Wasted capacity remains a concern for trucking fleets in an industry running on thin margins.
With as many as three trailers for every tractor in the United
States, and estimates ranging from 15% to 25% or more of trailers on highways
running empty, solutions to solving this problem have eluded some of the top
minds in the industry.
Part of the problem lies in the way fleets utilize trailers, but part of it is simply a matter of logistics: too many trailers in too many areas with no outbound loads.
A startup based in Saint Georges, Quebec, Canada, believes that building a sharing marketplace can help solve this problem.
“If we can connect idling trailers with people willing to pay to use them, and also we can connect people with trailers willing to move them one way, this would be a great opportunity,” Francis Roy, vice president of vHub, said during the American Trucking Associations Technology and Maintenance Council’s annual meeting in Atlanta on Sunday. “The trucking industry was already doing this … so our concept is very simple: to become a digital sharing community for the trucking industry.”
vHub, founded two years ago, is owned by Finloc 2000, an asset-based lender that has focused on trucking and in particular the trailer industry since 1976. The concept is simple: connect unused trailers to fleets in need and trailers in need of repositioning to drivers willing to move them.
“In 2020, what’s mindboggling is there is no way for anybody in the business to know there is a trailer available across the street they could use right now,” Roy said.
The platform launched nine months ago in Canada, where Roy said there are a lot of trailers sitting idle in some locations simply because there is no outbound freight. Since its launch, the company has managed 20,000 rental days, 4,000 trailers have been listed by owners, 125 rental contracts have been completed, and over 100 companies have registered on the platform.
The solution launches Feb. 26 in the United States.
A web application and mobile app help connect customers. The web interface allows users to post trailers that may need to be moved or are sitting idle. It is searchable to help users find the exact trailer they are looking for, and if an exact match is not found, vHub will suggest trailers that have similar characteristics that might work.
It is a task that can take hours calling rental companies, Roy said, but is performed in a single search.
Matches can be sorted by location, routes and destinations, and the number of rental days that a trailer is needed or available. The collaborative trailer repositioning and sharing platform showcases all trailers that are available for one-way and round-trip rentals. Users can offer for rent dry van, refrigerated, flatbed or specialty trailers in less than five minutes.
Drivers utilize the mobile app to take pictures of the equipment both before pickup and after dropoff to verify trailer condition. Roy said the marketplace will help reduce empty miles and generate revenue on unused trailers.
Trailer owners are responsible for ensuring the trailer is road-worthy, but the driver or fleet pulling the trailer is responsible for any damage occurred – that’s why the mobile app requires before photos, so the condition of the trailer can documented.
Each trailer owner sets its own rates and manages details on trailer availability. vHub handles invoicing and payments and transfers rental funds to the trailer owner. vHub can also integrate with telematics solutions in order to calculate distances traveled and automate billing. The confidentiality of all information and transactions on the platform is protected using the SSL encryption protocol.
Trailer owners have the right to reject any company seeking to use its trailer. In fact, as part of the process, the renting company must supply insurance information to be reviewed.
“We created vHub by combining our multi-decade expertise in the financing of new and used heavy vehicle equipment with the technological advances in collaborative marketplaces,” said Sebastien Blouin, CEO of vHub. “With over 100 Canadian trailer owners successfully registered on vHub, we are excited to now bring to the U.S. an immediate solution for the repositioning and use of under-utilized trailers. The acceptance of community marketplaces is on the rise because users are understanding the true value of collaboration for their businesses. vHub is a perfect example of a collaborative strategy that is a win-win for all parties.”