Ryder expands COOP truck-sharing program

Rich Mohr of Ryder System

Ryder System Inc. (NYSE: R) is expanding its managed sharing of underused trucks to Texas after finding strong interest from fleets in Georgia and Florida able to cover their lease payments and pocket cash from loaning their assets.

COOP, the name of Ryder’s truck-sharing business, has grown to about 1,000 listed trucks since its launch in Atlanta in March 2018. The platform expanded to Florida in early 2019 and began accepting listings in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex this month.

“What we proved in Atlanta was that someone would actually share a commercial vehicle,” Rich Mohr, Ryder chief technology officer for fleet management solutions, told FreightWaves in an interview at CES 2020. “That’s all we were trying to figure out.”

Even with regulatory and licensing hurdles — not to mention more frequent breakdowns of trucks versus cars — Ryder found customers willing to list their equipment on a mobile app that renters could sort through to meet their short-term needs.

“You see exactly what’s available in the market, exactly at that moment and the exact specs of the equipment,” Mohr said. “It’s more live inventory than the industry has ever had.”

As a complement to Ryder’s longer-term truck rental and leasing business, COOP resembles Airbnb’s housing rentals and Turo’s peer-to-peer car-sharing service.

“All the non-Turo stuff we tried to figure out in Atlanta,” Mohr said. “We smoked most of it out and felt pretty comfortable to go to Florida after that.”

Ryder covers each shared vehicle with $1 million of liability insurance and set up a phone line, staffed by humans, to answer questions. It even offers Uber Central rides for the pickup and drop-off of rented trucks.

Flower season

COOP’s success is measured in part on whether it can find locally available trucks to meet seasonal business demands.

The Florida expansion tested whether locally owned equipment could shift to South Florida for January’s peak fresh flower season when 90% of Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day flowers arrive at the Port of Miami.

“As they come in refrigerated containers, there’s not enough refrigerated vehicles in South Florida to handle pushing that volume out of the state to the rest of the Northern states,” Mohr said.

Ryder and its competitors typically would relocate trucks from hundreds and thousands of miles away to meet the demand.

“We tried to figure out whether we could convince people that weren’t using refrigerated trailers they owned in South Florida to put them on our platform. And it worked.”

While car sharing might be motivated solely by the need to help cover a monthly payment, “if you have someone in an adjacent business to you that can share the cost of that equipment in a protected environment, you’re going to do it,” Mohr said.

Platform players

Bowman Trailer Leasing Inc. based in Williamsport, Maryland, began adding 53-foot trailers from its 50,000-unit inventory to the COOP app in May 2019.

“We receive multiple reservations every month for the trailers listed on the application,” Leonardo D’Agostini, a Bowman branch manager who works in business development, told FreightWaves. “With the COOP program, we are generating revenue that we did not have before.”

Bowman offers three tiers of pricing based on the age of the rented trailers. The company lists one to 15 trailers at six of its 30 locations so far.

“We feel confident it will be the preferred platform for daily rental of trailers in our case and for trucks to other equipment owners,” D’Agostini said. “We want to be part of the growth.”

COOP works on a smaller scale for Britt’s Home Furnishings, which delivers appliances to new homes in the Atlanta area with its fleet of 26-foot box trucks leased from Ryder. Operations manager Roger Boyd lists one or two of his 11 trucks at a time on the COOP app.

“It works especially well if your workload flexes,” Boyd said. November to February typically is slow for home building. But the 13-year high in housing starts in December kept all of Britt’s trucks busy. So, Boyd pulled his offering from the site. When business slows, he can put it back.

“When you’re figuring mileage and lease rates, it’s easily $2,000 a month,” Boyd said. “Within two weeks of renting, I can cover the lease payment. In weeks three and four, COOP is putting money back into the company.”

Customer engagement

Renting a truck is about availability, proximity and price, Mohr said.

“When you can figure out availability through telematics and geolocation and know where the vehicles are, then proximity and price are easy to figure out,” he said.

Keeping customers on the platform requires getting rental inquiries early and often.

“If we don’t do a good job finding them a borrower in the first 10 days, it’s tough to keep them on the platform,” Mohr said. “That’s why we focus on finding the right borrower for them quickly.”