uShip.com Makes Sure Ship Happens: Inside 'Shipping Wars'
"I was a teamster truck driver back in my early 20s and I always had this burning desire to drive the big trucks. It was something I always wanted to do and it just never happened. So, when I began to strike out on my own I thought, 'Well, I've got zero income and zero working capital, how do I start a company?"
His wife reminded him that he had a leaf blower sitting in the garage and suggested he go clear the lawns in the neighbourhood. But Springer thinks big, so he began extrapolating how many employees he'd need to do all the surrounding neighbourhoods and quickly realized he'd need a trailer. But when he went on Craigslist looking for a trailer, he found a 1999 frieghtliner truck with a 20 foot flat-bed.
"They wanted $20,000 for the [trailer] and I thought, 'You know, I think I'm just going to buy a truck.'"
He booked a load the day he bought the truck and was just going to use his contacts in the scrap metal business to haul scrap metal in Seattle and the surrounding area, until he hit the internet and found a veritable trucker's Shangri-La.
"I was looking to fill the truck with scrap and I was doing pretty well at that, making decent money and one day, I was on the computer wondering, 'How do you find loads? There's got to be a better way to do this. How do these guys find the freight to get on their trucks?'"
That's when he stumbled onto uShip.com. It opened all the doors to all of the business opportunities he enjoys today, including becoming a reality TV star as the handlebar mustache sporting, big-rig driving, cast member of A&E's Shipping Wars.
Called, "The eBay of Shipping," uShip is a forum for customers to post loads of all stripes no matter what they are and where in the world they need to go. Truckers like Marc Springer can then bid on the right to ship the load whatever it is, whether it's a bronco made of stainless steel car bumpers, a decommissioned military tank or a camel.
In fact, these items were actually posted on uShip and bid for during Shipping Wars episodes, which has haulers vie to ship the unusual and seemingly unshippable. Truly, with the number of loads up for grabs on uShip, an independent trucker like Springer can become a bonafide entrepreneur.
"We've really built a platform that empowers people to create and grow their businesses. So we've heard countless stories over the years that are just that -- people getting into the business who are new, competing with big incumbent moving companies and using uShip to really be their marketing arm," says Matt Chasen, uShip's CEO.
"We help acquire the customer, we build the platform and we've provided feedback to solve that critical trust issue. It used to be that small moving companies had to get together and form van line organization. This served to build national brands and gave movers the ability to not only market regionally, but also have loads to bring it back home when they were doing long distance moves. We are really the next iteration of that, where we strive to create a national and international footprint for marketing and acquiring customers that we provide access to for all of these big and small moving companies."
However, with so many shippers large and small vying for your business, it's important to separate those who are above board from those who are not, and make sure whoever your dealing with possesses the right credentials -- licenses, registration and, if needed, paperwork for the border. After all, uShip is a marketplace, not a broker -- it can't require credentials from the truckers who use its service.
Remember what Chasen said about that "critical issue of trust?" He's talking about uShip's feedback boards, where customers can give the trucker they used a star rating and review their performance for all to see. The site also tracks every trucker's ratio of positive comments versus negative ones and cancellations. Every trucker also has the opportunity to link to their licenses and insurance information and write an extensive profile outlining who they are and their relevant experience.
"I learned a long time ago, if you buy cheap tools, you're going to buy lots of them. If you buy good tools, you're going to buy them once" says Springer. "There's a difference, a huge difference, in transporters. Some people don't care. They don't take the time to do things right, they're flying by the seat of their pants and they just say, 'Oh yeah, I always wanted to do a transmission.' Other people, spend a lot of time getting good at what they do, they're smart about it. So [customers], from a shipper's standpoint, they really need to do their homework as to who they ultimately decide on as their transporter, accept their bid and not base it on cost alone."
Springer says its his open communication that separates him from the rest of the haulers on uShip. "One of the reasons I've had as much success as I've had is because my communication skills are good. I keep people informed constantly of what my status is and if something has changed."
But it's not just the hauler that holds the responsibility for the load getting to where it's going, the customer can also do a few things when posting their item to ensure their item gets to its destination without any issues.
"Accurate dimensions, good pictures and what kind of truck is their item going to require, what kind of trailer is it going to require and, with that in mind, is there access at both points? Can I get my truck onto the driveway or am I going to have to park a few blocks away?" says Springer.
You don't have to worry about your item or your deal either, Chasen tells us that the safety of both is assured. "We stand behind transactions on our site across the board with a shipment confidence guarantee. We provide all sorts of fraud and screening technology. We have a whole customer service and support system where, if any issues arise with your trucker, we've got your back."
Customers seem to agree, since the average feedback rating on uShip is over 98% positive, but the latest J.D. Power and Associates moving companies survey revealed that their average feedback rating is only 80.4% positive.
"Instead of having to look for a shipper, we bring the shipper to you," says Chasen. "Relative to a traditional moving company you might find in the Yellow Pages, our customers save about 50 per cent. Plus the ability to read unbiased reviews of these truckers is something you just don't get when you call someone over the phone."
In addition, to uShip.com, Marc Springer can also be found through his company Snortn' Boar Transport. Watch 'Shipping Wars' Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on A&E. Season two of 'Shipping Wars' will premiere this summer.