Uber launches freight service to meet on-demand trucking needs

Uber Technologies inched closer to becoming a logistics company Thursday with the launch of Uber Freight, an on-demand freight service for trucking carriers.

Similar to the Uber app, through which drivers find passengers in need of a paid ride, the Uber Freight app connects truck drivers with cargo that needs to be hauled long distances. But unlike the passenger ride-hailing app, which relies largely on drivers unaffiliated with taxi fleets, the commercial trucking app is only available to drivers working for approved carriers. And its service is less instantaneous and requires a more rigorous vetting process.

Carriers that sign up must have a Motor Carrier number, a satisfactory safety rating and insurance. Drivers must also drive either a 53-foot-long dry van or reefer truck, although Uber plans to expand to more types of vehicles in the future.

Customers looking to ship goods with Uber Freight must contract directly with Uber by contacting the company. Shipments can be booked weeks in advance with deliveries as prompt as same-day.

Drivers are paid within seven days and have their rate confirmed ahead of time. Uber did not immediately respond to a question about the way it splits fares with drivers and carriers.

"We take the guesswork out of finding and booking freight, which is often the most stressful part of a driver’s day,” Eric Berdinis, a product manager of Uber Freight, said in a blog post. "What used to take several hours and multiple phone calls can now be achieved with the touch of a button."

The majority of the freight currently available for hauling in the Uber Freight app is in Texas, the company said, but the service is available across the U.S. The app has been designed to service carriers of all sizes, according to Uber, but it is best suited for small carriers and their drivers.

The ride-hailing company isn’t the first to create a tech-powered marketplace that connects trucking carriers with cargo. Start-ups such as Convoy, UShip, and Trucker Path provide similar app-based services.

Uber originally launched as a ride-hailing company but has in recent years diversified its business. The San Francisco company launched UberFresh (now known as UberEats) in 2014 to deliver restaurant meals, and a year later tested UberRush, a courier service.

tracey.lien@latimes.com

Twitter: @traceylien

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