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RelayGo released to speed up driver reimbursement

LAS VEGAS — Relay Payments, which has only been around since 2019 but has already pulled in some heavy outside funding, is rolling out a significant upgrade to its primary product that helps drivers get paid quickly for their expenses on the road. 

RelayGo is the name of the new offering. It is a step up from the current core product, Relay Codes. That product remains available and are both designed to do the same thing: provide a tool for fleets to quickly reimburse their drivers for expenses incurred on the road that aren’t necessarily covered by a fuel card, such as meals, maintenance costs and parking.  

In an interview at the Truckload Carriers Association annual meeting in Las Vegas just a few days after RelayGo was released, Relay’s president and co-founder, Spencer Barkoff, described the existing Relay Codes product as being similar to PayPal or Venmo, with a third party facilitating payments between parties that have agreed to be on the Relay system.

With Relay Codes, the driver can only get reimbursed through Codes if he or she patronized a merchant that had agreed to be in the program. Barkoff said the driver eating a meal at a participating truck stop, for example, would give the merchant his or her Relay Codes identification number, it would be put into the Relay system, and the carrier or broker’s Relay account would compensate the driver for the costs of that meal. 

With RelayGo, merchants that provide goods and services to drivers no longer need to sign up with Relay. The merchant’s acceptance of the Relay-branded Visa card will be all the driver needs for rapid reimbursement by his or her employer, a Relay customer. 

“When we launched RelayGo, it allows carriers and brokers to issue payments for anything that comes up on the road,” Barkoff said.

Relay Payments prefunds an account for the drivers with the companies that sign up for RelayGo, according to Barkoff. That account is then funded by the bank servicing the merchant through the branded Visa card. When the driver uses that card at any merchant, the account is funded for the expense. The payment ultimately comes from the driver’s employer through the Relay system.   

“Anyone that needs to manage the driver’s expenses is a potential customer of Relay,” Barkoff said. 

One area of trucker costs on the road that Relay Payments has turned into a niche area for quick payment is lumper fees. In a blog post on its website last year, Relay Payments talked about the current inefficiency in reimbursing drivers who pay the lumpers helping offload a truck at the warehouse or other facility at the end of a trucker’s journey. 

“The industry is marred by age-old paper-based payment methods like cash, industry-specific checks and lumper receipts that can take a long time to process and reconcile,” Relay said in the blog post from July 2021. “The driver may have to wait a long time to get reimbursed, and in the worst case, the driver isn’t reimbursed at all because of poor reconciliation.”

RelayGo was formally launched Thursday, with Barkoff touting it at Relay’s booth at TCA. 

“We’ve built a great network of 250,000 drivers, 45,000 owner-operators and seven of the top 20 full truckload carriers and six of the top 10 LTLs,” he said of the network. (Its relationship with Old Dominion Freight Lines (NASDAQ: ODFL) was considered significant enough by the LTL carrier that it put out a press release on the start of its deal.)

RelayGo was developed after Relay Codes participants were surveyed with one key question: “Where are your other pain points with payments on the road?” The result, Barkoff said, was a one-year study before RelayGo was pushed out to the market.

Relay Payments so far has mostly worked with what Barkoff called midsized companies. “The initial go-to market was focused on midsized companies, but any of them can benefit from managing the driver’s expenses on the road,” he said. And while Relay can seek out larger firms as well, “selling a 500-truck carrier is going to take longer.” 

Barkoff touts three strengths at Relay Payments that he says has helped fuel its growth. 

One is Relay Codes and RelayGo itself, which he said is a “great product and technology.” 

A second is “a transparent fee structure,” Barkoff said. “We don’t bury things in the contract and screw over the little owner-operator.” 

Finally, Barkoff cited the company’s support desk, which operates 24 hours a day 365 days a year and on average takes 10,000 calls per month. It is also a U.S.-based desk so calls are not routed to another part of the world. 

Relay raised approximately $100 million last year in two rounds of funding. Barkoff was coy on what the company’s growth plans are for the funding. The current staff is about 140 and is expected to rise to 300 by the end of the year.

As far as specific business growth, Barkoff talked expansively — and vaguely. “We like to be in an environment where we have serious traction with a good group of customers.” Within those relationships, Relay Payments is working on four new verticals, but he did not disclose what they are.

“Stay tuned” was all he would say when pressed for specifics. 

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