Digitization Crushes X-Border Complexities for MENA Road Freight Transporters

Around the world, digital platforms are helping to transform the road freight industry by optimizing trucking operations for maximum efficiency.

As a sign of the model’s success, one such platform, U.S.-based Convoy, now connects shippers and freight brokers to a national network of 400,000 trucks — an example of the many “large digital networks operating in a borderless environment,” according to Gaurav Biswas, founder and CEO at United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based truck aggregator TruKKer.

Related: Convoy Now Offers Carriers Faster Payments After Loads

But according to Biswas, road freight in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is an entirely different beast. Unlike Convoy and China’s Full Truck Alliance, TruKKer manages freight routes that cross over 25 international borders, with operations in seven MENA countries and Turkey.

While it’s often called the “Uber of trucking” due to how both Uber and TruKKer have made a similar move in “platformizing” the way drivers connect with their customers, Biswas argued that comparison fails to recognize that trucking is far more complex than ride-hailing.

Whereas Uber offers a handful of different vehicle types and journeys typically remain within a certain area, TruKKer can be used to book more than 20 different types of trucks for journeys that might cross multiple land borders, he noted.

This means having to deal with customs regimes and diverging regulations across countries, which is why an entire department of the business has been devoted to monitoring cross-border logistics and exploring new possibilities for digital automation to help make the process faster and easier.

Read more: Morocco’s Startups Bring International Fleet Management Into the Digital Age

What Next for MENA’s Road Freight?

Having recently announced a $100 million Series C funding round, Biswas said that TruKKer’s use of technology to drive efficiency has been one of the main draws for investors.

“The amount of operational investment that we make in terms of human capital is significantly lower than a typical transporter, because of the various automation tools that we have,” he explained.

See also: TruKKer Secures $96M in Series B Funding Round

Going forward, he noted that TruKKer will use the latest funding to grow its market share, but instead of opening up new routes, the firm has “increased [its] focus on lane densities” and doubled down on the most profitable freight corridors.

He further said that trucking is an especially “intrinsic sector” in the industrialized economies of MENA compared to more service-based ones, an indication of the many growth opportunities in those markets.

Biswas added that the industry is ripe for further digitization, specifically in mobilizing financial technology, a trend which will see TruKKer working closely with the financial sector moving forward.

Another important trend is the growing interest in sustainability technology, with bigger firms in the region already looking toward a future where electric vehicles (EVs) will play a much larger role in road freight.

In fact, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — are having high-level conversations around building the infrastructure needed for EVs, which will in turn lead to the sector’s development “in the next couple of years,” Biswas said.

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