Uber-SAP pact brings instant truck pricing to TMS

Uber-SAP pact brings instant truck pricing to TMS

After initially focusing on building supply for its trucking marketplace, Uber Freight is turning its attention to building demand, particularly from enterprise shippers. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Uber Freight’s new direct integration with SAP shows the digital broker is eager to build up the demand side of its marketplace by tapping into shipper users of SAP’s transportation management system (TMS).

It’s the first such integration of Uber Freight’s platform with a TMS, the San Francisco-based company said, and enables shipper users of SAP’s logistics software to broaden the number of accessible drivers to include those that have downloaded Uber Freight’s app. The integration also allows SAP TMS users to get instant pricing on loads.

While gaining access to a broker through a TMS is hardly groundbreaking, an Uber Freight spokesperson told JOC.com the differentiation in this integration is that “shippers can tap into real-time data on rates for any lane, even those they're not regularly running, and instantly secure a rate that Uber Freight commits to without negotiation.”

The spokesperson said it’s the first time “Uber Freight's real-time pricing data and carrier capacity are accessible in a flexible API [application programming interface] form that integrates into existing systems.” The company launched a platform in August designed to lure small and midsized shippers, particularly those lacking a TMS.

Uber Freight told JOC.com at that time that it had been focusing on the supply side of its platform by design because the app needed to have enough network density to put a robust enough offering in front of shippers.

Uber Freight is one of a cadre of so-called digital brokers — others, many of which are well-funded by venture capital groups, include Convoy, Transfix, Loadsmart, and NEXT Trucking — attempting to use historic data to build predictive pricing algorithms that enable them to guarantee that a rate offered online and accepted by a shipper will result in a confirmed tender.

The Uber Freight spokesperson said this model is intended to create rate transparency and eliminate negotiations, a facet of procurement the company has called costly and counterproductive.

“Finding and booking freight can be the most expensive and often the most complex piece of the supply chain,” Hala Zeine, president, SAP Digital Supply Chain, said in a statement. “This combined solution will remove roadblocks and offers a simpler, more automated approach that streamlines operations, delivers tangible cost savings and ultimately creates a better customer experience.”

The companies said in a statement the partnership “will work to connect both sides of the freight marketplace.” Uber Freight initially launched as a freight marketplace but the industry quickly characterized it as a freight broker, a moniker from which it hasn’t shied away more recently.

Uber Freight’s extension by way of TMS integration can be seen as a logical step in its desire to build the demand side of its network, particularly demand from enterprise shippers. SAP’s transportation management software is used widely by large organizations, its market share aided by the large “install base” of its core enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. In other words, with many shippers are using SAP for ERP and then adding the associated TMS module due to the ease of integration and their IT staff’s familiarity with the software.

For SAP, adding Uber Freight-connected drivers amps up the software company’s network of supply, a key differentiator for TMS providers in a market where shippers want instant connectivity to capacity when they plug into such a tool.

While Uber Freight and other digital brokers attempt to leapfrog existing brokers, other software providers are attempting to empower brokers with digital tools to access latent trucking capacity. And those providers are also turning to direct integrations with TMS providers to help their broker customers access shipper volume available with those systems. 

Contact Eric Johnson at eric.johnson@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @LogTechEric.