Uber's new app for truckers could disrupt one of America's core industries

Key Points
  • Uber Freight matches trucking companies with loads to haul.
  • Transportation and material moving is the fourth-largest employment group in the U.S.
  • Uber says the new app will relieve stress for drivers.

Uber launched a new app on Thursday called Uber Freight, which matches trucking companies with loads to haul.

The formal launch of the app marks Uber's long-anticipated move into the trucking industry — potentially disrupting one of the most popular professions in the U.S.

With 9.73 million workers, transportation and material moving is the fourth-largest employment group in the U.S., behind office staff, salespeople and food preparation workers, according to May 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of transportation workers and movers, general freight trucking and specialized freight trucking are among the industries with the highest employment levels, the BLS said.

An Uber Freight truck.
Source: Travis Kalanick | Twitter

Uber said in a blog post that the new app will relieve stress for drivers by confirming rates and loads within seconds, and delivering payments within a few days, much faster than the month-long waiting periods that are typical in the industry.

Business Insider and The Verge have reported some early details of the program over the past year.

The program has been in testing mode for a couple of months and is currently operating in Texas. Like Uber's existing ride-hailing app, it is based on location, an Uber spokeswoman told CNBC.

Uber's ride-hailing business has been criticized by taxi unions and labor advocates, who say the services's flexible hours and fares "destroyed driver incomes" and that drivers should be employees that can unionize — not independent contractors.

Source: Uber Newsroom

An Uber spokeswoman told CNBC that only professional drivers can use the Freight app.

"We fundamentally believe that by focusing on drivers' pain points we can solve the industry's biggest challenges," Uber said in the blog post. "Happy drivers means happy shippers, and ultimately everyone benefits, including the end consumers of the goods."

Another interesting tidbit: Uber Freight is led by Lior Ron, the co-founder of Otto. Otto is a trucking start-up, now owned by Uber, that has been at the center of an intense lawsuit with 's Waymo.

Waymo alleges that Otto's other co-founder, Anthony Levandowki, stole key trade secrets related to Alphabet's self-driving car program, a claim Uber has called "." But despite Ron's involvement, Uber Freight relies on human drivers, who can sign up for the program on Uber's website.

— CNBC's Morgan Brasfield contributed to this report