FreightWaves founder and CEO Craig Fuller spoke to Truckstop CEO Kendra Tucker on Fuller Speed Ahead about how the company manages volatility in the trucking market and about the task force the freight matching and logistics technology provider has developed to mitigate the rise in double brokering and fraud that’s hitting load board providers.
Here are the top takeaways from their discussion at FreightWaves’ Small Fleet & Owner-Operator Summit on Wednesday.
Importance of paying attention to key metrics in an economic downturn
Tucker, who was promoted to CEO of Truckstop in 2022, said she’s been closely monitoring factored invoices and rate changes as reference points to compare with this time last year.
“Last year around this time, those invoices were about $1,700, and now they are lucky to be above $1,300,” Tucker said. “So we think about the dynamics that are impacting the change in those in their rates. A lot has taken place over the past 12 to 18 months.”
Tucker said when she started at Truckstop in 2020, the industry was hitting historic highs of carriers entering the industry.
“It was all we could do to respond to the needs of those truckers in particular as they were setting up their businesses, and now it’s a bit of the opposite,” she said. “Now the conversations we’re having with our customers are around how they can be more profitable. What are some of the tactics, tips and tricks that our customers are seeing from some of the [trucking] veterans in the industry?”
However, Tucker told Fuller that Truckstop realized the industry was seeing dynamic changes from a short-term dip in freight volumes to a longer-term economic decline in Q1 of 2022.
“It was something that we really started paying attention to in late Q1 last year, but I really started to see it in the numbers about May to June of last year,” Tucker said. “Then where you saw it really become more sustained was in volume and freight drops that happened in the fourth quarter.”
Truckstop uses new carrier entrant numbers to gauge industry changes
One of the metrics that Truckstop keeps close tabs on is what’s happening in new carrier entrant numbers provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
“The number of new carrier authorities entering the industry alongside carrier authorities exiting the industry was basically net zero for most of the summer, and that turned net negative by the time we got into the fourth quarter and has been pretty consistent since then,” Tucker said. “So the amount of capacity we see leaving the industry is something we are paying attention to.”
Fuller asked if entrant numbers are accelerating in terms of carrier revocations or if that number is leveling out.
“One of the things that was really curious was the number of new entrants actually ticked up in February. That’s really interesting after several months of sustaining just lower numbers,” Tucker said. “I wouldn’t say that they were back to normalized levels. They’re still pretty consistently high. So that’s one of the things that we see is it used to be around 3,000 to 4,000 carriers that would enter the industry on a monthly basis, and it’s still somewhere in the 5,000 to 6,000 range.”
How do Truckstop’s customers compare current downturn with 2019 ‘trucking bloodbath’?
“Across the board, I hear our customers describe it as being a more painful downturn than the previous one,” Tucker said. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we’ve seen a bloodbath, though. I think what we’ve observed is that on the carrier side, businesses seem currently at least more prepared to weather the change or the tick downward.”
However, she said brokers have a much different perspective.
“I think what we hear from the broker side of the business is that the whole of 2023 will be a tough year. And I think we see that to be true,” Tucker said. “On the carrier side of the business, we interact with a lot of carriers that do operate in the spot market. And I think there’s optimism that spot market rates will start to tick up at some point during the second half of the year, not to get back to 2021 or 2022 levels, but to at least stop the downward slide that we’ve seen for the past few months.”
Truckstop partners with FBI, law enforcement to fight fraud
The transportation industry has seen an uptick in double brokering and fraud over the past few years. Fuller pressed Tucker on what efforts Truckstop is taking to address the problems plaguing its load board and other issues on its platforms.
“I think it’s probably fair to call it historic levels of fraudulent activity just across the industry as a whole, whether that shows up in load boards, whether that shows up in manual processes and other automated systems in the FreightTech space,” Tucker said. “When we talk to our broker customers, almost 90% of them say that they have experienced fraud in the past three to six months and so it really has been on the rise.”
Complaints about double brokering on Truckstop’s platforms have more than doubled over the past two years, Tucker said.
“We take the rise in fraudulent activity so seriously that another thing that we’re doing is partnering with the FBI and law enforcement agencies from a variety of states,” she said. “So as they see the rise in fraudulent activity, we are partnering together to exchange information and actually try to hunt the bad guys down and have a whole task force that we’ve created across our Truckstop team in order to help them manage the fraud.”
Fuller asked whether Truckstop plans to “take a more active role in getting rid of some of those carriers” after FreightWaves received reports that “load boards are not policing the activity and haven’t been addressing some of the bad actors.”
“It’s always our goal to make sure that the users of our products are who they say they are. In fact, it’s embedded into the Truckstop platform as a continuous vetting process,” Tucker said. “Carriers are vetted every time they log into our platform, and brokers are vetted very frequently. So not every day but on a monthly to quarterly basis. We’re constantly looking at credit scores and FMCSA authority status and we do that continuously for carriers.”
Tucker predicts consolidation in FreightTech
Over the next five years, Trucker said she expects there to be consolidation among FreightTech companies, which has been taking place in the broker space with M&A activity occurring with large brokerages.
“I’m not concerned, nor would I predict that consolidation would diminish the broker base. I just think it’s going to make for savvier companies that are playing there,” Tucker said. “I think there’s a ton of FreightTech consolidation.”
She points to the time she spent in the cabs of small business truckers who use four to 10 apps daily to run their businesses.
“I do think that’s a lot of screen toggling that’s taking place,” Tucker said. “There’s a lot of newer companies that came in as investment has flooded into this sector. So I would fully expect that you will start to see some consolidation taking place across FreightTech in pursuit of being able to provide single panes of glass for our customers.”
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