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FR8 Revolution and Comdata release heavy hauler survey findings

( Photo: Wikimedia Commons )

FR8Star offers transparency for the heavy hauling market

Open deck heavy hauling is a smaller segment of the vast United States trucking economy, representing about $50B of the overall industry’s $750B annual revenues, but considered in absolute terms, it’s still a massive sector. Specialized heavy haulers move freight like farm equipment, mobile homes, and machinery used for construction on open deck trailers. In some ways, heavy hauling is similar to every other kind of trucking business: carriers try to find the best rates and often struggle to get accurate information about loads. The particular complexities of heavy hauling, though, can make those industry-wide issues even more problematic.

Comdata and FR8 Revolution, the company behind the heavy hauling digital marketplace FR8Star, today released the findings of their survey of more than 250 heavy haulers. Founded in 2015, FR8 Revolution develops cloud-based, data-driven tools that improve efficiencies, reduce costs and provide unparalleled transparency in the open deck freight transportation industry. The marketplace enables shippers to move legal and oversize/overweight loads with reliable pricing estimates, optimal shipping routes and real-time freight tracking. Specialized open deck carriers can easily develop quotes and bid on high-value loads using a free freight rate calculator that factors all third-party expenses including state permit and escort costs. FR8Star also eliminates unnecessary factoring fees to carriers by providing fuel advances at pickup and instant pay at drop-off.

The survey, conducted online between Jan. 18 and Feb. 2 by Regina Corso Consulting, found that heavy haulers in general consider themselves tech-savvy and are ready to use digital technologies to streamline their operations, but many remain unaware of alternatives to the old voice broker system. The pain points specific to heavy hauling include time- and labor-intensive load-finding, which the respondents said consumed an average of 4.22 hours per day. 

The permitting requirements for open deck loads are another major inefficiency, because they vary from state to state: 35% of heavy haul loads require permits costing an average of $285, and 47% of heavy haulers are unsure whether they possess the correct permits when they start a trip. A full 90% of respondents preferred that brokers or shippers pay for permitting directly (53% of heavy haul carriers said they found permits difficult to obtain). Strikingly, the younger truckers, who are more likely to adopt digital solutions than older truckers, said they experienced difficulties with permits at a higher rate than older truckers (72% vs. 56%), representing a clear opportunity for companies offering online marketplaces platforms. 

Two of the major advantages digitization brings to the transportation and logistics industries are, of course, instantly matching loads with trucks and eliminating wasteful paper processes. But 78% of the heavy hauler respondents said they had not yet used an online freight marketplace, but 80% of that group said that having received more information about the advantages of online marketplaces, they would be likely to try them. The single biggest barrier to using online freight marketplaces seems to be trust: 33% of the heavy haulers who have not used online marketplaces said they didn’t know if they could trust them. Of the heavy haulers who have used an online freight marketplace, 77% said it’s a better experience than using traditional voice brokers, and 61% said they made more money through the digital marketplace than through brokers.

The burdensome logistical complexities of heavy hauling will be intensified by the rapid, above-GDP growth of the freight economy in general and heavy hauling in particular. Rapid volume growth will also put pressure on heavy haulers’ cash flows, because payments can lag 45 days after delivery. 

“Nearly half of the survey respondents believe their oversize/overweight trip loads will increase in the next two years, which means they’ll need to alleviate the time and complexity of securing permits to maintain operating efficiencies,” said Laurie Eldridge, senior vice president of regulatory and compliance services at Comdata North American Trucking (NAT). “Comdata provides these open deck truckers the ability to easily secure permits connected to a FR8Star load, as well as a flexible way to send and receive payments through our Comchek Mobile integration in the FR8Star system,” Eldridge added.

Earlier survey data provided to FreightWaves also indicated that heavy haulers are ready to move away from voice brokers if they can find a digital alternative that offers better price transparency and accurate information about the location, timing, and requirements of their load. Only 16% of heavy haulers agreed with the statement that “voice brokers are great,” while 73% agreed with the statement “if I never had to use a broker again, that’d be a great thing.” These attitudes seem driven by the industry-wide consensus shared by 95% of respondents who agreed with the statement “I want to know that the information about the load is correct before I bid.” Currently 56% of heavy haulers get their loads via direct shippers, while 42% use brokers.

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John Paul Hampstead

John Paul conducts research on multimodal freight markets and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. Prior to building a research team at FreightWaves, JP spent two years on the editorial side covering trucking markets, freight brokerage, and M&A.