Izwan Ismail checks out Transport4U, a domestic freight exchange servicing the transport and logistics industry
TWO years ago, Julia Mohd Samsudin wanted to move her household stuff to Kuala Lumpur from Penang. However, she found it to be a hassle.
After much trouble, she managed to hire a lorry but it didn’t have the capacity to move all her stuff at one go.
“I had a double-storey house and was trying to move all the stuff to my new home in KL.”
Julia had to find another lorry and ended up paying an extra RM2,000. “It was a frustrating experience,” she says.
The incident spurred her to find a solution to the problem. Based on her online shopping experience and the fact that the country has a sizeable Internet population, Julia decided to set up an online platform for freight exchange.
The platform would make it easy for customers, lorry drivers and companies to exchange information on goods to be moved.
“Every now and then, you will have people wanting to move stuff from one place to another. But finding a suitable lorry is not easy,” she says.
It’s common practice here for lorry owners to stick their contact numbers on tree trunks, shop walls and lamp posts. While this practice has its benefits, there are also some issues. For one, prices may vary and the size of the lorries may not meet customer requirements.
“The lorry offered may not be suitable for your needs. For example, you may want to move furniture but the lorry you get is more suitable for moving construction goods.”
It is also a problem for lorry owners who have to return with an empty lorry.
“Why not advertise and let people know that there’s a lorry available at a certain time and with a certain capacity to go to a certain destination. There may be someone who needs the service,” she explains.
That’s how Transport4U.my started.
To create the Transport4U platform, Julia engaged her business partner Michael Joseph Farrelly, who is a Web developer and programmer, and her son, who is also IT savvy.
“The real challenge, however, is in getting the fleet of lorries onto the platform,” she says.
Since starting the project early this year, she has been literally going from tree to tree, and one lamp post to another, as well as looking at ads in the newspapers for lorry contacts.
“I had to do this to build up the database. It was tiring and challenging, but it was worth it. Convincing lorry owners, from single lorry owners to big freight companies, to place their lorries on Transport4U takes time. It’s a new concept here,” she says.
Her hardwork has borne fruit. Within eight months, 90 lorry owners/companies, including a few big ones, have signed up and the customer base on Transport4U has also been growing.
Transport4U follows the freight exchange concept of Backloads.net, which is very popular in the United Kingdom.
Farrelly says the service is currently free.
“It works both ways, for the lorry owners and those who subscribe to the lorry services,” he says.
“For example, if I have a lorry returning to KL from Johor Baru with an empty load, I can place an ad on the platform stating the type of lorries I have, the goods I can carry and the weight, the exact time I leave Johor Baru and my contact details. And if there is someone looking for a lorry to KL that matches the one that I have, I could move his or her goods, maybe at a bargain price, instead of returning home empty,” says Farrelly.
Based on the extrapolated figures from a survey conducted by Transport4U, on any working day, it is estimated that 25 per cent of trucks and vans on our roads are travelling empty. This logistical inefficiency is a huge cost to the transport industry and can run into millions of ringgit annually.
“After completing a transport delivery, many trucks and vans return to their depots empty because they could not find suitable freight. Small and medium-sized transport service providers suffer from this setback and are always looking for opportunities to redress the imbalance,” he says.
“On the loaded trip, transport operators can pass the operating costs to the customer but it is not commercially feasible to pass the cost of the return journey to the customer.
“This financial vacuum can be redressed by reducing the number of empty trips. This is where the Transport4U Malaysian Freight Exchange platform can assist,” he says.