Uber just released an update to its Uber Freight app, called Fleet Mode, which enables dispatchers to book freight on behalf of their drivers directly.
Uber launched its Freight app last May on a small scale in Texas as a trial to test the technology and gauge response, the company’s senior project manager Eric Berdinis explained. Based on the feedback, Berdinis’ team further developed the technology to support larger businesses. He said the most common reaction was drivers asking Uber to extend its network to allow them to book more loads in different states.
Six months after the Texas trial, other states, like California, Illinois and Michigan were included as part of a four-region extension. Now, loads are offered nationally, after the company spent roughly the last six months working to cover the entire country.
“So just like you would order an Uber ride by pressing one button, we’ll bring that same match-able experience to the freight world, first starting with independent owner-operators,” Berdinis stated.
Drivers can still directly book their own freight, he said, but this update provides added options for the fleet owner. The dispatcher or owner previously booked loads by logging into the app to view a page showing what was available, and while that is still an option, now users can also view a page listing drivers. Each will be displayed as available, busy with another load, or offline. This organization is a more accurate representation of the moving parts involved, Berdinis explained.
Once a customer chooses to book and assigns a load to themselves or another fleet professional, a notification alerts the driver on the other end.
“It kind of streamlines the communication between the dispatcher and their drivers,” Berdinis said. “And that way if the driver accepts it, then both the dispatcher knows we’re good to go and Uber knows it, and we can send confirmation back to the shipper.”
In time, more and more users wanted to expand, but the app wasn’t designed for several drivers, Berdinis said, which presented a challenge. Multiple drivers from one company could not work together with the original app because it was intended for single owner-operator companies.
Berdinis said updates are in response to community feedback, which includes communications at events like the Mid-America Trucking Show and company-sponsored events.
One driver shared a story about how he missed his son going to college because he couldn’t book a load in time, and out of that story and several others, Uber created the Take Me Home feature. This feature was born from and improved with ride-alongs, where developers join drivers on routes to see how their designs work in real time.
“With Fleet Mode we’re now giving fleet owners and dispatchers the ability to manage their drivers, to see who’s available, and also book loads and assign them to those drivers so they can grow their business,” Berdinis said.
Berdinis said the company is investing in another venture—Uber Elevate, which is a platform for flying cars. He said the company has several projects in the works related to transportation, and his team will continue focusing on improving Uber Freight to cater to customers’ needs.