Nothing short of a nightmare for trucking companies, truck driver turnover rates in the U.S. are at an all-time high—just shy of 100 percent, says the American Trucking Associations. However, Indianapolis-based Celadon Group Inc., one of the country’s largest truckload carriers, is turning the tide at its Indianapolis headquarters. The company’s driver retention rate has improved 33 percent, and Celadon leaders credit a new app called FreightRover, which some describe as the “Uber-ization” of freight that delivers freedom for truck drivers.

Indianapolis-based startup FreightRover created the cloud-based platform for truck drivers who are owner operators. Led by a handful of Celadon alumni, the company tested the technology with the trucking company; about 60 percent of its drivers are owner operators.

“Company drivers, who are employees of the carriers, can be told where to go and what do,” says FreightRover President Michael Pecchia, “but owner operators own the equipment themselves and run their own little business on their truck.”

Pecchia says FreightRover creates a freight exchange marketplace; owner operators download the app to their smartphones or tablets and can view the available freight at the company they’re leased with to drive.

“FreightRover offers carriers, like Celadon, a way to put their freight onto a mobile app for their drivers to self-select the freight they want, rather than be told what freight they have to pick up,” says Pecchia. “It puts the power back in the drivers’ hands to make those decisions and gives them freedom to choose their loads.”

FreightRover began testing its platform with about 20 Celadon owner operators based in Indianapolis a year ago; the trucking company has since signed on as a client, and about 450 of its drivers are now using the app. Celadon had a system in place previously for its owner operators with the same goal in mind, but Pecchia says it lacked efficiency. Celadon Division President of Truckload Operation Lauren Howard says the traditional method of matching loads with drivers “can be a tedious process.”

“With FreightRover, the contractors can go immediately to the app and pick whatever they want to run their truck on, versus them waiting for us to get them a load,” says Howard. “It gives them a ton more autonomy.”

In addition to improving driver retention, Howard says the app helps Celadon leverage its network more efficiently by providing visibility of the driver’s load selection and load tracking updates. When drivers on FreightRover’s “load board” pick up freight, the app uses “geofencing” to track their phone at the point of collection through delivery, giving the carrier real-time information to manage its fleet.

“Independent contractors who are actively using the FreightRover app stay with us an average of 33 percent longer than drivers not using the app,” says Howard. “It goes back to making their own business decisions; they’re seeing a better rate and a better length of haul, because they’re selecting their own freight that fits their truck and their lifestyle.”

Drivers who opt to use the app pay a monthly subscription for the service. Pecchia says the platform aims to alleviate some of the headaches that come with drivers being small business owners. A driver can view load rates and load appointment times and scan delivery paperwork to streamline the payment process—all in a visual, simple-to-use, intuitive app, says Pecchia.

In the coming months, FreightRover plans to open its app to third-party shippers, such as brokers and logistics companies, to give carriers and drivers access to loads that aren’t their own, but need a lift.

“If [independent contractors] want to drive for Celadon today, great. If they want to run for a different carrier tomorrow with a different load, that’s their right. We believe there can be a lot more sharing of freight and drivers on the app, which will only benefit everyone in the industry,” says Howard. “You think of the Uber-ization of freight and things like that—it could be disruptive to the industry.”

Howard says FreightRover is a helpful tool as litigation surrounding independent contractors increases in the industry.

Pecchia says FreightRover plans to open the platform to third-party shippers in the next two months, creating a “full-service ecosystem.”

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