Uber Freight, the newly spun out Uber business unit that helps truck drivers connect with shipping companies, is kicking off its global expansion plans. The company said Wednesday it is launching the app in Europe, starting with the Netherlands.
Local carriers and drivers will be able to book and move their first loads with Uber Freight in the next few weeks, CEO Lior Ron wrote in a blog posted Wednesday. Uber Freight plans to expand to more European countries this year.
The EU and U.S. freight markets have problematic similarities. They’re both huge — the EU truckload market is a $400 billion marketplace and third after China and the U.S. — and inefficient.
“The European trucking market is experiencing a severe shortage of drivers, and of the time drivers are on the road, 21 percent of total kilometers travelled are empty,” Ron wrote. “Inefficiency of this scale results in shippers struggling to find available drivers to move their goods. Additionally, small- to medium-sized carriers in the EU make up more than 85% of the total carrier pool, and just like in other international freight markets, they experience the most difficulty connecting with larger shippers.”
Ron argues that the Uber Freight app has the ability to address these pain points in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.
Uber Freight has been scaling up its business since launching in May 2017, growing from limited regional operations in Texas to the rest of the continental U.S. The company has offices in San Francisco and Chicago. Uber Freight has launched a series of programs and features since March 2018, including “fleet mode” and Uber Freight Plus, which gives app users access to discounts on services such as fuel, tires and phone plans.
In August, Uber announced that it would make Uber Freight a separate unit and more than double its investment into the business. Since then, the company has redesigned the app, adding new navigation features that make searching for and filtering loads easier to customize and more intuitive, as well as other features, including an updated map view and a search bar across the top of the screen.
It’s also made some key hires, one of which intimated the company’s global ambitions. The company hired Andrew Smith, one of Box’s early employees, to head up global sales at Uber Freight, and Bar Ifrach, formerly of Airbnb, to lead its marketplace team, TechCrunch learned last month.
The company has made headway breaking into the U.S. market. The app has been downloaded more than 328,000 times and 12 percent of 350,000 U.S. owner operators have completed the Uber Freight onboarding process, which means they’ve booked or are ready to book a load, the company says.
Uber Freight had about 30,000 active users last quarter.