Published on December 1st, 2008 | by Guest Contributor0
GTR: Online Shipping Marketplaces for Greener Holidays with uShip
GreenTalk host Sean Daily talks with Mickey Millsap of uShip. uShip.com is an online shipping marketplace where members list anything they need shipped, from household goods to vehicles to freight, and receive bids from thousands of feedback-rated service providers.
Hi everyone, this is Sean Daily, welcome to another episode of Green
Talk Radio. Shipping stuff. It’s a necessary evil of modern life and
business. It is also one of the most environmentally unfriendly aspects
of any business including businesses that pride themselves on being
ecologically conscious. The bottom line is that when you ship
something, that shipment necessitates a carbon footprint. We’ve seen a
lot of attention given to this issue in the news lately, most notably
with UPS’s recent announcement of its recent purchase of hydralic
hybrid vehicles or HHVs to what it calls its new green fleet the
company has created to offset its carbon footprint. There’s also been a
great deal of coverage in the conventional media, as well as new
media, including green business blogs such as greenbiz.com,
triplepundit.com and ecopremiers.com discussing various companies and
technologies that seek to deal with this issue.
My guest on today’s program to discuss this topic is Mickey Millsap.
He’s the co-founder of youship.com, an online marketplace for shipping
services where he serves as the company’s Director of Community, Trust
and Safety. Hey Mickey, how is it going?
Mickey Millsap: Hey Sean, how are you? Thanks for having me on today.
Sean Daily: My pleasure. So, this is an interesting topic. Very hot
topic in the greenspace. Tell us first of all about youship.com. I know
you are an online shipping marketplace. Don’t know much more than that.
Tell us about your business model and how this works.
Mickey Millsap: Sure, exactly, I’d love to. Youship, as you said, is
an online shipping marketplace. The way a lot of people think about us
easily is to think about us like an ebay for shipping. So really it’s
not for any [xx] of a package size. There are companies out there
FedEx, UPS and I guess we can say used to be DHL who know how to send
packages very efficiently, very quickly and at a low cost. Where it
gets difficult for consumers, small businesses and others is when you
need to ship anything big. This could be a pallet of freight, a car, a
boat, furniture, a household move, anything that might be difficult for
a consumer or a small business to ship. The price gets really high and
the search costs are high to find somebody who can actually accommodate
So when we began youship back, actually launched back in 1994, we
wanted to find a way to match up these people, businesses who need to
ship difficult things that are hard and expensive to ship with service
providers. These service providers can range from anything from a large
freight broker, a freight forwarder, independent owner operators, guys
out on the road with their own truck that are running their own
business, moving companies, white glove movers, folks that focus on the
automobile industry. A lot of them, it’s a very fragmented industry
outside of the really large freight players and it’s really difficult
for those types of folks to market their businesses. So what youship
really does, very similar to how ebay was able to empower the small
seller to add scale, we can do that to the smaller transportation
service providers. So if you are an independent guy out on the road,
you don’t really have a marketing scale outside of maybe footmap, add
on Craig’s list in your local community but now if you are traveling
across the country, youship gives you that marketing scale nationally.
Really we are an engine that allows these two groups to find each other
and do business together.
Sean Daily: OK. So again, that makes sense from a financial standpoint
Mickey Millsap: Yeah
Sean Daily: that you are really optimizing the experience as a
customer to reduce price with having this competitive marketplace.
Mickey Millsap: Right
Sean Daily: Tell us about the green side of this. Why do you really consider this to be a greener solution for people?
Mickey Millsap: Well, it’s a really interesting thing. When we
started doing our research into this model back five, six years ago,
what we found is, like I was talking about, there are tons of these
independent operators, small companies that are out on the road and one
of the major problems that has always faced the transportation industry
is the capacity issue. You’ve seen people for decades trying to solve
the capacity. We’ve got trucks that are 50% full or 60% full out on the
roads. So there really haven’t been great software solutions or other
solutions that have allowed people to consolidate shipments, keep the
trucks that are on the road completely full.
By using a marketplace like ours, a service provider can actually
enter a route that they are going through. What it is going to do is
actually show them shipments along that route so at any given time if
they have open capacity, they can find something to keep that truck
full for their entire route. And so the idea as a company, I am not
safe to say we are the greenest company in the world. The idea is if
you can keep our trucks running more efficiency, running at full
capacity, we are going to have less trucks on the road and that’s the
essential part of our model. But on the flip side, it has always been
something, we talk about, it is a hot topic in the transportation
space. You don’t read about it as much. How can these guys operate, the
more green providers? Obviously transportation companies, it’s a huge
issue putting the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These guys are
polluting quite a bit.
We wanted to go beyond that and we
partnered with a company called TerraPass which your audience may be
familiar with. It’s a carbon offset company so we can allow providers
to go carbon neutral. We can allow our consumers to look for service
providers that operate carbon neutral. So it gives them more choice to
do something with a company that they feel more comfortable doing
Sean Daily: I see. OK. So tell us more about the TerraPass because
I’ve heard about this. I haven’t really researched it myself. Tell us a
little bit more about that.
Mickey Millsap: Sure so TerraPass is a fantastic company. We started
working with them. We actually launched our partnership back in January
2007. They work with some other great companies, Expedia, several
others that allow somebody to essentially offset their carbon
footprint. In everyday life, obviously, we are going to pollute in
everything we do. We have to drive our cars. Certainly, we can minimize
that by driving hydra vehicles, whatever it might be but we are going
to pollute and when we ship something, we pollute. Those trucks are
going to be spuing[sp] something into the atmosphere.
What TerraPass does is say OK, what we can do is measure the amount
of pollution that you are creating in a shipping event or in the case
of somebody like Expedia, if you are flying from Los Angeles to New
York, they can estimate the amount of carbon that you put into the
atmosphere personally. What they do is they can estimate that and
whatever you pay to offset that, is then reinvested into clean energy
projects. These can be wind farms, whatever it might be, but they are
projects that they invest in, then replace dirty burning projects. So a
wind plant that would replace a coal burning plant to do the exact same
job. So the idea is we got to pollute, we have to, unfortunately it’s a
reality of our time but try to do something to offset that footprint
that you have. TerraPass, they go out and they make these investments
on behalf of our users and the other users that purchase their products.
Sean Daily: I see. OK. Great. And so is that the limit in terms of
involving both the buyers and the sellers in the transactions, in terms
of being green, or do you also have other programs that, for example,
maybe identify certain shippers that are greener in terms of their
fleet or what have you? Do you have any way
Mickey Millsap: Right
Sean Daily: of calling that out?
Mickey Millsap: Let me tell you how we are running the program right
now to date. This has been over the first two years as we have been
testing the program to see how it works. Right now we have what we call
the TerraPass Certified Green Provider Program. So service providers
that use our site and our service providers are going to be equivalent
of an ebay power seller. Now they are repeat users who have loads of
feedback and come back and use us consistently.
So a service provider can choose to join the Certified Green
Provider Program. They get a seal on their profile that alerts other
customers that they are part of this program. So what it does is every
shipment that they take, we calculate based on the weight of that
shipment and the distance traveled, exactly how much carbon they are
going to put in the atmosphere and then we figure what that amount is
going to be to offset it and so at the end of the month, we can pull up
all the shipments they have done and say you owe x amount and then it
gets put to TerraPass so that they can reinvest in these projects.
So at the beginning of this program it has really been focused on
greening the providers so to speak but what we are really excited about
and we are working on with TerraPass now is to take this to the next
step and allow the consumer to make the choice or the small business or
whomever it is that is requiring shipping services. So now when they
go to accept a bid from a service provider for their shipping services,
we will be able to calculate just like they would do on Expedia for a
flight anything like that, exactly how much it will cost them to offset
their individual shipment. So they can pay that right at the point of
accepting the match. So now, not only do they have the choice of
finding a provider that is a green provider and has chosen to be in
this program but let’s say they get four bids from providers who have
chosen not to be in the program. They can then say I would like to take
the steps to go ahead and make my shipment carbon neutral themselves.
So this is something we are really excited about and hoping to roll out
probably in the next month or so.
Sean Daily: Getting away from the green aspects of this.
Mickey Millsap: Sure
Sean Daily: I am curious about more on the general site side. This
would be a question that would be similar for somebody who has used
ebay or something like that where do you have issues with inconsistent
experiences with buyers and certain shippers or service providers
because that’s one of the things that characterizes ebay and similar
services is, having inconsistent experiences or plain getting screwed
in some cases, as I have happened. Do you have issues with that or how
do you handle that?
Mickey Millsap: Oh, absolutely. The transportation industry is one
that probably doesn’t have the most sterling reputation for quality
customer service throughout the years. What we’ve done and I think it
is very similar to ebay’s is institute a feedback system. So that when
you do a shipment with someone after it is completed, you have the
opportunity to go in very similar to ebay and leave a positive,
negative or neutral feedback, let them know how the experience went
with that provider so future customers can come on and get an idea of
the reputation of that service provider.
We have also recently instituted a more detailed feedback where you
can get how well were they communicating, how well were they on there,
saying they were going to do what they were going to do on time. So we
have a couple of little variables there to give you more information.
Really that’s the goal. Transportation has always been an industry
with a little bit in the dark. If you didn’t use FedEx or one of the
really big freight haulers and you found an independent guy or somebody
out of the phone book outside of them providing you one or two customer
reviews, which obviously they had control over which ones they showed
you, you really didn’t know what you were buying. So with youship our
goal is to try and provide as much information to the customer to make
a more informed decision whether it is a new profile, profile pictures,
feedback ratings, feedback comments. Our goal is to give them as much
information as possible so they can make a more informed decision.
Sean Daily: We are talking today on Greening the Shipping Process.
We are talking with Mickey Millsap of youship.com. We’ve also talked
about TerraPass.com as part of the episode so far. I encourage you,
while you are listening to this upcoming break, to take a look at those
particular websites. We will be back on Green Talk radio. Thanks
Sean Daily: OK. We are back on Green Talk Radio, talking today on
Greening the Shipping Process and we are talking with youship.com’s
Mickey Millsap. He is a co-founder of the company. Mickey, we were
talking before the break about the company itself, how you work. You
are sort of like an ebay with doing reverse auctions as it were for
people to seek providers and help them, help the providers fill their
vehicles to be more efficient in the shipping process, thereby, in the
process really reducing the carbon footprint and that makes a lot of
sense for me.
I wanted to switch gears and talk a little bit about some other
things including, my first question was about youship.com. Do you
consider it a good spot for environmental consumers and shippers to
find transportation companies versus other methods that are available
or working with UPS on a new hybrid fleet or things like that?
Mickey Millsap: Well, one of the interesting things is with some of
the bigger companies like UPS and there are certainly others that have
gone out of their way to green their fleet and overhaul it to become
more efficient. If you are working with any of the smaller
transportation companies, we will call it the non name brands, the mom
and pop moving companies, the independent owner operators, you are
going to struggle to find a lot of information on what they are doing
as far as being environmentally-friendly companies. So through programs
like the Certified Green Provider Program and through their profile
details and other information they submit, is really one of the only
ways you are going to get the information on some of these smaller
companies as to what they are doing and to be able to have the
consumer come on and consciously select someone is making an effort to
do that. And again, I should point out not every provider who uses our
site is signed up for a program like that but if you are a consumer you
do have the opportunity to ask those questions and we try to provide
information through some of our marketing pages and other information
on the site that helps make a more informed decision. That’s something
that is important to a consumer.
Sean Daily: So Mickey, outside of youship and your experience there,
what is your general sense for how the transportation industry as a
whole currently views this concept of green shipping and what are you
seeing other companies doing if anything?
Mickey Millsap: Sure and I think you head up a big one with UPS and
some of the stuff that they are doing. Even in my experience in writing
my blog here for the last few years. I’ve been amazed at what some
really large companies are doing. I think it’s going to take some of
the big guys leading the way before it all filters down. Back in March
of 07, I remember FedEx announced they were overhauling their entire
fleet to achieve more environmentally-friendly transportation. Kind of
conspicuously, they added a rate increase at the same time which I
thought was really funny given the fact that in reality, they should
see some long-term savings out of something like that but it was
interesting to see FedEx making that statement.
Walmart back in 2006, announced they were going to overhaul all
7,000 trucks in their fleet. When you think about Walmart, there is no
company bigger with more trucks than those guys and they are doing it.
Their goal was to double their fuel efficiency by 2015 up to 13 miles a
gallon. Now, again, as I said earlier, not to anoint these guys as
saints yet, there are obviously big cost savings. There is a green
movement in this country where people want to be associated with brands
and products that do that. But what’s needed, we are seeing these large
companies are starting to see the realities that it’s not just going
green, there are some real benefits to your company of doing it both in
your brand and operating expenses and I know fuel prices especially
diesel have come down in the last months. But we’ve seen what can
happen when we see a shock in that system. It’s really tough on all
these companies but particularly in the transportation space. To see
some of these bigger guys start doing it, it is really exciting, I
Sean Daily: So in your estimation, it’s not just green wash what’s happening. There is real change happening in the industry?
Mickey Millsap: Yeah, I think there is and green wash is certainly
something to think about but I really do think these companies are
starting to look at this from an operational standpoint. The long-term
benefits of doing this are there for them. So it’s going to hit the
bottom line for these guys.
Really what was most encouraging, I was at a show in Louisville
earlier this year, the Mid America Trucking Show. It is basically the
largest trucking show for independent truckers across the country. It
is a magnificent show, huge. That was one of the biggest issues I saw
being pushed. Here you have got these hardworking guys who probably
haven’t thought about going green once in their lives but you’ve got
booths set up everywhere saying, “Hey, you are going to go green
because this is what’s going to save your business. You are going to
get 5 more miles per gallon on your truck and that’s going to save you
x amount of dollars. It’s going to keep you moving.” So it really is
something that I think this industry has been so pressed on fuel prices
that they’ve got to look at every way that they can to save money. The
reality of it is if they can do it this way and it’s good for the
environment, it’s a win win for everybody.
Sean Daily: And I agree with you there. At some point with
consumer demand being there for this and I think we are seeing that
demonstrably and consistently, this does become a business survival
skill rather than something that you can even feature as “Hey we are
different.” At some point it becomes when everybody is doing it, the
big guys and the small guys, it’s a keeping up with the Joneses as it
were, which is good for the environment and I think it’s a win win for
Mickey Millsap: It is. I think back to my early days. I’m the Prius
driving. I call myself the progressive of the company here but I can
think back ten years ago that even just talking about some of these
issues it would have been a little bit taboo. But now, like you said,
it’s really about hitting the bottom line and about companies doing
things the right way now. It’s been awhile to get here but we are
Sean Daily: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Mickey, one of the things that I
like to allow guests to do is to provide tips to our listening
audience. I was going to ask you about some of the tips that you might
have to offer people that want to do more on a personal level when they
are preparing, packaging their shipments.
Mickey Millsap: Yeah and it’s a really important thing. People when
they pack and move it’s a painful experience. Nobody likes to move.
Nobody likes to pack up boxes and do stuff. There really are a lot of
little simple steps you can use to make the experience better and to
green it. They are not brain surgery. It’s finding recycled materials.
Finding recycled boxes. Taking the boxes you use from one move, saving
them for three years for when you move again. It’s amazing how many
people don’t even bother recycling boxes. They just throw them out.
Finding recycled wrapping materials. All of this stuff is readily
available out there.
But on the other side, it is two things. It’s consolidating
shipments, making sure you are using providers that are not running at
half capacity. You want to get on there and find service providers that
are willing to consolidate, work with other customers. It may take a
little bit longer as a timeframe. You may not get your stuff
immediately. You may have to ship it out a little bit earlier but it is
more environmentally sound to have those trucks full all the time. Then
really just using common sense and trying to ask questions of your
providers. You would be amazed if you go out there and just ask them
what some of these guys are doing. If it’s something that is important
to you, it is going to be the make or break to get your business, they
will tell you that and they are going to let you know what programs are
going whether it is carbon offsets or overhauling the aerodynamics of
their trailers. There are a lot of different things they are doing.
Really if the consumer wants to take the time and the effort to find
this stuff out, it’s available to them and they can do it.
Sean Daily: I really appreciate those tips and appreciate your being
on the program today. For those who are listening in today who are
interested in this topic especially as we are getting closer to holiday
time here, I want to direct your attention to the greenlivingideas.com
website and we have other podcasts and articles dealing with shipping
and on how to green our shipping both for individuals and businesses.
You can find the interview with UPS and other vendors under the Holiday
Section, as well as Work in the Office and also under Eco Home Living.
My guest again today has been Mickey Millsap, he is the co-founder of
the shipping company youship.com, an online marketplace for shipping
services. Mickey, thanks again for being with us.
Mickey Millsap: Sean, thanks so much. I really appreciate it.
Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today.
Remember, for more free on demand podcasts, articles, videos and other
information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our website at
www.greenlivingideas.com. We would also love to hear your comments, feedback and questions. Send us an email at email@example.com.