Source: https://www.freightwaves.com/

  • Baton releases case study demonstrating efficiency gains as the last-mile startup builds out tech-enabled network of trailer drop yards and local drivers. 
  • Co-founder: “We believe long haul trucking should be more like a relay.” 

One year after launch, San Francisco-based last-mile delivery startup Baton has released a case study demonstrating significant efficiency gains for one of its customers as the startup continues to build out its tech-enabled network of trailer drop yards and local drivers. 

Through a partnership with Baton initiated last August, CRST International (CRST), one of the largest privately held transportation and logistics companies, was able to increase on-time service performance for its Southern California drivers to over 98% on more than 270 loads transported in the region, Baton said in a statement. 

CRST drivers are now also able to turn around their loads in no more than 30 minutes, an 83% decrease from the industry average facility dwell time of three hours.

This is in addition to a sizable reduction of in-transit dwell time — the amount of time drivers add to their schedules in order to make appointments on time — as well as the hours drivers spend waiting for a backhaul. 

Combined, that slack and wait time can add up to 12 wasted hours, Baton co-founder Andrew Berberick told FreightWaves. For CRST, he said, Baton was able get that down to 15 minutes.

“That’s huge,” Berberick enthused. “What we’re helping people do is get drivers moving faster.”

Pass the Baton

Founded in 2019, Baton makes software that coordinates “smart orchestration of the first and final mile” of long haul truck routes, Beberick explained.

Truckers drop off and pick up their cargo at Baton’s network of drop-off zones near major urban areas, and the company then contracts with local fleets, which shuttle those loads between drop zones and the final warehouse for pickup and delivery. 

“We believe long haul trucking should be more like a relay,” said Berberick, who traces the origins of the company name to his time as a track athlete in college. Just as runners pass the baton to the next runner, long haul trucks hand off their loads to local drivers, speeding the delivery process.

To further cut down on wasted time, Baton aims to open more than a dozen drop zones in each market, all in strategic locations, Berberick said.

Baton currently operates in Los Angeles and in 2021 plans to launch in Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago.

Even in normal times, around 2 billion hours of driver time are wasted across the industry, Berberick said.  

Factor in the coronavirus pandemic, “an insane time” defined by far more demand than supply, and overlay that with a driver shortage problem, he said, and fleets are under even more pressure to reduce wasted hours. 

Baton is not alone in taking advantage of surging demand. The coronavirus pandemic has manufacturers and retailers of all sizes on a hunt for last-mile delivery services, as companies seek new ways of getting e-commerce purchases to customers. Seemingly, hardly a week goes by without another last-mile delivery company announcing a new partnership or funding round.

Baton itself has seen its volumes double month over month since June, according to Berberick. In June the startup managed 20 loads per month, he said. “Now it’s almost 1,000.”

CRST partnership: The details

Sending loads through Baton’s software platform, CRST started a 30-day pilot in August, during which Baton staged five pickups and drop-offs per day at a single Baton drop zone in Los Angeles. 

After one week, CRST decided to triple volumes and quickly expanded to a second Baton yard. Baton provided full shipment visibility and status updates on each load it delivered to CRST’s customers, demonstrating that Baton’s software platform could deliver a nonstop “white-glove” service throughout this period.

“We’re always looking for ways to prioritize driver satisfaction and efficiency gains regardless of market conditions,” said Chad Brueck, president, CRST Expedited Solutions, in the statement.

“Dwell is especially costly in our team-based environment, and was causing massive inefficiencies for CRST,” Brueck said. “By partnering with Baton, we can now capture more freight, keep our drivers moving more consistently, and improve our customers’ experience all at the same time.”

Democratizing efficiency

To date Baton claims five customers, three of them public companies. The startup spent its first year on proof of concept, Berberick said, with a goal of building a base of large customers and then “democratizing the business for the smaller guys.”

Baton closed a $3.3 million seed round of funding in January 2020, and is likely going to start a Series A raise next winter. (Disclosure: Baton investors 8VC and Prologis are investors in FreightWaves.) The money will be used to further automate services and optimize its drop yard network.

Baton expects to double its eight employees and double the business in the coming months, Berberick added. 

With 6,000 trucks nationwide, CRST is looking to expand the partnership across the U.S. as Baton continues to roll out more drop zones in major metro areas in the coming months, the company said in the statement. 

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