When we first started our series on truck driving, many of you reached out inquiring about Uber Freight. We had contributor-at-large Jon Knope continue his series on truck driving with Uber Freight: how it works, pay, and more. Interested in truck driving? Visit our Truck Driving Jobs page here.
Driving an 18-wheeler is no easy task – and one of the hardest parts for me has been the long periods spent away from home and family. For those that can adapt to life on the road, though, a few years of working in the industry can lead to more flexible options.
One such option that I’ve been looking at recently: Buying your own truck and becoming an owner-operator. Owning a truck gives you the freedom to choose where, when, and how to drive. Uber Freight is a brokerage that makes those choices easier by giving you all the information up front and eliminating the hassle of phone calls and negotiations.
How Does Uber Freight Work?
At its core, Uber Freight is just like any other freight broker. Shippers give Uber the details of their shipment(s): Where it needs to be picked up, where it needs to go, and when it needs to get there. Carriers browse available shipments and pick the one(s) they like. With Uber Freight, all the information is at your fingertips: How much the load pays, the weight of the cargo, the type of trailer required, and so forth.
Carriers have the flexibility to pick the loads that work best for them – whether it’s a long run with the highest pay rate, or something local to stay close to home. Perhaps most importantly, the Uber Freight app allows carriers to book loads 24/7, and pays them for the load within 7 days.
How Do Drivers Fit In to Uber Freight?
Most drivers spend several years as company drivers before buying their own equipment and going solo. There’s a lot to learn about the trucking business, and the best way to learn it is by doing it. Plus, driving a company truck will help you to save up much needed cash for your own: Brand new trucks can cost over $150,000. (Used trucks vary, but you’ll probably be in the neighborhood of at least $50k.) And that’s not including a trailer!
It’s possible to acquire business loans to purchase your first truck, or you may choose to buy it through a trucking company as part of a lease purchase agreement. These contracts usually require you to work for the trucking company until the truck is paid off before you can work for outside brokerages like Uber Freight. Historically, many lease purchase programs have been a ripoff for truck drivers, so be sure to thoroughly research any offers you’re considering.
In fact, before buying any truck, it’s advisable to consult with some business pros and go over your plan of action. Being an owner-operator means running a business in addition to driving your truck – that means taxes, insurance, licenses, permits, the works. Another thing to consider: Pay rates for freight act as a canary in the coal mine of the overall economy. If consumer spending declines, so do your profits.
As a business owner, it’s up to you to make sure your truck keeps rolling and stays profitable. Once you own your own truck, you’ll likely find that Uber Freight is just one piece of the puzzle in minimizing your downtime. Most carriers work with multiple brokerages, in much the same way that rideshare drivers work through multiple apps. Some owner-operators also secure long-term contracts with individual shippers to protect their business against economic turbulence.
Uber Freight Driver App
The trucking industry is full of surprises – whether it’s a shipment that gets cancelled at the last minute, or a live load that inexplicably takes 12 hours. The great thing about the Uber Freight app is that it’s always online, ready to help you plan your next move as an Uber freight driver.
There’s no need for faxing paperwork to the broker, or using a clumsy scanner – you can simply take pictures of the paperwork with your phone and submit it for payment through the app.
In addition, the Uber Freight app offers several innovative features to help keep the wheels turning. The app will learn your home base, as well as your favorite routes and cargo types.
You’ll get alerts when new shipments are posted that Uber thinks you’ll want. You can also set up back-to-back loads and reloads ahead of time. If you know you’ll need to find a load at a certain time and place, you can use the “Post My Truck” feature to indicate that your truck will be available for work, and Uber Freight will send you load offers that meet your criteria.
The app also offers facility reviews from other carriers. This can be invaluable if you want to avoid places with long loading times or tricky dock doors.
Other perks for carriers include accessorial pay and discounts on fuel and phone plans, as well as on new and used International trucks and truck services. You can find more details about how the app works on the Uber Freight website.
Uber Freight Driver Pay and Salary
Truck drivers are paid by the load, and you’ll be able to see how much different loads pay before selecting one to haul. As with rideshare apps, your pay rate is a function of supply and demand. When there’s a lot of freight to move, and not enough drivers to move it, rates go up. When there’s a lot of drivers available and not enough freight to haul, rates go down. Your take home pay as an owner-operator fluctuates depending on three main factors:
- Maintenance and operating costs – This includes the cost of your truck, and the interest rate on your loan, if you have one. If you’re driving an older truck, you may have to shell out for more maintenance. Your fuel efficiency also has a big impact, depending both on what truck you’re driving, and how you’re driving it.
- Where you’re driving – Long hauls tend to pay more than local hauls. Even then, local hauls can vary depending on where you’re driving. Local hauls in the densely populated Northeast and manufacturing-heavy Midwest tend to pay more than loads in the rural South, for example.
- Health of the economy/consumer spending – When people are buying fewer things, there are fewer shipments to go around. If you work a single region that relies heavily on specific industries – agriculture, for example, or cars – an economic surprise like new tariffs or a plant closure can make or break your trucking business.
Traditionally, freight brokers keep between 15% and 20% of the total payout for a given shipment. In the two years since its opening, Uber Freight has been keeping less than 1% of those payouts – meaning that carriers are keeping 99% of what the shipper is paying. That’s great news for owner-operators, but it’s important to temper that optimism with a bit of caution. Uber is currently losing money in the freight business in an effort to build a large user base, so they may increase their cut later on.
Further, the low operating cost of Uber’s app-based brokerage is not without trade offs – if you encounter issues with shippers or receivers, you may find that Uber isn’t that helpful in getting them resolved. As with Uber’s rideshare business, customer support is not always their strong suit.
Uber Freight Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need in order to sign up for Uber Freight, become an Uber freight driver and start booking your first load:
- A truck and trailer (53’ dry van or reefer only, for now)
- Your own DOT Motor Carrier number
- No conditional or unsatisfactory safety rating
- State-level motor carrier permits and registrations
- A valid Certificate of Insurance showing at least $1,000,000 in auto liability, $100,000 in cargo liability, and reefer breakdown coverage (if applicable)
And of course, in order to drive a truck in the first place, you’ll need a Class A Commercial Drivers License (CDL). For more information about how to obtain your Class A CDL, check out our previous article on how to become a truck driver.
How to Sign Up for Uber Freight
To begin the sign-up process for Uber Freight, head on over to the Uber Freight website and select “Carrier sign up.” You’ll need to enter your phone number, submit the required paperwork, and complete the legalese-laden carrier-broker agreement. By signing, you agree to Uber’s insurance requirements, invoicing process, and confirm that you (or your employees, if you’re a fleet manager) will abide by the DOT’s rules regarding hours of service, drug and alcohol testing, etc. There’s more to the document, too, so make sure you read it carefully.
Once you’ve got your account set up, you can log in via the app (available for free in the App Store and Google Play store) and start booking your first load.
If you have questions or issues during the signup process, you can contact Uber at [email protected].
Are you an owner-operator? Have you worked with Uber Freight before? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear your feedback.
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-Jon @ RSG