On-Demand Trucking Raises Serious Questions About Driver Safety
Uber became a household name by disrupting the transportation services industry, encouraging passengers to ditch traditional modes of transport—such as taxis or mass transit—in favor of a convenient and easy-to-use mobile app that automatically matches them to available drivers.
Now Uber has signaled its intent to do the same with the commercial trucking industry. The company officially launched its cloud-based, on-demand truck freight brokerage service, Uber Freight, in May 2017, following several months of test deliveries in the Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston areas.
However, not everyone is ready or willing to embrace an on-demand trucking service.
Many operators in the commercial trucking industry are resistant to accept the idea of a service like Uber Freight out of a fear that on-demand drivers will affect their jobs. Others cite concerns about driver qualifications and safety.
How On-Demand Truck Freight Works
The Uber Freight app works much like the regular Uber app except that rather than matching passengers with available drivers, it matches freight companies with available commercial drivers looking for delivery jobs.
Independent owner/operator truck drivers can search for a freight delivery job by deadline, destination, or equipment, and schedule a job for the same day or weeks in advance. Additionally, the app features a recommendation engine inspired by user feedback that notifies truck drivers when new loads that match their load history or set preferences are available.
Uber Freight also simplifies financial aspects of the shipping arrangement by abolishing the need for shippers and commercial drivers to negotiate rates. With the Uber Freight app, the driver’s pay rate is predetermined. Payment is triggered upon completion of the delivery and arrives within seven days.
Safety Concerns Regarding On-Demand Trucking
Uber Freight is positioning itself as the future of the commercial trucking industry, but some people are worried that the app isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, particularly where safety is concerned. Hauling and delivering freight in a large commercial vehicle requires a lot more skill than shuttling a human rider from point A to point B in a passenger vehicle. Consequently, drivers must be well-trained, dependable, and safe.
Uber Freight appears to make driver safety a priority. It requires drivers using its platform to have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL); a clean driving record; sufficient insurance; and follow all Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. However, in an environment where drivers have little oversight and a financial incentive to bend the rules, ensuring compliance with safety regulations could be difficult. For example, drivers could violate FMCSA hours of service regulations, falsify their logbooks, or fail to perform regular inspections of their vehicles—and Uber Freight would never be the wiser.
What’s more, by classifying its drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees, Uber can insulate itself from a driver’s behavior and the consequences that follow. This type of arrangement can have big implications in personal injury cases. For example, if someone is seriously injured in a truck accident caused by a negligent Uber Freight trucker, the victim could sue him or her for damages, but may have difficulty collecting compensation from Uber.
On-Demand Trucking Catching On Slower Than Expected
A 2016 study released by business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan anticipated the $100 million mobile-based freight brokerage market would grow at a compound annual rate of 74.65 percent, generating nearly $27 billion in revenue across the entire market. However, reality has not lived up to these lofty expectations, as both drivers and shipping companies have been slow to adopt on-demand trucking services such as Uber Freight.
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