“Our view is that the commercialization of autonomous driving for passenger vehicles will probably take a bit longer than people would think,” says Richard Zhang, CFO of Full Truck Alliance. “We think the commercialization of autonomous driving for trucks will probably take place a lot sooner than it will take place in the passenger car vehicle sector.”
Full Truck Alliance is a multi-billion dollar valued company that is becoming the Uber of trucks throughout China. The fragmentation of the trucking industry in China between independent truckers and shippers has resulted in an empty load rate of over 40 percent, about four times higher than in the United States. The Full Truck Alliance app and online platform
Full Truck Alliance in China is the Uber for Trucks
The problem we’re trying to solve is very simple because there are high inefficiencies between matching with the truck drivers and also matching with the shippers. The empty load rate in the US is only ten percent while the empty load rate in China is 40 percent. The empty load rate is very similar to the vacancy rate in the hotel business. The reason is that the market here is highly fragmented. You have highly fragmented truck drivers and highly fragmented shippers, lots of SMEs.
Before we came into existence the matching between the truck drivers and shippers were taking place across a thousand offline marketplaces in China. What we have been trying to do is bring that offline marketplace online and use our algorithms in the back office to match automatically the truck drivers and the shippers. We are trying to reduce that empty load rate to well below 40 percent.
Monetization Via Membership and Uber-Like Fees
Our monetization strategy for Full Truck Alliance is as a product of a merger between two companies, Truck Alliance and also Yunmanman a little over a year ago. Post-merger we started monetization and the monetization takes place in two ways. Number one is we are charging a membership fee for the shippers and also very similar to Uber or DiDi we’re charging a take rate on the transactions themselves.
We were very close to achieving our 2018 profit objective. We are actually very marginally close to break-even at the current moment and we have no doubt that we’re going be making earnings in 2019.
Autonomous Driving for Trucks Will Happen First
Our view is that the commercialization of autonomous driving for passenger vehicles will probably take a bit longer than people would think. We think the commercialization of autonomous driving for trucks will probably take place a lot sooner than it will take place in the passenger car vehicle sector. Therefore we are deploying a certain amount of resources into that sector in the form of investment.
We have decided to be a strategic investor in an autonomous driving truck company for them to actually develop that technology and for us to actually use. The mandate for the partner is to actually put a fleet on the road in China to start working with our shippers in the next 12 to 24 months. That’s our mandate and so it depends on how successful they’re going to be at executing our strategy.