I feel like every day now there is a new article trying to scare freight brokers because the Uber’s of the world are going to take over and leave every freight broker unemployed. This idea is garbage, but there is a point to be made about the modernization of freight matching.
There is a media coverage lately focused on mobile apps that are designed to connect shippers directly with owner operators and carriers. In exchange for this service, they charge a monthly fee or a per load fee. Wait, what? Isn’t that what brokers already do? How is this any different in the big picture? Really, it is not. But the modern approach to using technology via apps is a great thing. There is one problem with these articles talking about breakthrough technology…
IT’S NOTHING NEW
Seriously it is not. I’ve been in this industry for close to 10 years, and just about every broker offers mobile friendly technology for carriers to use and see any load that they want from the tens and hundreds of thousands of loads that they move annually. Better yet, integration in your TMS with load boards extends that reach. No monthly fee. No subscription. Just a top-tier freight brokerage offering a value-add to its partner carriers.
The point here is that technology is important, yes. Having a solid platform, mobile app, website, etc. are all factors in a company’s overall value to the industry. That being said, there is still the human factor that needs to exist, and it will never cease to exist.
HUMANS MATTER TOO
Let us look at some similar examples to relate this too. Amazon changed the way we buy things. You can go on your phone, buy an item, and it is delivered by a drone 4 seconds later. Pretty cool stuff! Well, maybe it takes a little longer, but you get the point. No matter how advanced the technology gets, how quick they can deliver, or how cheap they can sell, there will always be users that want to drive to the store, talk to a HUMAN, learn from said human, purchase from the store, and shake hands (or not during COVID-19) with that human before driving home with their newly purchased item. The same goes with freight brokering. Some people will always be phone rats, and I do not mean that in a bad way. The telephone was invented a long time ago and is still a dominating force in this industry. When I was a commander in the US Army in the past, I always told my staff that if they wanted something done quick, pick up the phone. So many times, people would resort to email as primary method of communication, and we all know that email can sit and sit and sit before it is replied to. It might even just get deleted because 18 people are copied on it, and everyone assumes that they are not the main person that needs to reply.
In freight brokering, there will always exist a purpose for humans to call other humans to discuss the specifics of a load. This might be less and less as time goes on, but there will always be a need for it. Some carriers and brokers prefer the phone method because it is quick and direct, and some like it because it gives them a sense of connection with other humans on this great planet. Whatever the reason is, there will always be one.
Easier said than done, but it is important to do this. Technology changes faster than a lot of us can keep up with it. I worked for Con-Way Freight as an operations supervisor prior to entering the 3PL world. At Con-Way, the technology was archaic, and I felt like I was living in the 1980’s as I matched up freight shipments to assign to certain trucks. It was like learning a new language. Frustrating, but I eventually figured it out. In brokerage, I learned user-friendly TMS platforms in a day, and I have helped hundreds of others learn it when they started their journey as an independent freight agent. Having advanced technology that is efficient and effective is crucial. Having the freight and technology mindset in a brokerage allows top-notch 3PLs to provide a service that is superior to many others. I think the big takeaway here is to stay ahead of the curve. At least stay with the curve if you cannot stay ahead of it. As technology improves and new services are available, you have got to implement the available tech into your organization to make life easier.
TO SUM UP (TL:DR)
Mobile apps are cool, but so is talking to another human. Cutting-edge mobile app companies have a place in the freight brokering world, but they are nothing new. If you are not using current technology to modernize your business, you are in the rear-view mirror. Mobile app companies that mirror the Uber approach will not lead to the demise of 20,000 licensed freight brokering companies out there.