When Hurricane Harvey ended, a drinking water supply company called Niagara Bottling had to quickly deliver bottled drinking water to people in need in nearby areas in Texas. “Anything that could have been tough was tough,” Brian Reed, Niagara’s vice president of transportation and customer service, said of the process. By Friday, September 1, Niagara was ready to ship 4.8 million bottles of water to be transported by 127 trucks. The problem was finding vehicles to carry these loads on a late Friday afternoon in Texas after the hurricane and the start of Labor Day weekend.
Reed regarding the situation; “Our shipments are made 24/7, but when we try to secure the capacity to carry our loads on Friday evenings, things get very quiet. (Niagara is located in “Inland Empire” California, east of Los Angeles). We have large logistics service providers, but very few people could find trucks for us at that time. Saturday morning is a suitable time, but it would not be possible to reach this capacity until noon,” he said.
The problem is compounded by a narrow truck market. Finding carrying capacity in the fall this year is more difficult and expensive than in 2016. With Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in early September coinciding with the busiest period of transportation, spot market transportation prices rose with double-digit increases.
Reed for that Friday; “When our normal capacity disappeared, we found ourselves waiting by the window,” he said. Despite this, the company was able to quickly ship all 127 trucks of cargo by turning to one of its newest logistics partners, Uber Freight, a mobile app-based marketplace launched in April. The freight was provided within hours by small logistics firms and independent drivers, who are the core of Uber Freight for its shipment.
This is seen as proof that Uber needs to end its skepticism about its own potential in the freight brokerage market. Regarding Niagara’s opening of its cargoes to the spot market with Uber Freight, Uber Freight director Bill Driegert; “Seeing these loads off the board in a matter of minutes was magical. What we experienced during Hurricane Harvey was a situation where we saw how valuable our platform would be as it allowed many operators to scale and access additional capacities during challenging times. We’ve seen it once.” he said.
The event further highlights the growing importance of technology in the logistics and freight brokerage industry. And it compels all players competing in the market, including established logistics companies, to give due importance to these digital platforms that help speed up the communication of load-bearing and load-bearing, and reduce the costs of finding and transporting cargo.