A number of startups have come up with innovative sharing solutions for transporting heavy or sizeable items from A to B.

Sharing Economy: now an ‘Uber for removals’

We have seen a boom in websites such as San Francisco-based Craigslist and French platform Le Bon Coin, which help people to acquire second-hand furniture, and make huge savings in doing so, but great deals can turn into a nightmare when it comes to lugging these items home, if you do not have a van or at least a car with a large enough boot. You can call on a removals company, but if you just want to shift a bed or a sofa, the cost of a full truck service can be prohibitive and make the whole idea of buying second-hand an unappealing proposition. However, these problems have not gone unnoticed by a number of enterprising people, who have founded startups to provide solutions based on the sharing economy, on the Lyft or Uber model. The startups have developed mobile apps that enable customers to hire the vehicles they need to move a small number of items for an affordable fee. One of these new firms is San Francisco-based Lugg, launched late last year, which today has twenty drivers available, operating in ten two-person teams.

Lugg, an ‘Uber for removals’      

You use the Lugg app to post a snapped photo of the object(s) you wish to have moved, indicating where the items are to be picked up from and delivered to. One of the available teams will then come to the pick-up point and take the goods to the specified destination. You can actually accompany your goods in the van – although you may not get a particularly comfortable seat. Lugg charges a $35 base fare, plus $2.50 per mile and $0.50 per minute of travel time. All payments, including the tip, are handled in-app. Lugg drivers get to keep 80% of the fee, the rest going to the firm. Anyone with a big enough van or truck can sign up to drive for Lugg, provided they are in good enough physical shape to shift heavy items. Potential drivers are sent on a couple of test moves at first, to check that they can handle the work. As with Lyft and Uber, signed-up drivers activate/deactivate the app to indicate whether or not they are available for a given job. Lugg is ideal for moving one or two items, but would not be suited to a full house move. The company is currently working only in the San Francisco Bay, but is planning to set up in New York City. However, startups working on this model – dubbed the ‘Uber/Lyft of moving’ – appear to be legion. In Seattle alone there are four – Ghostruck, Wagon, Fleetzen and Dolly – all offering a similar service.

Roadie, ‘Blablacar of shipping and delivery’      

Dolly has come up with some interesting innovations. The user can for instance bid up or down the price s/he is willing to pay to have his/her goods moved, and drivers can then accept or reject the job. There is also an in-app chat facility where technical details, such as the existence of an electronic locking system, can be discussed. Meanwhile new Atlanta-based startup Roadie works on a very different business model, designed mainly for long-distance delivery. This service is more in line with car-pooling sites, but replacing passengers with non-human items. If you want for example to send a package from Detroit to Milwaukee, the app will put you in touch with a person who is planning to make the road trip in a vehicle with enough free space to take your object along. The millions of road journeys people make every day across the United States thus become potential delivery routes. Musicians on tour, amateur sports competitors and people who just constantly travel around have now all become potential delivery drivers. Drivers get to keep 80% of the fee and have to pay $1 per delivery in insurance. Roadie pays for its drivers’ vehicle breakdown/assistance insurance and tracks customers’ items in real time. Apart from the sheer convenience of the Roadie approach, it also has an environmentally-friendly aspect. By entrusting the transportation of goods to vehicle owners who will in any case be making the journey, Roadie is helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the fact that these objects are transported individually means that the multiple layers of packaging needed to protect goods travelling in bulk can be avoided.

By Guillaume Renouard