Transport’s digital disruption: Where will Ontruck roll next?

21 Dec 2018

Image: Ontruck

Many trucks on Europe’s roads are not earning any money, and people are annoyed if goods are not delivered on time or within price. Ontruck is out to change that.

Madrid start-up Ontruck has created an on-demand logistics platform that connects businesses directly with road freight carriers. In doing so, it has ignited a digital transport revolution. It is on a mission to transform the logistics business, one of the last bastions of traditional industry in need of digital disruption.

With more than 130 employees and €36m in venture capital raised, Ontruck is well on track to becoming the default platform for European road transportation, with plans to enter into new European markets by 2019.

‘The key is to ensure that shippers know their products will arrive on time and at an agreed price, while the carriers know they will get guaranteed earnings’

According to Ontruck UK managing director David Jennison, most trucks on the road aren’t earning any money.

“There are huge inefficiencies in road transport. There are 19.5bn miles done by freight vehicles in the UK every year and one in three vehicles is empty. Of the trucks that aren’t empty, these are only 68pc loaded.

“So, that means that every single truck you see, one in three of them are empty; the others are only kind of full and aren’t earning enough money. Add to this all of the manual business practices.”

And that’s where Ontruck enters the fray. Think of it as a part of the on-demand economy, only in a more organised, planned kind of way. It solves a genuine business need: getting goods from A to B affordably and reliably, and the key to this is machine learning.

The company is expanding across Europe and is active in the UK. While an expansion into the Irish market has yet to be announced, it may only be a matter of time.

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

Group of colleagues in front of garish wallpaper.

The Ontruck UK team. Image: Ontruck

New figures released this week indicate that monthly shipments made using the platform have tripled since January 2018, with Ontruck now moving an average of 5,100 tonnes in palletised goods monthly.

To date, Ontruck’s platform across the UK and Spain has helped reduce empty miles in the trucking industry by 10pc, saving truck drivers a total of €500,000 and more than 350,000 litres in fuel.

Ontruck’s platform helps smaller hauliers to grow as a business by providing a way for them to earn more money, optimise vehicle capacity, and get paid faster, giving them the capabilities of a larger fleet and enabling them to operate at a full, consistent capacity.

Shippers can also benefit, and have to date experienced cost savings of 20pc to 25pc. The time between booking request and driver assignment is measured in minutes rather than hours as they choose from 2,200 vehicles across three types: vans, rigid trucks and trailers.

“The key is the technology,” explained Jennison, who previously worked in senior roles at Amazon and Deliveroo.

“On the carrier side, we have a smartphone app that allows us to provide instant availability where a vehicle is because we have track-and-trace. The app allows carriers to provide status updates and take pictures of proof of delivery to provide digital confirmation and instant notification for shippers.

“We make a lot of steps instantly transparent to the shipper, especially around what the price will be. In the middle, our secret sauce is how we do the matching. We have machine-learning algorithms that look at thousands of variables but, crucially, we use data from thousands of loads and locations to give an accurate price per shipment.

“The key is to ensure that shippers know their products will arrive on time and at an agreed price, while the carriers know they will get guaranteed earnings,” Jennison said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years