From testing new payment systems to driverless trucks, the trucking industry is undergoing a technology makeover as of late. Over 70 percent of all freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks, according to the American Trucking Association — making the industry the perfect target for supply efficiency tech options.
Trucking logistics startup Sudu connects independent carriers with larger shippers to help them secure bigger contract opportunities by optimizing their routes.
“As you can imagine, as an owner operator, it’s very hard to always find those routes that you want to take, as well as having a return trip. In addition, they always want to make sure that they have a full load on the way back. So, we help them with their goals.,” says Chad Ruff, CTO of Sudu.
And since diversity is another major issue that plagues the trucking industry, Sudu focuses on putting minority, women, veteran-owned carriers first .
Earlier this month, the ATDC-based startup raised $1 million (out of their $2M goal) from private investors to enhance their platform, increase customer discovery and acquisitions, and hire more key leadership roles. The long term goal, according to Ruff, is for the platform to take each carrier’s job preferences into consideration through machine learning, including preferred season, location, cargo, and more — making it easier for suppliers to find the right fit.
Here, Ruff tells Hypepotamus more about his plans for Sudu’s technology, how the platform will help connect women, minorities, and veterans to more routes, and his number one piece of advice for entrepreneurs.
Tell me more about your position as Chief Technology Officer at Sudu and what’s in your pipeline.
I was brought in as a CTO for Sudu. Sudu is starting from scratch when it comes to the technology so we have a lot of technology goals on our plate. One of the first things that I’ll be doing is building our software infrastructure. It will be a robust information system for us to track all of the carriers, customers, and lanes that are going back and forth, as well as geographical information systems to track everything in a visual way for logistics.
How does Sudu facilitate connections between owner truck operators and larger companies?
Owner operators are people who are independent and have their own truck. Minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-owned carriers usually own 10 or less trucks and they do not have access to the large corporations . What we’re trying to do is have a consortium of those carriers — we have about 10,000 truckers— and we’re matching those truckers to some of the larger lanes (routes) that we see from our customers. Right now, no one’s focusing on the smaller carriers. They’re focusing on some of the larger carriers which are the ones that haul freight for the larger customers. Our main goal is to utilize technology to help the matchmaking process.
How are you going to roll out this technology at Sudu?
It will be developed in phases. The first few phases will be applications that are internal to Sudu only and will have all the lanes coming into our system. We’ll be able to use a few different types of technology to help with the matching of each lane.
We’ve got 10,000 drivers, we know their locations from a phone app that we have developed. Then you layer on top of that the weather, seasonality, history of all the shipping lanes and their prices, and gas prices. We have a lot of different data layers that are coming into our system.
We’ll use machine learning to do two main things for us. One, it will help us predict and have very accurate pricing for those lanes, and second we will match lanes to driver. .
You can start to take into consideration driver preferences, such as vacation schedules, their types of trucks, and where they are on a normal basis. We bring all of that in and put it into IBM Watson, and we figure out what lane would be a good match for those different drivers.
How does the matching happen?
Initially, all the data will be fed into the system and will be presented back to the carrier operators within our company and they’ll have a dashboard of information that will help them narrow down the phone calls they make to match the drivers. Right now in this industry, and it’s true for all companies similar to ours, it’s a very manual process. There’s a lot of phone calls and basically you get a lane, and you start making phone calls to carriers to say, “Okay, do you have a truck available, if so can they do this lane?” And they’ll go through 30 phone calls before they actually match somebody.
Let’s just say for instance that our system already knows that the carrier have no trucks, so we will immediately remove them from our list of somebody to call. Or let’s say that we know that their trucks can’t handle a hazmat, so we’ll remove them from our list. So it will be using different types of algorithms to figure out what are the best truckers to present to our operations group.
What’s Sudu’s market impact and primary goal for the platform?
One of the main goals that we will have besides helping the minority, women, and veteran-owned carriers is to really help increase route efficiency and develop round trips for our carriers, in turn, this reduces the carbon footprint for our customers.. I would say about 90 percent of all truck loads right now have a one-way destination. Let’s say you have a route from Atlanta to Houston and you’re carrying cargo for a certain company. More than likely, 90 percent of the loads do not have anything in their truck coming back. As we gain more lanes, as we gain more customers, as we gain more carriers, and as we use our information system, which by the way we call Fulcrum.
As we use Fulcrum to be more intelligent, we hope to be doing a lot more matchmaking to make these round trips and that’s where software’s will play a huge role is taking all this data that we have, and then taking that location based data to help do that matching.
A little bit more further down the road and as we develop our phone app, it will be more of a bidding system instead of us of offering some suggestions. We will offer truckers a list of available routes in the area and an opportunity to bid on them. Then, we have the software automatically match that and schedule that cargo, do all the paperwork on the phone, and automate it as much as we can.
As a seasoned entrepreneur, do you have any advice for others?
I think that when you find venture capital, it becomes a different game for most entrepreneurs. The number one lesson is to understand your cash flow and to understand that expansion should be a factor of your revenue coming in, not necessarily how big you want to get.
One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs will make is they’ll forecast a revenue model and they’ll forecast an expense model. It’s very easy to get your expense model right because you can control spending, but sometimes you cannot control your revenue model. You always need to be on the lookout and understand that if revenue went down a month, you have to be very careful about your expenses in the next month. Always make sure that you’re counterbalancing the revenue versus the expenses. Or else, you’ll run out of money pretty quick