In a major new step in Amazon’s goal of building its own logistics and delivery network, the online shopping giant is developing an Uber-like app to match truck drivers with cargo. According to Business Insider, Amazon is hiring aggressively for the project, and plans to roll it out next summer.
The trucking software would integrate pricing, driving directions, and trucker-specific data like truck stop options.
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Amazon’s decentralized trucking infrastructure would become part of the online retailer’s broader recent push to handle more of its own shipping— and perhaps, eventually, to compete with the likes of FedEx and UPS. Over the past twelve months, Amazon acquired a small fleet of branded trucks, began leasing planes for an air cargo network, and even got an ocean shipping license.
Oh, and let’s not forget the drones.
Building out its shipping operations would have major implications for Amazon’s bottom line. Subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service get free shipping, driving them to spend much more than non-members. That’s been great for growth, but shipping costs have also risen, holding down earnings. Citigroup analysts speaking to the Wall Street Journal earlier this year estimated Amazon could save $1.1 billion annually by handling its own shipping instead of relying on UPS and FedEx.
The trucking service could also be extremely appealing to drivers and trucking companies. Load-finding remains a largely low-tech process, dominated by small brokers and online “load boards” stuck in the last decade. Pricing, documentation, and payments are still often handled using phones and fax machines. Because a large percentage of truckers are independent or part of small trucking companies, the process eats up a large proportion of truckers’ time.
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Other companies large and small are working to build their own ‘Uber for trucking’. The startup Trucker Path has shown steady growth. UPS purchased the logistics network platform Coyote Logistics for $1.8 billion in 2015, while Uber itself recently purchased self-driving truck startup Otto and began pitching itself to shippers.
In the longer term, Amazon’s shipping services could become a business in their own right, along the lines of Amazon Web Services. The cloud hosting unit, seeded by a team engineering Amazon’s own infrastructure, has become a major source of growth for the company since its debut.