Austin-based trucking startup hopes artificial intelligence will transform industry

AI Fleet, an Austin, Texas trucking startup, is banking on artificial intelligence to transform a trucking industry that is having a hard time retaining drivers and recruiting new ones.

The company uses artificial intelligence technology to streamline operations and improve pain points.

“Our mission is to make truck driving better. That means better for the drivers, better for our customers and better for the overall nation,” said CEO and co-founder Marc El Khoury. “Today the driver shortage is really nothing but a symptom of how poorly utilized drivers are.”

Al-Khoury says the industry is shipper and customer-centric with little regard for the drivers. He wants to change that.

“Our current drivers overall in the U.S. are unhappy and they’re not making enough money. Clearly, that’s the problem that we must solve,” he said.

El Khoury told Transport Topics that he started his company with a clean slate.

“We basically ended up starting a trucking company from scratch,” El Khoury said. “We use technology to replace a big chunk of our operations. Instead of helping humans do a better job as many trucking companies do, the AI technology is the brain behind making decisions.”

The company’s technology automates order acceptance and planning, as well as several back-office operations. Its AI technology can pick loads for drivers based on what’s best for the driver, and what will generate the most revenue for the truck. It also provides drivers with details on what their next load will be before they even finish their current one, minimizing downtime.

“We’ve created what we call a Human Centric algorithm that allows us to select loads based on specific drivers’ preferences and what allows drivers to arrive at the pickup and delivery on time, arrive home on time and utilize the assets,” El Khoury said. “We don’t guarantee drivers will be home every day, we do guarantee drivers will be home for their weekend.”

That weekend home guarantee is one reason AI Fleet is attracting more female drivers, El Khoury said. Of the roughly 35 drivers in its workforce, about a third are women for whom weekends home with their families are a high priority. Another factor is addressing the concern female drivers have for their overnight safety by offering free daily parking and a safe place to park at night.

As for boosting pay, AI Drivers work on a salary rather than get paid by the load— $1,300 a week, which El Khoury said is about 30 percent higher than the industry average. Factor in a percentage of the revenue the truck earns or mileage and that can increase to about $2,000 weekly or more than $100,000 a year, higher than the industry average.

The company has about 60 employees, most of whom are drivers. About 20 are based in Austin, including most of its operations team. The company started in New York but moved to Austin in April.

“We always knew that Austin was actually where we’re going to end up building the company,” he said. “We wanted to take advantage of more space, great talent, both in terms of operations and more specifically, logistics within operations, as well as technology.

El Khoury said AI Fleet’s goal is to become the nation’s largest trucking company.

“Trucking is not scalable today, this driver utilization problem means that large trucking companies at some point say, ‘You know what, if we keep growing or utilization is already low, and it’s going to potentially get worse.’ We are hoping to show that through a different business model and through technology, we can build a scale with trucking companies,” he told Transport Topics.