“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about the destination” – Drake
FreightWaves was launched by industry entrepreneur Craig Fuller.
Craig literally grew up around the industry and was exposed to trucking, airfreight, digitization, and technology from an early age. His father started what is now the largest privately held trucking company in the U.S., US Xpress. When his dad started the company with just 50 trucks, Craig was a small boy and got to see how applying technologies such as telematics and digitization could enable an upstart to grow to be one of the largest players in the industry. He had the opportunity to participate in the company’s early technology, serving as its first help-desk technician in his pre-teens. That experience taught him how technology would be used by the company and gave him a front row seat to witness its evolution.
But rather than just managing technology, Craig wanted to experience freight firsthand. He started to spend his summers away from Baylor University in fleet operations, doing everything from driver manager to load planner. Always up for a challenge, he found great pleasure in coordinating and designing repowers. On night dispatch, he became the “go-to” resource for solving multi-truck repowers, even pulling off a 25 truck repower right before July 4th.
After college, Craig ended up joining US Xpress’ airfreight startup on the sales side. He quickly grew the DFW and Austin freight markets to the third-largest freight markets in the company (from #12). While the product was air cargo, Craig became known around the DFW airport as the “go-to” resource for expedited on-demand truckload. Seeing an opportunity to create a new market, he founded the on-demand division of US Xpress, known as Xpress Direct (XD), in 2002.
XD quickly became the industry’s largest provider of on-demand trucking in the US. In less than two years, the subsidiary grew to more than $144M in annual revenue with a margin of 47%. The operation took over FEMA relief operations, managed a significant portion of UPS’ surge, became the industry backstop for capacity, and won the Quest for Quality Award for excellence in logistics.
Craig left the XD division to take over the Xpress Global Subsidiary and to orchestrate the sale of the airfreight operations to Forward Air Corporation. In less than five months, XGS went from losing $2 million dollars per month to a profit of around $1 million. US Xpress’ stock also rallied during the same period, surging by over 60%. Having orchestrated two of the greatest events in the company’s history–XD and the turn-around at XGS–Craig turned over the reins of XGS to operations expert John Bowes, who presided over XGS’ most profitable days, culminating in the sell of the business to private equity.
Upon leaving XGS, Craig ventured into entrepreneurship and launched a number of businesses, including the first “Uber of trucking,: TransMarkets, as well as a payments company named TransCard.
TransCard offered a prepaid debit-card and fleet card product. In 2012, the fleet card company was sold to US Bank for 30x revenues. After two years of working with US Bank, Craig left TransCard and ended up doing consulting with many FreightTech startups. He also spent many hours day-trading public equities and commodities. This was during the time when global commodities were crashing and the Baltic Exchange was serving as the benchmark indicator of the global economy. He noticed some similarities between the maritime freight markets and the road freight markets.
Intrigued, Craig reached out to the COO of the Baltic Exchange and asked him for an hour to explain how freight futures worked. What started out as a phone call culminated in an invitation to London to spend a few weeks studying how freight futures worked on the sea. Craig studied with about forty maritime freight futures agreements (FFAs) traders and learned how the maritime futures market was constructed. He ended up taking these lessons back with him when he returned to the U.S.
Encouraged by what he learned, Craig started having conversations with key industry and commodity markets players. Many of them listened and provided feedback, others agreed to join the company or join as advisors to the young startup, and a few even agreed to invest.
Through a friend and soon-to-be company executive, Ben Murphy, Craig established contact with DAT and expressed his interest in starting a futures market based on US trucking spot rates, in partnership with the benchmark price reporting agency for US trucking. DAT agreed to participate, and thus began the long task of developing a cold-start futures market would require resources and expertise well beyond the freight markets.
After a number of conversations with various global exchanges, Nodal agreed to partner with the upstart. Nodal, a significant player in the power markets, was attracted to the similarities between the capacity constrained freight markets and the power markets. After doing due diligence on the freight markets, Nodal agreed to partner with DAT and Craig’s new venture.
To build a futures market, the company would need to build significant amounts of liquidity: lots of participants were needed. Therefore, potential participants in the market had to be sufficiently educated and informed on events and trends that might impact the freight markets. Plus, educating the companies that would trade the futures on how they worked would also require a significant amount of PR resources. The company found that PR firms traditionally serving the trucking industry were uncomfortable with futures markets and how they worked.
The decision was made to insource this activity and the Managing Editor for one of the largest trade publications in the industry applied for the job. Brian Straight, who had been at Fleet Owner for almost a decade, was a perfect fit for the role. He had grown up as a true journalist, but was also a FreightTech enthusiast. FreightWaves was born and the stories gained traction through social media and through Google news search. Over the next few months, Brian kept writing about the freight markets and how technology, regulations, and economic activity were impacting them. The staff started to grow–and so did the traffic.
In the meantime, Craig used his deep rolodex to recruit a panel of experts and resources that could be tapped for information about the latest developments in the market. The team that was assembled included some of the biggest and most recognized names in the industry, as well as some resources that were less known, but possessed deep levels of experience and tribal knowledge of the freight markets. The company also sought out partnerships with over 150 companies that could provide anonymized market data that could be turned into indices and provide near-time analytics and insights on the state of the freight markets.
In less than a year, FreightWaves grew to the second most trafficked news site in all of freight, globally. A symbiotic relationship had developed between the company’s logistics and commodities professionals and the editorial team. The writers benefited from the vast resources, data, forum, and network Craig and his team has assembled, and in turn, they were educating the freight world about the cutting edge of finance and technology.
A few months before this milestone, the organization helped to launch the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA). The goal of BiTA is to provide a forum for technology standards and commercialization in the freight and transportation industry. BiTA is now the largest commercial blockchain alliance in the world, bringing together companies that generate over $1 trillion dollars in revenue.
The company is building a SaaS market dashboard inspired by the Bloomberg terminal to give market participants near-time insights into the freight markets, using charts, heat and geo maps, as well as commentary by the FreightWaves expert panel. The firm is also looking to launch the trucking freight futures contracts in the second half of 2018.
The team enjoys executive and advisory experience from storied transportation tech and freight organizations such as Transplace, J.B. Hunt, McLeod Software, TMW, Covenant Transport, the ATA, Transport Topics, TIA, TCA, US Xpress, FedEx, and XPO.
To round out the transport team, FreightWaves also pulls from current and former Wall Street and consulting enterprises, such as Stifel, BB&T, Frost and Sullivan, and Forester Research.
In addition to having deep freight markets experience, FreightWaves has also attracted key executives from capital markets publishing and price reporting services. The company’s editorial staff is headed by a former publisher and editor, and FreightWaves also counts among its executives the former head of Market Insights at S&P; the former head of commodities at Reuters; the head of trading for dry-bulk commodities at Morgan Stanley; the former President of S&P, JD Power, and McGraw-Hill; the former head of M&A at Morningstar; the former head of M&A at IHS; and a former president of Thomson Reuters.