Eric and Zhenya Beckwitt are parents of a child who developed asthma due to the polluted air in northern California. “The primary source of air pollution is transportation; it’s the refineries, cars and trucking. So we actually had to leave northern California and go to another country to get away from that air pollution, in a safer place to raise our child,” Eric Beckwitt tells progrss. Three years ago, inspired by this experience, the Beckwitt couple decided to establish a company – Freightera, a startup creating a single, unified global marketplace for freight, that reduces shipping costs while at the same time significantly decreasing air pollution through optimization and new technologies.
Freightera is basically a website serving businesses with instant freight quotes and online bookings, ensuring low carbon emissions and more practicality and time efficiency.
Between 1960 and 2016, California’s population more than tripled from 15.8 million to 39.2 million. Steve LaDochy, professor of geography and urban analysis at California State University, Los Angeles, an expert in air pollution and climate, suspects that this ever-growing population is largely to blame for the state’s notorious air pollution, which has been ranked the worst in the United States. LaDochy notes that the rise in electric vehicle use and renewable energy sources have helped to improve air quality in California. Nearly 40 percent of the country’s containerized goods enter or exit through California’s maritime ports, making freight a major contributor to air pollution in the state.
“When we [at Freightera] solve this problem of freight in the proportion of Canada, we actually solve this problem for all industrial economies because they are all very similar in terms of how they’re currently structured,” Beckwitt says. “Most freight is moved by truck, and [because there are] many small trucking companies in each country, and their roads are not consolidated, trucks go in one way and come back empty. So, we need a central marketplace clearing house where all of the rates are posted – not only for trucks but for rail, for ocean, for air.”
Freightera’s portal works like Expedia, except it’s for freight not flights. The CEO explains that the reason why a business model like this one hasn’t been developed before is that in North America, for example, there are hundreds of trucking companies and typically they are many small firms – unlike the airline reservation system, where there is a limited number of airlines to serve each country hosting only dozens of companies. “To get them all into a system is very difficult. First of all to devise a system that works well and get them to use it – that’s the fundamental problem,” he says.
The three-year old startup is moving fast. It has over 5,000 registered business freight shippers and the best lane coverage and rates in Canada and the United States. Over nine billion automated rate quotes in Freightera’s inventory connect 23,000 communities. Although it started in Canada and later began cross-border U.S.-Canada transport, it is rapidly expanding in the United States.
Freightera currently has a team of 16 people. “We try to be as flat as possible in terms of management and non-hierarchal as possible. So, we function very laterally,” Beckwitt explains. There are four people in programming, eight in customer service, and a few in logistics. “Large companies have strict rules and procedures that they have to follow, but the early stages of a startup must be flexible and we need to just focus on solving problems that appear in every stage.”