Companies across Latin America are saving money by filling their empty cargo space, thanks to a Colombian startup.
Over 25% of the trucks in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina each week are traveling empty, costing companies billions of dollars in wasted trips, explained Federico Builes, the Chief Technology Officer of MiCarga, in an interview with Colombia Reports.
Velez once worked with airlines to find ways to fill the empty spaces on their flights and now he, CEO Manuel Velez and a small team in the central Colombian city of Medellin are applying the same idea to cargo in the developing world.
3 million empty trucks
There are over three million cargo trucks in Latin America at any one time, according to the company, and at least three trips a month are made completely empty.
“Imagine you have a fleet of trucks for carrying oranges,” said Builes, “you aren’t going to be using them the whole year and when you are, sometimes you are driving your trucks around empty because you are only carrying oranges one way. With MiCarga, those companies are keeping those trucks making money, not wasting capacity.”
Builes explained that, like the successful United States-based startup AirBNB, which helps fill spare rooms at hotels, MiCarga works through its website and mobile app as well as basic text message.
Road transport isn’t cheap in Colombia
Making the most of cargo space is a particular problem in Colombia’s mountainous countryside, where transport is expensive and bottle-necked by lagging infrastructure.
According to a 2012 World Bank report, to move one ton of products from Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena to the capital of Bogota costs $94 – but moving the same products from Cartagena to Shanghai, China by sea costs only $60.
Just one in the growing Medellin startup scene
MiCarga, which launched in May last year and which also has an office in Argentina, is only one of a growing stable of promising tech companies in Medellin, the second largest city in Colombia.
Both Velez and Builes are from Medellin and both spent time overseas before returning to the Latin American tech hub to work on MiCarga.
- Interview with Federico Builes (Colombia Reports)
- MiCarga One-pager (Micarga.com)