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No more running on empty

19 Jul 2018

World Congress insights: How a smart, connected platform facilitates sharing to reduce waste, lower transport costs and support trade.

CEO of EmptyTrips, Benji Coetzee, will join us in Oman at the World Congress to talk about how a digital company is tackling the issue of empty transport vehicles and wasted space on voyages costing the global transport industry trillions of dollars. She shares some insights with IRU here.

The first online transport marketplace, or Freight Open eXchange (FOX), EmptyTrips uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to better match, connect, transact, share and insure freight transport among logistics companies. The portal brings the shared economy to an enterprise level, reducing waste and emissions, and enabling more on-demand flexibility. From humble beginnings and with vast ambitions, EmptyTrips is a game-changer in the logistics and goods transport business.

    “A smart market for transport to reduce the waste and the cost of transport.”

    Approximately two years ago, I was driving along the N3 highway from Durban passing empty trucks and rail wagons along the route. This got me talking to my partner (and original co-founder), and thinking of the numerous consulting clients who complained about expensive transport costs eating into profit margins. And yet, I thought, surely there is oversupply – given the empties?

    Applying simple supply and demand economic theory didn’t work. Excess supply should lower prices rather than result in price hikes. So I assumed that better matched demand and supply would lead to a lower equilibrium cost for transport… Aside from cost implications – and being a tree-hugger, the excessive emissions, congestion and safety issues caused by needless truck journeys, was enough for me to try find a solution.

    I decided that something had to be done. A smart market for transport to reduce the waste and the cost of transport, and enable better use of expensive assets – was a necessity. Technology held the key.

    “Transport costs are either the backbone or the bottleneck of economies.”

    One of the key challenges we face in Africa is tackling the culture of the logistics industry and convincing experts that technology will assist them with reducing space wastage and costs. The industry faces a 30-40% inefficiency in the form of empty legs, even if we can reduce this by 1%, it offers immense recovery potential – supporting a struggling industry given economic down-turn. 

    Having worked on large infrastructure projects needing investment, the limited data available on traffic volumes required to validate bankable investment of a road or railway was a constant constraint and professional frustration. Once again, technology held the key to collect, analyse and predict data for strategic insight and potential efficiencies. 

    This sparked the journey to develop a prototype toward a smart connected platform to assist trade, integration and the environment via smarter transport with better asset utilisation, lower costs, reduced congestion, better inter-modal shifts (rail) and traffic volume transparency. 

    As such, by using smart-mapped spaces we are able to reduce wastage on moving vehicles to offer cost-savings, across modes – be it road, rail, air or sea vessels.  The lower transport cost of moving goods reduces the barriers to entry of products across Africa (thus enabling trade) and lowers inflation linked increases for consumers in everyday products – which is better for us all. 

    “Our platform has the potential to open borders and enable trade for the continent by leveraging data.”

    Our online exchange with its algorithmic directional capacity matching, paired with competitive digital auction rooms is proving positive with more than 23% savings per consignment, 15% yield improvement and consignment placings five times faster. Furthermore, the platform offers financial add-on products such as digital pay-as-you-move cargo insurance – so you only pay for what you need, when you need it.

    In summary, our platform has the potential to open borders and enable trade for the continent by leveraging data. Transport costs should not be underestimated as the hindrance to our growth and our ability to prosper. It is either the backbone or the bottleneck of economies. We help governments better connect stakeholders, reducing inefficiencies that increase costs.

     “For smaller transporters, EmptyTrips helps them to get on the map.”

    Our platform helps smaller companies that have no systems in place to better utilise their assets. Because we pay our transporters within 48 hours after a successful delivery, smaller companies will no longer have to worry about cash flow issues. From the shippers’ perspectives, EmptyTrips can help them lower their shipping costs/fees.

    In terms of future ambitions for EmptyTrips, I believe we will be the supernova orchestrator across road, rail, air and sea transport for Africa and beyond. We will commoditise freight, and dis-intermediate dominant players that fragment our progress. Watch this empty space…

    Join the debate

    Next generation platforms and data sharing are key topics that will be discussed at the IRU World Congress, which will take place in Muscat, Oman from 6-8 November. If you would like to join the debate, register here