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Uber starts a perks program for its trucking app

Cheaper gas, discounts on new and used trucks, and more

Photo: Uber

Uber is launching a perks program for Uber Freight, the company’s app that lets truckers easily book loads. It’s called Uber Freight Plus, and it offers truckers different discounts and opportunities depending on how much they drive with the service.

As long as drivers haul one load per month with Uber Freight, they’ll be eligible for an Uber Freight Plus “fuel card.” They can use that card to save 20 cents per gallon off the retail price of gas at TA/Petro truck stops, as well as 15 cents per gallon at specific locations in California, Texas, and Illinois of Roady’s, a network of independent chain of truck stops. Uber Freight Plus members will also be able to use the card to save up to 30 percent on Goodyear tires.

Once drivers haul 10 loads total as Uber Freight Plus members, they’ll be eligible for up to $16,000 off new truck purchases from Navistar or up to a $4,000 rebate on used trucks from the company’s International brand. Lastly, Uber Freight Plus members can save 20 to 50 percent off the cost of parts on truck maintenance at Navistar centers (even if they own a different brand of truck) and can get discounts on phone plans with Sprint.

Uber Freight Plus is the latest push from the company to tempt existing truck drivers to try out the service, while also encouraging new users to sign up — even if it’s their first time.

“Every [feature] that we’ve shipped is about how to make the drivers’ time finding loads, going about their day to day, and building a business around Uber Freight easier and easier,” Eric Berdinis, senior product manager for Uber Freight, tells The Verge. Uber Freight Plus, he says, “is the next frontier of helping drivers, especially small fleets, level the playing field in the world of trucking, by giving them some of the tools that they need to run their business even outside of finding loads of freight.”

Berdinis claims that the perks Uber’s offering with Freight Plus match or beat the kinds of discounts truckers could get if they were to drive with bigger fleets. “We’ve negotiated some pretty deep discounts that we’re spreading to the smallest single truck or single owner folks out there, who can now share the same kind of advantages that you have working at a larger company, with all the same independence and control that you have by booking freight on your own with the Uber Freight app,” he says.

The company offered similar discounts to drivers in the earlier days of its ride-hailing service and has also long subsidized the cost of rides in order to entice riders, both of which helped the company gain market share. When it comes to who’s eating how much of the cost to get these discounts for Uber Freight drivers, the company wouldn’t say. Berdinis did say, however, that Uber Freight drivers should expect Plus to be an “ongoing thing,” and that the discounts won’t be fleeting.

Uber has steadily rolled out new features to the Freight app since launching the service almost a year ago, with the goals of making it easy and attractive for new drivers to sign up while also encouraging longtime truckers to switch and ensure repeat business at the same time. There’s the Apple Music-esque “For You” recommendations page, where an algorithm suggests jobs to drivers based on things like location and preferences. There’s another feature where drivers can post where and when their truck will be available, allowing companies to more easily match with them. And there’s a feature that finds available hauls near a destination, making it easier to link multiple jobs together.

Not all of Uber Freight’s early features have been successful, according to Berdinis. “There are definitely parts of the app that are used less than others,” he says. One idea involved making it easy for drivers to book multiple loads ahead of time, and to show those in one big calendar view. “But a lot of our drivers book loads kind of one at a time, because there’s so much irregularity in freight. You know, a facility might take too long, or there’s traffic, or there’s a storm or something,” Berdinis says. “That makes booking three, four, five loads in advance doesn’t really make sense sometimes. So that view of all the things you have coming up isn’t as useful for all kinds of drivers.”

Uber’s still not saying how many people use Uber Freight. But it’s clear that, in its first year of existence, the service and its team is benefitting from being able to leverage the the company’s deep resources, whether that’s software development, access to machine learning, the ability to add semi-autonomous trucks to the mix, or being able to conjure up and quickly lock in ideas like a perks program.