The End of Freight Brokers

Technology-driven business platforms such as eBay, Amazon, and iStore created the backbone of online business, and just like Amazon eradicated bookstores (even books themselves), Freightopolis plans the same fate for the freight broker services by 2017. Freightopolis has the leverage to go viral in the fast moving technology markets, and may become the next big thing in the freight industry that has not caught up with the times to this day in regard to technology.

This shipping procurement phenomenon provides shipping services through a real-time online platform that connects and matches customers directly with carriers using the company’s proprietary PATT system (PATT: price, availability, and transit time). The Montreal-based Freightopolis serves the North American B2B freight market with less than truckload (LTL) and full truckload (TL or FTL) shipping services, whether shipping within Canada or seeking cross border shipping, completely eliminating the need for third party freight brokerage service.

Freightopolis users receive real-time, competitive quotes from hundreds of qualified reliable carriers, right along with freight rates, truck availability and transit times. This information is supplied and consolidated into the Freightopolis platform directly from carriers, giving customers accurate and current information.

Simply put, the Freightopolis platform brings together customers with carriers instantly, eliminating the time consuming back-and-forth negotiations on fuel surcharges, membership fees, or hidden fees, and minimizing the margin for error created by using third party freight brokers.

The concept came along in the fall of 2010, and once the platform was developed, Freightopolis started offering the service to carriers and customers on March 4, and the company continues to build up its database. The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Jack Pollak, the Principal and the brain behind and Freightopolis platform idea, and Morty Silber, Director of Marketing, discussing the core technology behind Freightopolis and the market potential of this streamlined service.

“I worked as a freight broker before launching Freightopolis, and found a lack of communication, transparency and organization, which in my opinion are the core competencies of a broker. The freight industry is extremely fragmented, that’s why customers use brokers to find the best shipping options. The freight broker is the middle man between the carriers and the customers.

“Our concept is simple — bill everything online. Today everyone knows that Internet is the best place to go in regard to organization and communication, and everyone has done it — hotels, airlines, car rentals — you name it. We have built an online platform, where the shipper can log in, in 20 seconds receive a list and quotes from multiple carriers, and spend another 30 seconds choosing the dates and pick up/drop off locations, submit the request, and receive the confirmation from the carrier that the order was received. Our system also tracks the shipment, automatically generates Bill of Landing and allows for uploading customers documentation, simply just another service website that takes care of all the steps necessary for shipment management,” says Pollak.

According to Pollak, the challenge during the development stages was to create a platform that would serve the different needs of different carriers. Today, Freightopolis offers customers a list of 150 carriers to choose from for their shipping needs, and the company sees between 30 and 50 new signups per day, translating to about 600 new customers per month.

“The simplicity and speed of this system is its most important feature. You don’t have to spend hours discussing with a freight broker. It’s as easy as looking up and booking vacation online. Our system is so simple and efficient, that we don’t even need a service department at the technical side, or teaching clients how to use the system,” says Silber.

To assure the quality of shipping, the company rates each freight carrier through a non-biased automated rating system. The company only deals with companies that have been in business for more than one year, and must operate at least five vehicles, presenting themselves as experienced and reliable carriers.

“We will be including this rating within six months, once we have enough data about each carrier. Because of this rating we see the interest from the side of the carriers to provide quality service, and customers are extremely happy,” says Pollak.

The positives of a streamlined online platform are evident to virtually everyone presented with the Freightopolis option, yet some still choose to work with their brokers to fulfill their shipping needs. According to Pollak, the turnaround time for technology companies is between three to five years before the general public starts to understand and accept the new technology.

“Yes, people do trust computer systems more, but it takes effort to wean off that relationship because they’ve been doing business this way for 30 years. That being said, we are currently at 150 carriers, but we expect to reach 250 within the next few months, and grow exponentially from there. We are also putting more fuel to the fire in the customer market with our marketing and sales, and we expect to bring between 1,200 and 1,500 shippers each month, so by the end of 2013 we will probably have a client base of about 10,000. We are currently growing at a monthly rate between 125 and 200 per cent,” says Pollak.

Today’s online customer expects immediate results, and while Freightopolis provides offers cross-border shipping options, before marketing in the U.S. the company needs to cover shipping for the majority of cities and towns in the U.S. and offer multiple quotes. Once Freightopolis achieves this, the company expects to fully take on the North American freight market.

The complex service and easy platform usage are the Freightopolis way – the way of the future. Freightopolis seems to be one of the most undervalued shipping option business assets in Canada today, and in the U.S. tomorrow.