Transport Chinese truckers ride their own Uber

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The Manbang platform brings the sharing economy to almost 10 million carriers, which increase their efficiency thanks to sophisticated ‘big data’ systems
Ablazing sun beats down on Guiyang and Zeng Zhangfu fights it off wearing what is known in China as the Beijing bikini . In other words, he wears the shirt rolled up over his generous belly. You share a cigarette with a colleague who does not have enough abdominal volume to afford that style, and, talking in front of their respective trucks, it does not seem that this pair of drivers has anything to do with the development of artificial intelligence or big data . However, appearances are deceiving. Zeng quickly unsheathes his mobile and proudly displays the application with which he makes a living: Huochebang, the Uber of Chinese trucks.

“I have been an autonomous transporter for 16 years, and I have registered on the platform four years ago. It is more practical, because it is much easier to find work. You just have to turn on your mobile and something will come to you right away, ”says this man from the Sichuan province who makes between 7,000 and 9,000 yuan (between 875 and 1,125 euros) a month. “Since I’ve been in Huochebang, I have more work, and, in addition, I can choose the one that best suits my needs, decide how far I want to go, and discard orders that are poorly paid,” he adds.
The operation, he assures, is simple: the driver registers on the platform providing his licenses, details the characteristics of his vehicle, and waits for the application to assign him the order of a user, generally small and medium-sized companies that do not have services. own logistics and need to send merchandise. They are not few: there are already 4.4 million on the platform and employ 9.3 million drivers like Zeng. “Before we had to constantly be looking for clients and moving empty from one place to another. Now everything is much more convenient “, sentence.

“Our goal is to increase the efficiency of a sector that has traditionally been chaotic and reduce its social cost. Drivers who are not on our platform perform an average of 14 jobs per month, while we managed to increase that number to 20 ”, explains Zhao Qiang, Head of Public Relations at Manbang, the company that was born in 2017 from the merger between Huochenbang and Yunmanman, which continue to operate as independent platforms in some 350 cities in the Asian giant.

This giant uses big data not only to analyze the situation in real time but also to make predictions and anticipate the needs that will arise. “We seek to make the most of available resources and reduce the time drivers are idle,” says Zhao in front of a giant screen on which a map shows the GPS signals emitted by truckers waiting for a job. The algorithm not only determines where they should go, it also calculates the possibility of combining trips in similar directions to increase efficiency. A counter shows in a corner the orders processed during the day: it is ten in the morning and 675,000 trips have already been contracted.
With this model, last year Manbang managed transactions worth 760,000 million yuan (95,000 million euros) and obtained revenues of 23,000 million yuan (2,875 million euros). Its rapid growth has lifted the company to 16th place in the ranking published by iiMedia Research with the 100 largest Chinese unicorns and is currently valued at 46.2 billion yuan (5.775 million euros).

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