Dmytro Brovkin
Nov 29, 2017 · 10 min read

The Uberization of the economy, and indeed logistics market at large, was driven largely by the success of Uber. Its model is one everyone wants to replicate, and for good reason; the company is expanding itself well fast in the taxi industry, and has launched its “Uber Freight”, reinventing the logistics of the transportation industry by eliminating the middle man broker.

This launch into the logistics industry isn’t new; indeed, logistic based apps have seen great profit in China, for example, where the company Huochebang (“Truck Gangs”) raised around $115 million after a financing round valued the startup at $1 billion. The market giant Amazon is also setting its sights on the 800-billion-dollar logistics industry.

Thus, we can draw the conclusion that mobile apps targeted at the logistics industry represent a niche in the market. A mobile app for logistics has the potential to make the industry more efficient by matching consumer demand for packaging services directly with source, and further cuts out the middle man “third party broker” who can charge up to a 30% commission for their services.

This optimizes the associated cost and time taken to deliver and receive packages. And why shouldn’t Uber’s on demand model be replicated for logistics? Drivers, truckers, and carriers move up to 80% of the total freight in the US, with the logistics industry’s gross revenue exceeding $700 billion, and yet, local industries are hindered by the inefficient business model whereby the repositioning of empty containers costs nearly the same as moving a full one.

Thus, a transportation app styled after Uber’s supply meet demand model eliminates the need for a middle man between shippers and truckers, and further establishes a direct line between truckers and those who need their services.

Take Transmission, for example. Based in New York, the company connects shipping requestors with carriers to reduce the time and money wasted on the tracking, covering, and delivering of freight. Amazon is setting its app up to offer real-time pricing and as well as driving directions, and other features including “tours” of loads for pick up and drop off locations.

One of our recent projects Rushiz targets French customers, allowing customers to choose the package type, dimension — even allowing users to specific the type of transport for their packages. These are but a few of the models you draw on when designing your own logistics app.

There’s a whole industry here, primed for the innovative adaptation of on-demand technology, and this article will outline how you can begin to develop your own Uber for Logistics mobile application.

How are Trucking-Transportation apps modelled?

Uber for Trucking is modelled differently from other transportation apps. It takes the core of the on-demand idea of matching a driver to a customer, except in this case the ‘driver’ is actually a package carrier and the app must be able to set a competitive prices based not just on distance, but also the relative size and weight of the container or package being carried, not to mention the various other factors that need to be accounted for in the logistics industry.

Thus, the role of developers in the context of shipping is to establish relationships and partnerships to grow the network of your available carriers. You’ll need crucial information from each of the drivers, including their vehicle type and size, real time location, and insurance information to make the app work and streamline the process of getting packages delivered.

But the bottom line is transportation apps, like Uber, base themselves off carriers who, selected by relevant algorithms, accepting or rejecting opportunities given on the app, cutting out the waiting, haggling, and paperwork that bogs down the logistics industry. It’s these well thought out terms that are going to draw drivers to your app. You want reliable carriers who will attract shippers through your logistics app.

So, when developing your mobile logistics application, legitimating your app is key; you want your carriers to legitimate so your shippers trust your app’s services to get the job done. Before you start developing your app, consider pre screening your drivers and carriers to inspect their vehicles, review their reputation from previous clients, and potentially create a data base of reliable online carriers to make sure no illegal carriers are able to use your app.

Cargomatic, for example, ensures that all it handpicks and hand trains all its carriers on the onboarding process, and further only accepts drivers who have valid CA or MT authority. They even go so far as to restrict app access by only giving access to the app to those who are shipping company certified.

This process may seem arduous, but it will ensure that you’re meeting the industry high standard and earn the trust of your clients who are the key to success to your business.

Logistics App Features

There are two main parties that need to be better connected in the context of the logistics industry: the shippers of containers, and the drivers/carriers.

Uber Fright, for example, operates as an online trucking marketplace, and leverages a form of load-matching technology to connect shipping carriers with its customers: drivers. They’ve tackled the issue of procuring quality truckers by pretty much owning its own fleet, a feat made possible with the $680 million acquisition of Otto.

But you don’t have to own a fleet for your logistics app to be successful, because the key to developing a successful “Uber for Logistics” app is the load matching technology itself (i.e. your app must able able to match the load with the carrier).

Through your logistics app, your customers should be able to find carriers in their area with ease. Taking care of issues that hinder the transportation process, such as insurance/documentation, payment processing, and delivery confirmation further incentives shippers to use your app.

Spilt the App in Two

Consider splitting your app in two, a model we approached in our own transportation app Rushiz, as did Cargomatic. This allows us, and you, if you choose this path, to feature one app for Drivers and one app for customers. Customers thus have their own platform to post jobs, allowing them to specify the size and freight of their package, and further specify other delivery information.

Then, this data is sent to the Drivers app, where drivers can accept or reject jobs. Most importantly, it ensures drivers are paid, through the cashless system popularized by Uber, and further determines the driver’s payment based on the weight, distance, and size of the goods more

Your logistics app will need to allow customers to make shipping requests, upload all the relevant documentation and insurance when necessary, further allow them to specific pick up and drop off locations. Don’t forget to add a feature that allows customer’s to track the driver’s route and receive proof of delivery, and of course, rate the drivers on their service!

Thus, to ensure your logistics app is successful, have the entire logistics process covered from start to finish, integrating a manner of features, including

  • Real-time location tracking
  • Targeted package sharing
  • Package schedule management
  • And an integrated payment system.

All this helps to eliminate the total expense that cripples the transportation issue. Indeed, it could add a layer of transparency across the supply chain, and to stop the expense of having to move empty crates.

Functionality

Of equal importance here is functionality. You want your app to be able to act as a digital market place, or as a broker that allows customers to directly book your drivers carriers. To really be successful on the market, your logistics app will have to be able to geolocate both your drivers and customers, to ensure that delivery happens within your given geographic region and to actual track that your cargo reaches its destination.

To truly optimize the on-demand logistics industry, logistics app solutions further requires the drivers to be able:

  • See the specifics of the package details (e.g. the type of load/package, pickup and drop-off locations, scheduled pickup).
  • View a waiting list with package requests in the area, as well as see the customer’s contact details.
  • Allow drivers to accept requests and chat with the shippers in real time, and also confirm pickup/delivery, all from inside the application.
  • Check out a map with routes for each delivery and real-time traffic information;
  • Allow drivers and customers to receive push notifications (e.g. new delivery requests, getting paid)

Take a look at the app Rushiz, for example. It models itself on Uber’s “on-demand” model by hosting separate apps for drivers and customers. It integrates the package delivery requests in seconds, and further eliminates the “middle man” by integrating cost estimations within the app.

The customer service features of your transportation app are key, as a well as is the ability to assign, route, schedule, and track shipments and truckers, which can be done via cellular tracking, in which your driver’s smartphone dispatches coordinates via real time cellular networks, or through satellite tracking, which is done via equipping the vehicle of the driver’s cellular device with a GPS tracker.

Tracking done in this way allows for the optimal real time vehicle tracking, allowing for better estimations for time of arrival, for example, thus making the delivery system much more efficient.

Asset Tracking and Management

How do you ensure your driver gets from one place to the next? Well, by potentially creating your own navigation feature on your mobile logistics app, which would then allow you to generate a live traffic feed as your driver is on the road.

Take note of Trucker Path, here, as a model. Trucker Path allows the trucker to search for the nearest branded truck stops, check in real-time parking availability around the area, search for weigh stations, find the cheapest rates for diesel fuel, in the ultimate goal of allowing truckers to reach destinations quicker. The app further filters locations present on the map with one button.

Another fundamental question you’ll have to address is the question of managing your inventory — the cargo itself. There are two general ways to track the physical location of packages:

  1. By using a unique QR code: This allows users to scan QR codes from their smart phones, letting the scanner app analyze the package information. It’s a method used by DHL via their DHL ActiveTracing. It eliminates the need for employees to track and trace numbers and barcodes by utilizing a scanning function, simplifying the whole process
  2. Or by using a Radio frequency identification tag (RFID) or Near Field Communication tag. This allows users to simply wave their phone near the tag without them having to physically open the app on their phone, as the information from is transferred immediately. This option has severally limited range, however, operating at a maximum of 10 centimeters (4 inches).

Conclusion

The need for an app which integrates the logistics industry with the on-demand business model and technological advancements of Uber is high. Indeed, logistic app development is a niche field for a relatively new market, prime for investment. These mobile apps make transportation and delivery services easier by simplifying work costs, and gradually improving sales whilst outsourcing the cost and expense of running a logistics business.

You don’t need the billion dollar resources of Uber to be successful, either. The logistics app Rushiz was built by a core team, and meets the on-demand functionality of being able to match drivers with customers. Further integrating the features needed to make a logistics app successful by have a separate market platform for both customers and its carriers/drivers, allowing customers to request package delivery requests in seconds, and hosts its own cost estimations within the app.

These are the basic features we’ve reviewed in this article, and it’s manageable for even small business or developers to handle. But not alone, of course. If logistic targeting apps are something you or your company are interested in exploring, check out more of our work on our website page and our portfolio to see projects we have previously undertaken. You can get in touch with us today for free conversations, consultations, and investigations, so we can help to you build a logistics app in accordance with your business and tech needs, and your creative vision and budget.

This article was originally published on the Octodev Blog.

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Dmytro Brovkin

Written by

Mobile Expert and Co-founder of octodev.net, dmitriy.brovkin@octodev.net

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