Uber has revolutionized the way people "hail a taxi" in today's society, giving everyday drivers a chance to earn money by picking people up and taking them to their desired destinations. Riders no longer have to wait for a cab company to get where they need to go. They can simply summon the closest Uber driver, and away they go!
This brings up an interesting question though: Could a service like Uber work for the freight industry? Would it speed up the shipping process for those last few miles when trucks have to make their way through congested cities? Would this open the door for deliveries within hours, rather than days? We'll explore all of these questions in detail below to give a better insight into how Uber would – or would not – work in the logistics field.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Uber, it's a free app that anyone can download to his or her phone. After creating an account (also free), a user may input their current location and destination into the app to get a quote for the drive. If they approve of the quote, Uber will send the closest driver to come pick them up. The payment is completed through the app, and the money is transferred to the driver accordingly.
Uber is not a taxi company. The drivers who work with Uber, not for Uber, use their own vehicles to complete their travels. In many ways, they are independent contractors, and Uber is simply a job board through which they get work. Riders get where they need to be quickly and often more affordably than they would through a traditional cab service.
In theory, the logistics industry could create an app similar to Uber for last-mile deliveries. These deliveries are usually difficult to handle in metropolitan areas, especially since large trucks cannot take on small sets of orders. Instead, they wait to fill their trucks with a complete shipment before they deliver to a hub. An Uber-like model could make the last part of the shipping process faster, easier, and more efficient.
Even though the idea above has merit, chances are the cost of "micro-deliveries" like this would outweigh the efficiency. That is, if the efficiency was improved at all. Having to navigate a series of drivers for a series of orders instead of one truck carrying the whole set could prove to be problematic. The more people you get involved with a single order, the higher your risk of human error. What starts off as a simple Point A to Point B transaction develops into a slew of transitions that could delay shipping times significantly.
Despite the fact that customers want faster shipping options, most of them are more drawn to the idea of free or low cost shipping methods. Amazon offers same-day deliveries for select locations next to their warehouses, but those deliveries come at a premium. Most people opt for the free two-day shipping that comes with an Amazon Prime account instead. Simply put, the cost is more important than the timing, and those factors would have to be weighed against each other before an Uber style business could work for freight.
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