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Uber Freight’s bookings climb, but an earnings benchmark slides

Uber Freight’s gross bookings rose 55% in the first quarter, but its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, already negative last year, sank even further.

EBITDA for the Freight segment came in at negative $64 million, down from negative $29 million last year. In an earnings statement that offered few details or comments on the segment, Uber Technologies, the parent corporation, did note that during the quarter, more than 10,000 “relief loads of critical goods … booked on the shipper platform in the U.S. were hauled at cost.”

In the Freight segment, Uber defines gross booking as the “total dollar value, including any applicable taxes, tolls and fees.” That figure rose to $198 million from $128 million in the first quarter of 2019.

On an earnings call with analysts, there were only cursory references to the Freight division in the discussion by management and no questions on the division from analysts.

However, in the earnings statement, Uber did say the Freight sector had “improved load bundle and multi-stop load product features” and “added improvements to the Uber Freight application that are intended to improve match of available loads with available carriers.”

Overall, Uber saw an 18% increase in revenue, powered by a 121% jump in revenue in its Uber Eats division following the start of the pandemic.

On the call, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that its Eats division is now running at an 89% year-on-year growth rate. Its adjusted net revenue for the quarter was $527 million, up from $239 million last year. 

Meanwhile, the Rides division did manage to eke out a small revenue gain of 4%, up to $2.475 billion from $2.377 billion last year. However, its gross bookings were down 5%. 

But it was the Rides division that came in with positive EBITDA in the quarter, recording $581 million in that category, up 203%. Eats recorded negative EBITDA of $313 million, just about 1% wider than in the first quarter of 2019.

On the call, Khosrowshahi said there had been a “tremendous increase” in restaurants signing up to have food delivered by Uber Eats, including a new “willingness of fine dining establishments to sign up for delivery.”

“We believe these trends are here to stay and will result in expansion of the entire category,” he added.

Wall Street’s reaction to the overall picture at Uber was positive. At approximately 6:15 p.m., Uber stock was up about 6.7%, despite the fact that the net loss attributable to the company was $2.9 billion. That included some writedowns and other tax impacts, but even without those, the loss would have been $1.1 billion. A year ago, the full net loss under GAAP rules was a little more than $1 billion.

The number of what Uber calls “monthly active platform consumers” rose 11% to 103 million, up from 93 million.


    1. Kirplopus is a carrier, not a JB Hunt employee, solid guy, I’ve used him several times. Owner/op team with his wife.

    2. I’m not anyone’s employee. I haul for hundreds of brokers / customers. MC 895097 Charlotte, NC. Matter of fact, Wells Fargo sent me PPP stuff right away; because my most recent $146K tractor loan was with them; so I’m very independent. I did not apply for PPP though; as I don’t honestly need it; even in today’s rates. I feel terrible for those that really need PPP; and missed out due to some taking it that could have survived without it. Hell, call me if you want to verify; I’m very “me” and independent. 704-918-7759

  1. Uber, Convoy using venture capital to subsidize rates; and it still isn’t working. Many fail to realize that automation is not saving the money that these tech companies imply it will. How much does mega brokers pay agents (the ones that digital help replace)? $18/hr, correct. When I book loads, it’s usually a 5 minute me-to-human interaction. So this is 1/12 of an hour. So digital saves 1/12 of $18; so Uber, Convoy save a lousy $1.50 per load? How’s that going to disrupt anything? Saving $1.50 on a $3000 load is only .5%. This will NEVER be able to beat out long term knowledge and connections and “can-do” that JB Hunt, etc have. JB Hunt will use what they like of this tech; and beat them at their own game. Already happening to both.

    1. Did anyone ever ask the question: how much efficiency is created by digital? Sure, mega brokerages will love to save $1.50 – $3.00 per load; by having digital replace many of their humans; and will do so. But no one is going to disrupt with this piddly savings; it’s not even enough to share with shippers; so shippers aren’t seeing any benefit, are they? On the carrier side; I’m not seeing any better pay at the digital sides of Uber Freight, etc. As I said above; I can get a better rate via JB Hunt 360 than I can from Uber or Convoy; so JB Hunt is maintaining their decades old superior….. something. And I’m not saying JB Hunt is the best paying broker at all; just more dominating these new supposed disruptors. I see it.

      1. The automation of the order is but a small part of the overall cost saving that can be achieved. Increased insights into the data and especially carrier lane and destination preferences, reduction in deadhead mileage, load optimisation etc etc will drive this process further. However, you’re right about the DFB business model – because as all of the above become table stakes, readily available ‘out of the box’ to every 3PL, what is the real value in uber freight, Convoy et al? They’d argue that it’s their network but the established 3PLs have the existing carrier and shipper relationships which are now augmented by the tech. Man plus machine, that’s the future. And subsidising the shipper by buying the market has failed big time for these guys in their ride hailing business and will probably fail big time in freight as well.

        1. I’d love to hash out the advertised fuel reduction being promoted by digital. IMO false advertising; I can achieve even less deadhead then “bundled loads” on my own. If you’re ready to get specific; lets do it. Overall we seem to agree. But I hate to see environmental benefits promoted that aren’t there. Where’s the verification? I see Al Gore buying into it; but I highly doubt that he’s done the homework….. instinct says no. I can get deadhead to zero; if I want; but then rate suffers to prioritize deadhead reduction.

  2. It looks like Uber is no longer growing. This is the third quarter with shrinking business combined with large losses.

  3. I just simply wonder who hauls for Uber? Their pricing is unsustainable. Their customer service is nonexistent.

  4. I don’t get it. If freight loses so much $ and rides makes money why don’t they just stick with the money maker and ditch the loser?????

John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.