Tech Company Convoy Downplays ‘Uber for Trucking’ Tagline in Wake of Scandals

Convoy is changing its marketing, but not its mission to add tech to trucking.

byStephen Edelstein|
Car Tech photo

Seattle-based tech company Convoy once described itself as "Uber for trucking." But down it's backing away from that tagline, and not because Uber itself is entering the trucking business. Convoy feels Uber's numerous scandals make any association with the ride-sharing company less than desirable, CEO Dan Lewis told The Verge

Uber has faced a number of high-profile scandals over the past few months, culminating in the ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick. That made the "Uber for trucking" tagline less attractive, Lewis said.

"It just became a brand people were uncomfortable being affiliated with," he said. "The industry in general is moving away from that term."

While Lewis attributed the decision entirely to optics, it's also hard to bill a company as "Uber for trucking" when Uber itself is making inroads into the business. The company launched Uber Freight in May, with the hope of applying its ride-sharing expertise to coordinating shipping. It also purchased trucking brokerage firm 4F Logistics last fall.

Brokerage firms like 4F Logistics connect shippers with trucking companies. They're the established business Uber and Convoy hope to disrupt. But even after the Uber acquisition, Convoy's Lewis said 4F still uses a manual, phone-operated system, and that Convoy plans to offer something more high-tech.

Uber is also developing self-driving trucks, although the program is at the center of a legal battle with Waymo, the former Google self-driving car project. User's autonomous-truck program started out as an independent company called Otto, which was co-founded by former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski. Waymo claims Levandowski stole trade secrets and brought them to Uber, charges the ride-sharing company denies.

Convoy has not made a final decision on whether to pursue self-driving trucks. Should it decide to go that route, it will be at a disadvantage both because of Uber's head start and the amount of resources the larger company can throw at the problem. Convoy recently announced that it raised $62 million in Series B funding—but the company is still only valued at $80 million, compared to Uber's $69 billion valuation.

Yet Uber is not invincible. Lyft has managed to carve out a sizable share of the company's core ride-sharing market, and Uber's many scandals have boosted the smaller company's business. Only time will tell what impact Convoy may have on America's massive trucking market.