A $1 billion trucking startup founded by 2 Amazon veterans just introduced a tool that could solve one of truck drivers' biggest headaches

Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesMIAMI, FL – NOVEMBER 29: Tractor trailers roll along the highway on November 29, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

LaTasha Dennis recently had an 1,000-mile commute for a job.

Dennis is a truck driver with 15 years in the industry, and part of that job includes driving “empty miles.” These are miles during which the truck has no load and, because of that, the driver isn’t getting paid. More than 20% of the miles truckers drive every year are “empty,” according to a 2016 report by the American Transportation Research Institute.

“Empty miles are a problem because I have to foot the bill for the fuel,” Dennis, who is based in Las Vegas, told Business Insider.

And the issue is only worsening as trucking rates dip. Rates for van loads sank 20% in May year-over-year, according to DAT.

“It’s like a rat race trying to book a load,” Dennis said. “Loads are posted and gone in two minutes after they post. It’s crazy out here.”

Convoy, a freight-brokerage platform, has rolled out a feature that’s aimed at easing the financial strain – not to mention the environmental costs – of empty miles in trucking.

The Seattle-based startup announced on Thursday the nationwide launch of Automatic Reloads, in which truckers can book a “bundle” of jobs all at once to prevent having to drive empty. Convoy says its platform includes tens of thousands of trucking companies and “a fast‑growing, nationwide roster of shippers comprised of Fortune 500 companies and other organisations.”

“Our mission is really around reducing that waste in the industry,” Ziad Ismail, Convoy chief product officer, told Business Insider. “We’ve looked at this as a problem that we’ve had to solve from the very beginning, but only now that we’ve built a lot of density in lots of marketplaces are we able to really batch these loads together and put these reloads together into kind of multi-job offers for our drivers.”

Convoy auto reloadCourtesy of Convoy

Typically, a truck driver just signs up to take one job at a time. But Ismail said Convoy’s density allows it to algorithmically arrange multiple jobs at the same time. These are optimised so that, as soon as one job finishes, the next one is a short drive away. And so on.

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Convoy, based in Seattle, counts among its investors Google’s investment arm, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. It was recently valued at $US1 billion.

Dan Lewis and Grant Goodale are cofounders of Convoy. Both were previously in management roles at Amazon.

In February, Convoy made waves when it announced it had 100% automated the traditionally cumbersome process of freight brokerage, in which retailers and manufacturers (called “shippers”) are matched with truck drivers (or “carriers”).

“A lot of the people in Silicon Valley are talking about automated driving as the biggest change in transportation,” Lewis previously told Business Insider. “If you look at the opportunity now, it’s really about efficiency in the networks and efficiency in the brokerage process.”

Are you a truck driver with a story? Are you in the freight brokerage space and want to share your ideas about the industry? Email me at [email protected].

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