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Uber Freight alumni launch an Uber for freight

Tech startup Haul connects fleets with on-demand drivers to operate their trucks

(Photo credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves0

  • Tech startup Haul connects fleets with on-demand drivers to operate their trucks.
  • Around 3 million CDL drivers don’t own their own trucks.
  • Haul CEO says the startup seeks to “flip the script on freight assignments so labor is in charge.”

A couple of Uber Freight alumni have launched an on-demand employment platform that aims to boost opportunities for truckless CDL drivers, as labor market changes fuel interest in driver-only business models.

Historically the culture of trucking has centered on the idea of the independent owner-operator in control of his or her destiny, said CEO and co-founder Tim Henry.

“Haul is about how we can get that same relationship to work without the liability of owning a truck,” he said.

The driver as capacity

There are 36 million trucks in the U.S and about 3.6 million CDL drivers, said Toan Nguyen Le, Haul’s CTO and co-founder. But of those drivers, around 3 million don’t own their own trucks.

“The problem is not the truck,” Le said. “It’s not having the driver in that truck.”

Haul fills that gap with what is essentially a modern-day staffing service: a digital service that connects fleets with a qualified pool of on-demand drivers to operate their trucks.

Truck driver temp agencies have been around for decades, ranging from large, nationwide players like TransForce to small local businesses. But the industry today is “eerily similar” to the brokerage space 20 years ago, asserts Le, inasmuch as it still relies heavily on manual communication such as phones, faxes and email to hire, vet and deploy drivers.

Haul’s cloud-based service offers drivers and customers a more streamlined, flexible and tech-enabled experience — from giving drivers the option to choose their loads to alerting them via app as to exactly how much money they earned as soon as the job is completed. 

Fleets gain access to an all-in-one portal, where they can view available drivers, their qualifications and locations. “It’s almost like a TMS to manage the driver,” Le explained.

Lessons learned

Providing drivers with upfront visibility was one of the lessons the founders learned while working for freight matching disruptor Uber Freight, where Henry worked in operations and corporate strategy. Le, a software engineer, eventually shifted into management, helping launch the Canadian and European markets.

Another takeaway was that much of the initial interest in Uber Freight came from drivers working for the company’s rideshare business.

“That subconsciously lit a spark,” Henry said.

Elaborating on that idea, Le said that while working at Uber he saw a “dormant supply of drivers,” individuals with CDLs who went into trucking but left because they didn’t have as much independence as they expected or the job took them away from their families for long periods of time.

To lure these disenchanted drivers back into the industry, and attract new drivers, Haul is trying to “flip the model of freight assignment to create a platform that puts the labor in charge,” as Henry put it.

Its tactics include finding assignments for drivers within an hour radius of where they live, and bypassing long haul trucking in favor of private, dedicated, local fleets.

‘This is what Uber should have done’

For its customers, Haul takes aim at a trifecta of woes, helping fleets with high driver turnover and unpredictable surges in demand (especially during the coronavirus-fueled e-commerce boom), while offering protection from labor laws targeting trucking’s independent contractor business model.

“Trucking has always been a target for employment misclassification,” said Henry, noting that California isn’t the only state cracking down on the leased owner-operator model.

To “future-proof” the company, Haul has made its drivers W-2 employees, a model he believes can be profitable given labor market and public policy trends.

“This is what Uber should have done,” said Henry.

Uber and Lyft are locked in a battle with the state of California, where courts have ruled the companies must reclassify drivers as employees.

In rideshare, a ready pool of drivers

As FreightWaves reported earlier this year, driving staffing agencies are seeing a surge in business, driven in part by a wave of labor legislation around the country.

Separately, other trucking companies are seeing opportunity in the CDL-equipped rideshare driver, as passenger transport gives way to package delivery in the wake of the pandemic. Earlier this year virtual trucking carrier CloudTrucks teamed up with Uber Freight and COOP by Ryder to help qualifying Uber drivers break into freight. 

Drivers without their own equipment can lease a tractor and trailer through COOP by Ryder, a platform that connects fleet managers with idle vehicles to businesses that are looking to rent vehicles. CloudTrucks will pay the vehicle deposit.

Some of the drivers started off renting trucks and have since “graduated“ to leasing or purchasing their first trucks, CloudTrucks CEO Tobenna Arodiogbu told FreightWaves.

“A lot of the drivers going through that program are previously company drivers who have never been able to purchase their own equipment so it’s pretty exciting to see the upward mobility and opportunities that they are creating for themselves and their families,” he said in an email.

LinkedIn for truck drivers

Henry and Le aren’t interested in seeding new owner-operators.

In trucking you can be a direct hire, a company driver, an owner-operator — “or you can be a leased driver,” Henry said. Seeking to professionalize that fourth driver category, Haul’s founders have longer-term ambitions to help build a career path for drivers who don’t own trucks, combining the best of the gig economy’s flexibility with job security, benefits and professional development opportunities, supported by a LinkedIn-style employment platform.

“It’s about how we can get a large swath of that workforce on our platform and become that digital representation of their workspace,” Henry said.

The idea is similar to some tech-enabled warehouse staffing startups that match employers with pre-vetted and screened hourly wage workers, who build their candidate profiles on the platform.

Haul currently has 500 drivers on its platform and is live in several markets across California and Georgia, with plans to expand into Texas this year. The young company closed an initial financing round led by GFC, according to Henry, and plans on raising a formal round in a few months.

Related stories:

Laws limiting independent contractors shine spotlight on driver leasing companies

Portland company streamlines employee recruitment and retention


  1. Art

    Carriers offering benefits have a hard time hiring drivers.
    Professional drivers don’t wish to be treated like disposable gig workers paid 1099 no benefits.

    Good luck snowflakes.

    1. Scott McCall

      Agree. Easy to buy add space to promote yourself if you have the bucks Sounds like an app to replace temp service drivers…drivers that can’t qualify or won’t work a full time job to begin with?

    2. Jeremy

      I think you may have missed what they are accomplishing. What they are doing is giving the driver benefits, giving them full time work and giving the driver the power to work for carriers who fit their needs. It allows a driver to change his work status to another carrier and not have to change benefits, lose days off, or lose seniority.

      Im not sure where you see the flaw in giving drivers more control?

      1. Ron Leibman

        Same issues as with traditional services. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations due diligence requirements, insurance, and indemnity. Didn’t see anything in the article about compliance issues.

  2. Pedro Castillo

    Driver with a 😷 mask Picture”
    Are wee sheep that stupid and indoctrinated!
    Keep pushing the agenda of safety in compliance, freight pusher news!
    Hopefully real Liberty and freedom fighters stop this indoctrination of fearporn!

  3. Steve Luciani

    Interesting concept for sure. It will definitely push the driver services/recruitment business to the next level. However how do they make their money? Is it on the driver pay spread? Uber freight failed for many reasons. The main reason is the “low balling” of the freight rates. I personally experienced Uber cutting my rates and then failing to support the customer. I’m very leery of these new startups that can lose money testing the market, when other companies invested in this business have to make money to survive. I see risk insurance being a huge issue with this model.
    I think the “wait and see” approach is the way to go.

  4. Philip L Schwigel

    Actually it might work. Freight is a touchy business. It’s there one minute & gone the next. Why? Because customers place orders & than cancel them as the economy changes. One minute you need something the next minute you don’t. As far as qualified drivers go, what kind of criteria do you set forth for your drivers? Are these guys fresh out of truck driver training courses with little or no road experience? Are you poking around at drivers with a minimum of 2 years employment with training companies such as Swift & Werner? I do believe the market is full of the 1-2 year experienced drivers, but hiring them would be quite the liability as if your Insurance Company found out about this, your premium rates would skyrocket through your profit margin. Staking claim to having a field of drivers being certified & qualified is quite the marketing strategy. Getting that field of Safe, Reliable, Certified & Qualified Driver Fleet would depend on how you as a company & how you are going to treat the driver. A Safe, Reliable, Certified & Qualified Driver is going to have one thing on his mind. Where can I go to make the best money possible, & still continue to survive financially with a family at home? What this is going to mean that as a company you are going to have to embrace your drivers with the pay & benefit packages that they need to sustain themselves will out on the road & keep their families safe & healthy back at home at the same time. Are you going to be willing to get your drivers home during low freight volumes, or pay them for setting idle in strategic locations while waiting for freight to reappear? Think about this as you stake your claim. If you are willing to put your fleet drivers of drivers above & beyond your profit margins this might work. If not, you’ll probably be a financial disaster like most of the other trucking companies are today. I believe that if you are up front & honest with your employees (your fleet of drivers), even during the slow freight times, a lot of your driver fleet would be willing to work with you to meet your strategic & customer needs, but that would require you as a company to stand up & take care of your driver & his family while he/she is taking care of you. Consider this as you build into the future. I like your idea of keeping the drivers regional. This is important as it means the drivers always have easy acess to get home in an emergency, but in the past the drivers have found it hard to make ends meet driving regionally. They opt for OTR because the companies they work for make it look like thy can make more money up front. Once you get out on the road as a driver, you are pretty much on your own, if the wheels of the truck are not moving, you are not making money. What are your plans on the drivers you hold in the areas idle waiting for freight?

  5. Tim Higham

    Interesting concept but surely the liability issues here seem immense, no?. Yes, it’s true that lots of drivers “have a CDL”, but MANY of them shouldn’t be taking $150,000 loads in $200,000 tractor/trailer combos with equipment they just aren’t familiar with. Also, I’m sure many of these “spare drivers” haven’t been driving for a considerable length of time since their last load, either. You don’t want people jumping into unfamiliar equipment after 3 or 6 months (or longer) since their last load

    It’s an interesting concept, though. It takes the driver staffing model to another level if it works (and if they can get insurance). I bet all the staffing companies are now scrambling to create an app, too LOL. 👍👍

    1. Art

      Good point, another staffing agency… just what the industry needs. an app will make it revolutionary to sell to venture capital to burn money on

      I wonder how much longer venture capital will waste money on any idea

Comments are closed.

Linda Baker, Senior Environment and Technology Reporter

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves senior reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes autonomous vehicles, the startup scene, clean trucking, and emissions regulations. Please send tips and story ideas to [email protected]