The rise and fall of digital freight brokerages

December 12, 2023

Relationships and versatility are the backbone of the trucking industry. It’s about more than just moving goods from point A to point B; it’s about trust, communication, and understanding the unique challenges that can arise in the transportation process.

These important yet nuanced aspects of the transport business highlight the mounting concerns with digital brokerage platforms. These services came onto the scene with promises of efficiency, transparency, and cost-effectiveness. And for a while, they seemed to work well—until they didn’t. The unforeseen challenges brought on by the pandemic exposed some critical flaws.

One major issue was the lack of human interaction. In the face of problems like delays, damage, or miscommunications, drivers found themselves stuck without anyone to talk to. The digital platforms were supposed to streamline processes, but when real issues arose, they fell short in providing the necessary support.

“The problem that we saw with these digital platforms from the trucking side was simply that you couldn’t get ahold of anybody,” explains Lewie Pugh, Executive VP at the OOIDA. “When there was a problem, we had guys sitting there for four or five days trying to get ahold of a person.”

From an operational standpoint, digital brokerage platforms were a gamble. They worked seamlessly when everything went according to plan. However, as we all know in the trucking industry, things rarely go as planned. When disruptions occurred, trying to reach a live person became a frustrating and time-consuming endeavor.

Despite their supposed technological advantage, digital brokerage platforms fell short in countless ways. Learn how the traditional brokerage model remained competitive in the latest episode of the Stay In Your Lane Podcast.

Another critical failure of these platforms came in the form of contract agreements. These agreements were often one-sided, favoring the broker rather than offering fair protection to both parties involved. Detention pay, a crucial factor for truckers facing delays, was capped at an impractical four hours in some cases. This lack of understanding of the trucking industry’s intricacies showcased the gap between the tech-driven approach and the hands-on support of a traditional broker.

“The people that we would meet with were young folks who had just gotten out of some computer school and had great big ideas,” Pugh says of his experience working with digital brokerage firms. “It takes a person like that to make these things work, but the problem was that there was no one there with any trucking or brokerage experience.”

The turnover of personnel in these digital brokerage companies added another layer of frustration. The frequent influx of new faces, often with little to no experience in the trucking industry, resulted in a recurring cycle of miscommunication and inadequate solutions. It became clear that successful brokerage requires not just tech-savvy individuals but those with a deep understanding of the intricacies of trucking and logistics.

In contrast, traditional freight brokers like Triple T Transport have continued to thrive by emphasizing the human element. Instead of relying solely on algorithms and digital interfaces, Triple T places a premium on relationships, problem-solving, and a commitment to supply chain partners. This personalized approach has proven to be more resilient and adaptable to the dynamic nature of the trucking industry.

“[Triple T] isn’t just dialing for trucks. They’re trying to give solutions to their shippers and carriers,” says Joe Lombardo, President and Founder of Ege Avenue Associates. “These digital guys forgot about that. That’s why you couldn’t get anyone on the phone.”

The fall of the digital brokerage platform during challenging times exposed the limitations of a purely tech-driven model in an industry that thrives on relationships, adaptability, and a deep understanding of its nuances. As the trucking world moves forward, it’s clear that a successful freight brokerage must strike a balance between technological innovation and the human touch. Triple T Transport continues to navigate these waters successfully, placing itself at the forefront of a rapidly evolving industry. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive freight services.

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