used on as many trucks as you wish once you fulfill the 10 load requirement.

Those are the kind of benefits that Berdinis and Ogren point to when asked what value Uber Freight delivers for drivers. Ogren noted that the Uber Freight model is similar to the Uber car service model.

“We’ve proven that in the transportation space; we’ve moved people; we’ve moved food and now we’re moving freight,” he said.

Berdinis said that Uber Freight’s launch – May 2017 – also fit nicely with the market dynamics, where most drivers now have smartphones and the market was ready to accept this type of service.

Right now, Uber Freight is posting only dry van and refrigerated freight, but the company is always exploring additional market opportunities and customers have asked for flatbed and tanker loads, among others.

Both Berdinis and Ogren said the company will continue to look for more opportunities to provide additional value to drivers and it will have a presence at additional events such as MATS as it looks to stay connected with the truck drivers.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team 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.