Uber for Tractor Trailers?

By now, almost everyone in a major American city has either heard of or taken advantage of Uber, the popular, highly efficient, low-cost alternative to traditional taxi cabs and car services. Now, this kind of technology is making its way into the trucking industry, with the goal of improving efficiency for a huge segment of the economy that relies on trucks to haul a majority of our freight from coast to coast.

These Uber-like apps would connect manufacturers and shippers of goods with a trucker nearby who is heading to the intended destination. Truck drivers will be happy because they can get additional freight that they would not otherwise have been able to acquire on an on-the-fly basis, and the shipper gets a better deal because they can ship goods on an on-demand basis. Much like Uber, payment is transferred swiftly between the two parties.

A recent study found that by 2025, $26.4 billion of all truck freight movement will come from mobile app freight brokering. The growth potential here is astounding, and some established companies like Volvo and UPS have begun investing in this sector. Many hope that this technology can also attract younger truck drivers to an industry that is facing a serious shortage of available truck drivers in the years ahead as many aging drivers near retirement age.

While the projected productivity gains are projected to be enormous, we can’t overlook the same kinds of concerns that have plagued Uber. Who is going to be responsible for the track record of the fleet? How are the drivers going to be monitored? How is this activity going to be insured in the event of an accident? Who’s going to regulate the type of freight to be hauled over our roadways? All of these issues will present significant challenges for attorneys in the next 5-10 years and beyond.