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Uber Transports Cargo in Addition to People


Transportation and material moving is the fourth largest employment group in the United States, with 9.73 million workers according to Bureau of Labor statistics. Trucking touches 70% of American goods in their journey from manufacturer to retailer to consumer. Uber, known for its car app that connects riders with drivers, has now ventured into the big rig industry to pair commercial truck drivers with cargo. Uber has launched its Uber Freight app which allows truck drivers to find loads sorted by destination, deadline and required equipment (such as a refrigerated trailer). To drive for Uber Freight, drivers must hold a commercial license, possess a clean record, carry required insurance, and adhere to federal regulations. Uber pays drivers within a week or so of delivery of their load.

Approximately the same time that Uber acquired its brokerage license from the Department of Transportation, it also acquired all five employees of the company 4Front Logistics (both became part of Uber Freight in the fall of 2016). 4Front Logistics is a brokerage company that connects manufacturers and retailers that ship goods with truck owners and fleets. Initially, Uber Freight was to use the expertise it had gained from Uber’s car service side and the knowledge of the business from 4Front Logistics to perform the same connections between truck drivers/owners with those wishing to ship cargo and goods. However, Uber recently purchased its own fleet of trucks, leading to speculation that simply making connections may not be all that Uber Freight has in mind. Adding to the speculation is the fact that Uber acquired Otto, the company building self-driving big rigs, back in August of 2016.


The idea behind the Uber Freight app—direct connections between truck drivers and cargo—has much positive potential. It could lead to lower operating costs, higher revenues, better fuel efficiency and asset utilization, and an increase in visibility and transparency. By pairing trucks that have excess capacity with small loads, overall efficiency and better costs for suppliers will result, ultimately leading to lower costs for consumers.

However, non-commercial drivers who do not have a big rig could try to take on some of the small loads, whether they are able to or not. Such “last mile drivers” could cause problems in the delivery of goods. Another potential problem area is one which plagued Uber’s car riding app: who assumes liability. Who/what party would be liable for late deliveries, damaged goods, and accidents?


Liability for accidents will be an issue, because trucking accidents are tragically common in the United States. Fatal trucking accidents happen 11 times a day, killing 4,000 people and injuring 100,000 a year. Fatalities and injuries have increased since 2009, and some experts theorize that as the economy has improved more goods are being shipped on U.S. roads and therefore more trucking accidents are occurring. Whatever the reason, if these numbers were due to airline accidents, there would be a national outcry. Instead, Congress has actually had bills before it to lessen the regulations regarding mandatory rest times for truck drivers (which did not pass due to the highly publicized accident in 2014 of comedian Tracy Morgan, who was badly injured and comedian Jimmy McNair who was killed when a Walmart truck whose driver had been awake over 28 hours crashed into their van).


If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

Categories: Accidents, Trucks, Liability
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