The launch of Uber Freight in Europe has been broadly welcomed by the European Shippers’ Council (ESC) because the lack of drivers and the age profile of the current driver pool suggests that this problem will get significantly worse.
Uber Freight launched its app in the U.S. two years ago to connect trucking companies to freight. The company believes that many of the difficulties experienced by traders in America are also prevalent in the freight and logistics market in Europe, including driver shortages and inefficient truck movements.
According to Uber Freight, the $400 billion European trucking market is the third-largest in the world, after the U.S. and China. However, because of the driver shortages the system cannot easily absorb inefficiencies; yet 21 percent of the total kilometers travelled by trucks have empty trailers. This means that shippers often struggle to find operators to move their cargo.
Godfried Smit, ESC Secretary General, told FreightWaves, “Our members will face a severe lack of drivers because a large number of them are going to retire in the years to come. If the impact of a lack of drivers can be lessened by the services of Uber Freight, this could be an option for shippers.”
However, Smit warned that for some cargo, such as bonded goods or hazardous cargo, it is important that the haulier meets certain criteria. “For shippers in these situations it is important that the services provided comply with specific regulations.”
Even for cargo that is not hazardous or bonded it is important that the contract between a shipper and a haulier is clear-cut. At present liability is defined by legislation/regulation (national or international), said Smit.
“Compliance [to legislation/regulation] and a clear legal situation between parties are critical. Uber Freight can certainly find a way to meet these requirements, and if so it can be a valuable new option,” Smit argued.
For Uber Freight, small- to medium-sized carriers in the European Union comprise more than 85 percent of the total carrier pool, and just like in other international freight markets, they experience the most difficulty connecting with larger shippers. Because of these market shortcomings the price of goods goes up.
For Smit and the ESC, Uber Freight may be one answer.