Uber Freight is expanding to Canada — and it’s a brilliant move to gobble up more of the trucking industry

Uber's trucking app has quickly become one of the most popular in the US.

The ride-hailing giant's truck brokerage technology launched in 2017. By the next year, its bookings totaled $359 million— making it one of the 30 biggest brokerage firms in the US. (Of course, that's only 0.1% of the entire brokerage industry.)

From January to August 2019, Uber Freight commanded 19% of all downloads of brokers and load boards, according to an October 15 UBS analysis of iOS and Google Play downloads. That beat out the apps from longtime trucking incumbents like C.H. Robinson, TQL, XPO, and J.B. Hunt.

Read more: Uber and a slew of startups are rushing to disrupt the trucking industry. Old school incumbents are meeting the challenge head on.

And now, Uber Freight is expanding in Canada, the company announced October 30. Earlier this year, Uber Freight expanded to The Netherlands, Poland, and Germany.

"We see massive international opportunities for Uber Freight, and we're excited to scale globally as a tech-forward leader in freight," Bill Driegert, head of operations at Uber Freight, told Business Insider. "Our teams spend considerable time researching markets and collaborating with our Uber teams worldwide, connecting with local partners and policy stakeholders to scale responsibly in each market."

Already, Uber Freight is helping truckers and trucking companies (called "carriers") connect to retailers and manufacturers (called "shippers") in Ontario and Quebec domestically. It's also facilitating freight in cross-border trade from those two provinces to the Midwest and Northeast.

Uber Freight will expand to the rest of Canada in coming months.

Canada's domestic trucking market is puny compared to the US — here's why Uber is eyeing it anyways

Canada's trucking industry is tiny compared to its southern neighbor. It employs some 169,000 truck drivers, compared to nearly two million in the US. And Canada's trucking industry is valued at $68 billion, while the US trucking industry is pegged at a whopping $800 billion.

But for Uber Freight, the upshot of expanding to Canada isn't to truck goods from Vancouver to Toronto.

Rather, it's to move goods from the US to Canada and back. Canada is the US' largest export market, and the US counts Canada as its third-largest importer of goods, according to 2018 data from the US Trade Representative.

The two countries had a $714.1 billion trade partnership in 2018. Much of that is moved by truck. According to a 2013 Department of Transportation study, 51% of US-Canada trade is moved by a truck.

The Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Canada, facilitates a significant amount of US-Canada truck trade.

JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

"By seamlessly facilitating cross-border and domestic loads in the Uber Freight platform, we're expanding our network, enabling carriers across North America to leverage our technology and access global opportunity to grow their businesses," Driegert told Business Insider.

For Uber, the Canada expansion is an excellent opportunity to add more bookings to its trucking arm.

While Uber Freight is quickly threatening trucking incumbents, it's yet to turn a profit. The division of Uber that includes the trucking venture lost $193 million in the first half of 2019, according to the "Other Bets" portion of Uber's latest earnings report. Last year, when the trucking industry was flourishing, that division lost $48 million.

Still, it's a part of Uber that leadership eyes as an area with strong potential growth. While more than 1,000 Uber employees were hit with layoffs in recent months, Uber Freight is getting a new headquarters in Chicago, and the division will hire some 2,000 in sales and engineering positions.

"It is clear that the company has built a significant freight/logistics platform in a very short period of time and has gone well beyond what other new entrants have been able to manage," Morgan Stanley's team of transportation analysts wrote in a September note.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *