LoadExpress

Deal Direct. No Brokers.

With this release, owner-operators and fleets can book loads, get paid immediately, and manage their business without brokers and factors.  They can basically make use of the full functionality of the LoadExpress platform on their phones and iPads.

They can also provide the most accurate load tracking status to shippers and dispatchers compared to other load matching apps.  That’s because LoadExpress is the only digital load matching system that uses truck maps and databases.  All other products in the market use the free Google Maps and its features, which are for cars and small commercial vehicles, and probably good enough for truckers 70% of the time.  The other 30% may cost them high fines, higher cost and delays.  Hitting a low overpass or needing to be rerouted 100+ miles because of one is an expensive–and sometimes dangerous– mistake.  Experienced truckers know the difference.

Transit Status--6-30-17

LoadExpress’ truck maps deliver critical roadside information truckers need, including: speed limit, bridge weight/height, curve ahead warnings and points of interest such as diesel stations and truck stops.  Once a carrier is delivering a load on LoadExpress, truck navigation/routing with turn-by-turn will be automatically turned on.  These features are similar to those on leading truck navigation devices such as those from Rand McNally, the market leader in those devices.  They retail between $300-600.  It is a totally free download on LoadExpress, and only available on the LoadExpress mobile app.

Because of the size of the map/database (3.5 GB), one needs to do a second download from the app to get it.  Total space required for the full capability is 4 GB.  The map/navi download button is at the top.

Map/Navi Download Button

Map-navi download button

Download instructions: Both apps can be downloaded from LoadExpress: www.loadexpress.com or

Android: Google Play Store  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.loadexpress.

iOS: Apple App Store https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/loadexpress/id1204939480?ls=1&mt=8

As we talked with our users on both sides of the market, particularly carriers, some perceive our auction model as unfamiliar or unworkable. After some explaining and clarifications, then they get it. Why? The main reason is they don’t realize they are already engaged in an auction every day with a broker.  When a broker gets a request for quote from a customer, he would immediately go out to his carrier network and try to get the lowest bid from a carrier. A small broker would do this directly; a large broker has multiple carrier reps internally to go to and get bids form their respective carriers.  Whoever is chosen by the broker gets the load.  Unless a carrier or broker is tied by long-term contracts with fixed rates, this is the essence of today’s broker-driven spot market process repeated thousands of times a day.

What we offer is a totally superior form of auction that’s better for carriers and shippers. Today, a carrier is essentially bidding blind against others and himself, with the broker controlling the process and target price. We at LoadExpress support an open auction with total price transparency.  It’s the free market and dynamic pricing at its purest. Using a poker analogy, a broker who sees his hole cards and everybody else’s cards is engaged in bids/offers with 10 players who only see their own cards and nobody else’s.  Would you want to play in that game?

Second, LoadExpress is a marketplace for buyers and sellers of freight so they can deal with each other directly.  It’s not for brokers where they control the process and flow of information and keep both sides in the dark.  Third is the transaction fee.  A broker will try to maximize his margin on each deal as any business would. Typical broker margins are 10-25%+ depending on the deal, with 40% not unheard of. As usual, the big guys get the better deals, and the smaller ones not.  CHR’s annual margin was 16.5% in 2016.  We charge a flat, and lower fee for using the platform.

LoadExpress                Current Process

Pricing                       Open Auction                Closed auction

Relationship             Direct buyer-seller       Broker

Fee                              Flat, lower                      Variable, higher

Another misconception that some carriers had was that an open auction model is a race to the bottom with the last one in at a dollar lower getting the deal.  That’s a misconception we do not see.  What shippers want is a reliable network of dependable carriers who offer good service at a good price. In LoadExpress, the shipper picks the winner, based on the price, his rating, and possibly direct prior experience. Price is very important, of course, but a reliable carrier who bids a few dollars more will usually win.

So in reality, we are offering a fair, open and transparent auction system vs. today’s blind, closed and opaque system.  We bring power and control back to carriers and shippers.  The way it should be.  But participants in today’s system are so ingrained in the old way of doing business they don’t always realize the improvements.  Thus our central mission as we scale up our operations is: to educate and make aware of our innovation, get people to be comfortable with it, and help them use the system.

PS:  We’ve been pretty hard on brokers.  Our attitude towards them is summarized below:

giphy-1

Our first whitepaper is here, and on our homepage, ready to download. It starts out by showing how the top 5 airlines joined to form Orbitz in 1999 which caused the online travel industry to take off, and asks the question: does the trucking industry have the same leadership and vision to do the same, and why not?

The rest of the paper discusses:

  • The need to be more productive and cut costs in this cutthroat business has finally moved the industry to start the digitization process other industries have started 20 years ago.
  • The airline industry got together and said “we are not going to pay the 7% commissions anymore.” Shippers are paying 10-25% on truck loads, meaning billions of dollars.  What more incentive does the industry need to become more efficient?
  • A big part of the unnecessary cost and inefficiency lies with the brokers, who exist to make the logistics process function but doesn’t solve the problem.
  • The solution is LoadExpress, which moves the trucking market towards the future: a direct model with the ultimate efficient pricing model, auctions.

Hope you enjoy it, and look forward to hear your feedback.

After nearly two years of hard work, LoadExpress has finally launched two weeks ago, at the Mid-America Truck Show.  With the great reception we got (more on that in a later post), we are ever more confident we have built a unique product and business model that provide great benefits to both shippers and carriers, owner operators and drivers. We have something important to contribute to the logistics industry, starting with the truck freight market, and we are in the right place at the right time.

website1

What do we see, and what are our operating principles based on our vision?

  1. The U.S. trucking industry is one of the largest and most critical industries in the U.S.  It is also one of the most technologically backward.  Much of the industry is run with brokers and lots of people using phones, faxes, spreadsheets, and home grown “systems” to conduct business.  Today’s logistics process is universally recognized by everyone involved as highly inefficient, frustrating and therefore unnecessarily costly.  There’s got to be a better way.

    LoadExpress exists to provide that better way.

    We’re using proven web-based technologies that transformed many other industries such as travel, e-commerce, real estate and countless other services. We’re taking that technology and applying it to the logistics industry.  Through automation and eliminating the middlemen and all the inefficiencies that come with them, carriers will make more money, shippers will lower their costs, and both will enjoy higher productivity and customer satisfaction.

  2. Studies and surveys point to these elements as the key components of technology needed by the logistics industry: Internet, open standards, direct models and data, data and data.  Our web platform and mobile app are designed from the ground up with those elements in mind.
  3. The logistics industry is highly fragmented and intensely competitive with margin pressures on both shippers and carriers.  The 10-25% margins charged by brokers and the highly inefficient, nearly manual process in the daily operations of logistics represent a huge opportunity for improvement. LoadExpress’ mission is to unlock billions of dollars in profits and lower costs for the logistics industry, starting with the $250 billion commercial truck freight market in the U.S.
  4. Finally, this is critically important: we play for the long haul.  What does that mean? We are veterans in the enterprise software, startup and navigation industries.  We are very skeptical of hype and the latest fads.  So is the logistics industry. We know the logistics industry is big, tough, and takes a long-term approach to win, through hard work and providing real solutions that work and generate real benefits.  It’s a very complicated business to get right.  Our customers don’t tend to read the Silicon Valley press or care about the self-claimed next disruptive technology. There already have been a handful of startups in our space using “Uber for trucking” and Silicon Valley money/mindset which have become roadkill or the severely wounded.  We will not do that.  We play for the long haul.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for our saga into the digitization of the logistics industry.

 

With the freight industry being one of the largest contributors to the U.S. economy, it is imperative that it makes way for technology infusion. San Diego-based startup LoadExpress is looking to disrupt the way logistics is handled in the industry right now.

LoadExpress is a digital freight matching and transportation execution platform, says Ken Liu, vice president of business development at LoadExpress. “We connect 3PLs, shippers, and carriers to post bids for their loads as well as execute on that transaction totally within one platform.”

The founders of the startup come in with decades of experience in the field of trucking and commercial fleet navigation solutions. “This helped us understand the problems that carriers and truckers have while doing business,” says Liu.

Though there are a lot of new companies mushrooming in the freight industry every day, Liu believes there is enough space for everyone, owing to the immense market potential. “There are so many ways to evolve as we go along. The market is not conducive to being dominated by a few players right now since it is very fragmented.”

LoadExpress works in a niche that is different from its competitors, regarding the technology developed. “Our platform is unique since we are load boards as well as a transport execution platform. A major part of these processes is offline and the limited technology that is used is all over the place,” says Liu. “We have put all that together in one place. They can bid on loads and execute everything on the same platform for free, without ever going off-board.”

What sets LoadExpress apart from its peers is the integration of all the services on a single platform. “Most of our competitors have put together a digital freight management matching system which primarily deals with the easy part of load bookings. Everything else is done in the background off-line. We believe we have the most comprehensive features on this at this point,” says Liu.

LoadExpress is testing in the market right now and is looking to create strategic partnerships with trucking companies. Ever since its launch last year, the startup has constantly been iterating on its software, with features being added every week based on user feedback.

“Since we are an SaaS platform, we get feedback from our customers nearly every day,” says Liu. “We’ve got users on both sides telling us what they like and don’t like. And we try to fit them into the platform as fast as possible.”

One of the biggest challenges that LoadExpress foresees is the adoption rates of the product. Since the industry has not seen much technology over the last decade, educating people on its significance could be demanding.

“A lot of it comes down to individual customer interaction,” says Liu. “The logistics trucking market is very people oriented, and computers are still a bit ahead for a lot of people for doing business. We realize that behavioral change takes time and that being patient is important to win them over.”

LoadExpress creates videos and aids for people to understand its solution and would assist them over the phone if they want to learn more about the product. The company is still fine-tuning its user interface to make it as user-friendly as possible.

The startup has come a long way since its inception last summer. It plans to keep adding features based on feedback, while simultaneously working on adapting the user’s mindset towards technology. Though it might take some time for the technology to penetrate fully into the market, Liu believes it is inevitable, and that success is right around the corner.

We are growing. We’re looking to hire a seasoned sales professional with own book of business of shippers and carriers with a minimum of 5-years verifiable track record in the truck freight industry. Experience and business with 3PLs/freight brokers a strong plus.  Candidate will focus on small/medium commercial and private fleets and shippers which can use LoadExpress immediately. Entry into 3PLs/freight brokers is a strong plus. Experience, or at least familiarity, in selling technology products/services to the logistics industry such as digital freight matching, TMS, and load tendering systems.

Location can be anywhere.  Ready to hire immediately.  See full spec at https://www.loadexpress.com/about.

LoadExpress has implemented the latest government closed-area data for Houston into its mobile app so truckers can be rerouted to minimize disruptions and enable them to deliver critical shipments in the relief effort.  The data will be updated daily.  Example below:

Fig.1: Data Showing I-10 West of Downtown Closed in Various Points

Gov't data

Fig.2: LoadExpress Reroutes to I-610 to Bypass Downtown Going from West to East

Reroute

LoadExpress Mobile App for carriers is free.  Its Truck Map module is also free in an add-on download, which provides critical roadside information truckers need, including: speed limit, bridge weight/height, curve ahead warnings and points of interest such as diesel stations and truck stops.  Once a carrier is delivering a load on LoadExpress, truck navigation/routing with turn-by-turn will be automatically turned on.  These features are similar to those on leading truck navigation devices such as those from Rand McNally, the market leader in those devices.  They retail between $300-600.  It is a totally free download on LoadExpress, and only available on the LoadExpress mobile app.

LoadExpress Mobile App can be downloaded at:

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.loadexpress

iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/loadexpress/id1204939480?ls=1&mt=8

The standard MO for many brokers is to get a customer’s load at low–and unsustainable–rates, and then try to cover the load at that rate by haggling with carriers.  If it can’t be done, broker can give back the load or take a loss on it.  The hope is to hook that customer for future–and profitable–loads.  Big brokers with the financial power can do that in a big scale, by taking on long-term contracts, get the market share, and somehow work back into more profitable contracts in the future or make it back somewhere else.

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This is not surprising since this is the nature of the beast.  What we want to point out is that other companies in the digital load matching space which purportedly are using technology to eliminate brokers are doing nothing of the sort.  In reality, they are just another broker with a veneer of technology doing the same bait and switch dance.  For example, from multiple reliable sources (ex-employees, carriers and shippers) of one such startup, it goes to a large shipper and gets a contract with a rate that’s too good to be true.  When it tries to increase that rate later, surprise!, load volume drops sharply. In one case, 7 to 1.  But it goes to new accounts and can show top-line growth.  On that strategy, it just received $40 million in venture capital.

This is like credit card company offering you 0% interest rate without telling you it’s a special intro rate for 12 months.  Then you get 17% interest on the 13th month, and cancels.  So basically brokers play the customer churn game, and I am guessing many savvy shippers are playing the same game, keep on getting special 0% deals with as many vendors as possible.

images1

We at LoadExpress is expressly against this industry practice.  We want to bring total price and process transparency to the market, where carriers and shippers deal directly without a broker in the middle controlling the action for this benefit.  Our auction model is the most efficient and fair–in the sense that the market is fair. And we have the technology to back it up.  Visit our site, request a demo or whitepaper, or just sign up. Takes only a few minutes.

We’ve just deployed another simple but powerful tool to make LoadExpress the most automated and comprehensive freight marketplace in the industry.  The LoadExpress Express Load Builder is a simple template (see below) where a shipper can fill out some basic info, email it to postloads@loadexpress.com, and voila, that load is automatically populated in the LoadExpress marketplace.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3.  That load will show up in the shipper’s Open to Bids panel as well as the whole marketplace.  Only after a bid on that load has been accepted will the shipper then fill out the rest of the site and delivery info needed.

Template

 

This tool does three things: 1) conforms to the main tool that most small/medium shippers live off daily, namely, email.  We don’t require them to change their habits; 2) eliminates any unnecessary data entry if a load did not receive any acceptable bids, and 3) automates the load building process.  Once done, a BOL and rate confirmation are auto generated by the system, and the rest of the transaction flows as usual.

We have customers marveling how they can build a load, put it into the marketplace, see bids, accept them, and track it from pickup to delivery, ALL WITHOUT HUMAN INVOLVEMENT.  And that’s the whole point of LoadExpress, to automate as much as possible to generate savings and productivity gains that we can pass along to our users.  Our fees are 50% less than typical broker margins as a result.  That’s the kind of savings worth changing for.

The quick answer is yes.  Of the 16,000 registered brokers, the top 25 garnered 71% of the $38 billion in fees.  The nuanced answer is that it will happen to the vast majority of the mom and pops and small shops who offer 1) basic services in the commodity truck freight market, and 2) no scale or technology to compete against the biggest brokers.  A Rolodex, email and bunch of phones are no longer viable.  The C.H. Robinsons, Coyotes would be fine.

Travel agents are very similar to freight brokers in that both provide basic services in a fiercely competitive commodity transportation business (one people, the other freight) with tightening margins.  Twenty years ago, travel agents handled more than 70% of consumer travel bookings; today it’s less than 10%.  Looking underneath a bit more, you’ll find that travel agents book a much larger share of cruises and tour packages–more complex travel.  Just ask yourself: when’s the last time you booked a plain old airline ticket, hotel or car rental through a travel agent?

travel agents pic

So the lesson is clear: brokers must provide more than the basic commodity transport services in order to survive in the future.  You might ask: they’ve been doing this since time immemorial, so what’s changed now?  Because the digitization of the freight industry is finally here, albeit 20 years behind the travel industry.  Big existing players, startups, investors, foreign logistics companies, not to mention Amazon and Uber, have pumped in billions to jump into the $260 billion commercial trucking market.  The overriding goal is the same: to wring $ billions of waste and inefficiency out of the industry through automation.

A big part of that waste is the $38 billion in brokerage fees, out of a $260 billion market, or 14.6%.  A 10% reduction means almost $4 billion in annual savings.  With only a 3% net margin for the consolidated logistics industry, that’s a game-changing opportunity.  We’ve been the most explicit about this part of our value proposition because our auction model hits straight at the problem: the excessive broker margins for the basic services they provide.  LoadExpress has developed a platform that automates a big part of the basic broker’s services, which will result in reduced cost for customers. Our transaction fee is competitive or lower than typical brokerage commissions, especially when the labor savings and the reduced aggravations we deliver are accounted for.

The online travel industry was created in 1996 by Expedia, and then Travelocity and some others followed suit. But it wasn’t until Continental AirlinesDelta Air LinesNorthwest AirlinesUnited Airlines, and subsequently American Airlines invested $145 million to form Orbitz, that the online travel industry took off. That’s because the five airlines controlled 80% of the airline capacity. The chief motivation of the bold move, against heavy opposition from travel agents, consumer groups and fledgling competitors, is simple yet powerful: they didn’t want to pay the travel agents 7% anymore, and thus save billions of dollars every year.  The industry is saying:

download

The airlines took a leadership position to eliminate 7% commissions. Why isn’t the trucking industry, or the biggest shippers, doing the same for 10-25% brokers’ commissions?  What more motivation do they need?

While both industries are notoriously fragmented and can’t achieve the same concentration with a handful of even the biggest players, I still think such an alliance from either side, or both, will be a huge catalyst for the much needed digital disruption in the trucking industry.  Will it ever happen?  Don’t know.  In the meantime, we are busy executing our plans.

Internet technologies have transformed countless industries ever since the Web browser came on the scene in 1994.  The trucking industry has been lagging in technology adoption for the past 20 years.  But starting several years ago, there has been a boom in technology innovation and adoption in the entire logistics ecosystem across all segments.  In our space of digital load matching in trucking, there are probably a couple dozen known startups joining the spray, as well as large players investing heavily to automate or web-enable their operations.  J.B.Hunt’s latest announcement of its marketplace, as well as Uber and Amazon’s upcoming offerings, prove beyond doubt that the future is here.

What’s happening in the logistics industry today reminds me of the online travel industry at its beginning in 1996, when Expedia is credited with starting the online travel industry. Very quickly, Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline.com, Hotels.com et al.  came afterward and changed the travel industry forever.  What’s happening in our space is exactly like that.  There is a lot of experimentation going on, with different features, business models, partnerships and relationships.  I have blogged about our approach, benefits and differentiation previously.

All reports and surveys agree on the need of technology in the logistics industry, for two main reasons.  In the trucking industry:

  1. it is notoriously inefficient with a semi-manual process consisting of a hodge podge of emails, spreadsheets, home-grown apps, and lots of yelling and aggravations for all participants.  Less than 20% of participants use any TMS or load tender systems. A simple “where’s my shipment?” question from a customer may require 5 people (customer, broker rep and operations guy, dispatcher, driver) making round-robin calls resulting in “I’ll get back with you when I know” an hour later.  This produces high costs and depresses productivity.
  2. The industry is fiercely competitive in an environment of squeezing margins.  This is especially true of the commodity truck freight business, which has the lowest margins in the logistics industry.

So it’s quite simple, only the efficient will survive.  Those who don’t adapt and change will die.

What the LoadExpress platform has provided is a level-playing field for small-medium shippers and carriers vs. their big competitors to take full advantage of benefits that technology has proven it can provide.  To enjoy those benefits, users need to change their mindset and habits.  The current process can be roughly described as “yell at the broker and hope he’ll take care of it. If he does, great.  If not, yell at him some more.” They can’t continue to operate like that, and can’t continue to complain about their present plight without doing anything and expect things to improve.  LoadExpress provides the proven technology to enable shippers and carriers to do their work more efficiently and cheaply, on their own and control the process.  At LoadExpress, there is no one to yell at.

LoadExpress

Deal Direct. No Brokers.

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