The Uberisation of European Road Transport

A deepdive in the sharing opportunities of road freight transport. A whitepaper by PwC Belgium.

“Uberisation” fits within a larger trend in today's society called the sharing economy. It is the playground of collaborative platforms, marketplaces  and mobile applications, powered by cloud technology and the use of advanced algorithms which enable people and businesses to make money from under-used assets.

Together with the University of Antwerp, PwC deep-dived into this topic. This whitepaper will focus on the uberisation of B2B road freight, which can be defined as a digital platform that enables better asset utilisation by matching shippers’ loads with truck drivers. This is done via applications that search for the most efficient carrier/shipper combinations taking into account conditioning and service requirements, in a more agile and cost-effective manner.

Uberisation is not expected to disrupt road freight transport, although we anticipate that it will gain traction in some specific market segments. Ultimately autonomous vehicles may represent an important catalyst in the future.

Luc Van Ostaeyen, PwC's Global Centre of Excellence.
luc van ostaeyen uberisation

The Model behind the hype

While the common characteristic of all collaboration platforms remains their attempt to render any middlemen for carriers and shippers unnecessary through the use of a well-developed interface that matches loads with nearby carriers. Divergences can be found in the way in which shippers and carriers are matched and at what price. Platforms can differentiate themselves based on the level of data-driven customer experience; creating trust, visibility and taking ownership of the complete transport booking and delivery process. The high level of process automation is critical to differentiate from existing forwarders and from other platforms.

 

Critical Success Factors

Currently the providers of Uber-like services in road freight are still very fragmented in terms of platforms and capabilities. However a number of critical success factors can still be applied broadly. It is important for a potential platform to understand how different parties consider the concept of uberisation. Shippers’ needs are different from carriers and therefore it is crucial that sharing platforms offer tailor-made features for all parties. To get a better understanding of how the different stakeholders perceive the concept. 

Shippers

  • Shippers recognise the advantages in terms of economical pricing, increased truck fill rates, and the flexibility in terms of small loads and low lane utilisation. But doubts remain around the often-used buzzwords of “automation and digitisation”. Shippers still experience a lot of manual interventions.

  • Loss of service and quality remains a point of concern. Platforms must ensure that they have the necessary contracts in place with the underlying carriers.

Carriers

  • It is important that a protected environment is in place, where their customer data and their business intent is protected. In addition to building up this relationship, platforms must prioritise the automation, processing and facilitation of contracts.

  • Whereas shippers usually experience lower prices in spot bidding markets, there is still too much uncertainty as to how prices are set. The platform's capability to handle agile and efficient connections between different external interfaces is critical.

  • Routes and planning are often drawn up last minute, the flexibility to allocate additional loads must be high.

Evolution of Uberisation & Transport Optimization

This whitepaper argues that the business case can be positive on a number of specific transport flows, after a period of hype and disillusionment, new more realistic expectations are appearing

 

uberisation graph growth in time
  • We do not expect companies to fulfil their entire transport needs through uberisation. Fixed volumes to fixed customers are better suited by traditional contracts.
  • Uberisation could eliminate many efficiencies when shippers and their customers become more flexible (return flows, volatile loads, small carriers, ...)

  • The negative effect of driver shortages, added to the growing importance of sustainable logistics, will force companies to consolidate more and reduce empty miles.

  • The business model together with the margins and volume of loads on the platform will determine the profitability and the growth of the platforms. Current platform do not have sufficient market share and maturity to be profitable and to answer to the required demand.

In the end, transport flows that are most likely to be considered are return flows where the urgency and value of the products is generally lower. Cross-border flows are often optimised for fill-rate due to the long driving time. If this is not the case, this is the first opportunity to avoid empty return trips.

Contact us

Peter Vermeire

Peter Vermeire

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 493 51 87 28

Luc Van Ostaeyen

Luc Van Ostaeyen

Director

Tel: +32 (0)475 91 5784

Thomas Lemmens

Thomas Lemmens

Senior Associate, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 479 84 15 05

Marie Landen

Marie Landen

Senior Associate, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 494 03 80 36

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