Flexport inviting brokers into the relaunched Convoy Platform

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After a slow Convoy Platform rollout and swirling questions about a calamitous past, Flexport revealed what its new iteration of Convoy will look like.  

"There is no Convoy broker anymore," Flexport EVP and Head of Trucking Bill Driegert told Overdrive, referring to the digital freight broker that went under last October and left dozens of carriers unpaid. "The Convoy Platform is now a platform that connects brokers" to carriers. 

[Related: 'We understand the stress and frustration': Flexport responds to Convoy's unpaid carriers]

Flexport's Convoy Platform will now allow brokers to join the platform and post loads. A press release from Flexport said the launch "gives brokers effortless access to thousands of reliable carriers across the country, drastically simplifying freight execution and lowering operating costs for brokers and carriers alike."

Only brokers can post to the Convoy platform, Flexport said. No shippers post directly to the platform. 

Simplified freight transactions, the company said, are enabled by the "AI-powered marketplace that aggregates a large, reliable pool of carrier owner-operators into a common platform with automated end-to-end load management, giving brokers access to a unique pool of capacity that is highly flexible, operates 24/7, and provides high tracking visibility."  

Flexport may have indeed purchased a top-of-the-line digital freight app in Convoy, after the broker's stunning collapse last Fall. Carriers that used the app, even some of those that didn't get paid after the October crash, have signed back on to haul again through the Convoy Platform, often citing ease of use. 

Flexport's move to populate the Convoy Platform with carriers and brokers comes after the news that two big shippers, Giti Tires and Peloton, both complained to the Federal Maritime Commission that Flexport hit them with unreasonable, non-itemized detention and demurrage charges for containers at the ports between 2020 and 2023 -- before the Convoy purchase. 

Flexport wouldn't say exactly how many carriers used the app today, nor what trucking volumes the company moves, but Driegert said a "significant" amount of capacity has rejoined the new Convoy. 

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[Related: Flexport soliciting Convoy's unpaid carriers to sign back up to haul loads -- and it's working]

As for the financial and operational situation that caused Convoy to suddenly close, instruct carriers to complete loads, and then never pay? No longer acting as a brokerage with the Convoy Platform, Flexport has re-created the digital tool minus the brokerage structure that doomed the company.

Flexport, through the Convoy Platform, might still extend a fast-pay option to carriers, but it's no longer in the brokering business. From the platform's Terms of Service: 

The Shipper or Broker who posted the Shipment shall be solely responsible for paying all of the agreed to freight charges to the Carrier as well as additional amounts, if any, paid by the Shipper or Broker for additional services provided by Carrier with respect to a Shipment (collectively the “Carrier Fee.”)  [Flexport] may advance payments of Carrier Fees to a Carrier before FFT receives funds from a Broker or Shipper, but in such advances are made strictly on behalf of and for the benefit of the Broker or Shipper and are not an admission that, or evidence of, FFT’s liability to the Carrier for payment of any charges.  

In announcing the launch of Convoy for brokers, Driegert speculated that the spread of trucking technology has allowed carriers to stay in the game longer, thus impacting capacity, rates and load negotiations. 

Flexport claimed the Convoy Platform's ability to "automate manual tasks, including carrier negotiation, vetting, status updates, document management, and payment" can reduce time and effort spent on carrier procurement and load management for brokers "by as much as 90%."

Convoy uses AI and machine learning to automatically negotiate against carrier bids, as well as flag potentially fraudulent activity as double brokering plagues the industry, Flexport said in a release. "The Convoy Platform also helps brokers monitor carrier risk and reduce fraud, theft, and unsafe behavior by leveraging machine learning models based on proprietary forensic data, which allows brokers to expand their network while minimizing risk."

Overall, Driegert attributed today's stubbornly loose capacity to the proliferation of trucking tech, which allows small carriers to nimbly navigate the spot market, booking loads with the click of a button.

“The U.S. trucking market has undergone a massive transformation since the pandemic," he said in a press release. "Technology has empowered a new wave of small carriers who manage their business through their phone. We see a tremendous opportunity to connect that capacity to brokers, simplifying operations and lowering costs, while expanding opportunities for small carriers. With today’s launch, brokers using the Convoy Platform will be able to level up their operations and focus on strengthening core customer relationships and growing their businesses. At Flexport, we believe that technology plays a crucial role in empowering the entire trucking ecosystem; carriers, brokers, and shippers need new solutions to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing market.”

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