Loadsmart, a digital freight-booking company, is gaining venture and industry support for its initiative that may help shippers cut fuel use and time at ports.

The company raised $19 million from Maersk Growth, the venture capital arm of A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, the world’s largest container ship operator, and Ports America for its plan to speed shipments through U.S. ports. Ports America is the largest U.S. terminal operator and stevedore.

Loadsmart says its digital booking service cuts the time for freight to leave maritime gateways. The investment will bolster Loadsmart’s Smart Drayage initiative, a load-matching service that curbs bottlenecks when trucks pick up containers at ports. Drayage is the short-distance transportation of freight between ports and warehouses.

Trucks often are backed up at America’s major ports during busy periods as terminal operators sort through cargo that may be waiting for transport to distribution centers. Smart Drayage is supposed to ensure truck drivers can pick up the best container available when they arrive at the port, cutting at least 25% of the time drivers spend at the port.

  • There are more than 60 million drayage movements each year in North America, representing a $50 billion-plus market with ports contributing 26% to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP, according to a recent FreightWaves report. The lack of efficiency and transparency lead to the loss of 15 million man-hours, and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel are wasted due to trucker congestion at ports.  
  • Smart Drayage launched in April at Ports America’s Bayonne, N.J., terminal at the Port of New York and New Jersey. The company reportedly plans to expand the initiative over the next few months, including, potentially, to the Port of Baltimore and a large West Coast port. 
  • Maersk uses Loadsmart’s technology to book truckload shipments shipments on the spot market for U.S. customers of its Maersk Transportation division. 
  • NEXT Trucking Inc., the developer of a freight-matching app aimed at streamlining trucking operations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, raised $97 million in Series C funding in January. 

Karma Takeaway: Impact investors might want to consider the drayage market. Startups are developing technology to streamline operations at U.S. ports, which will both increase efficiency and improve the environment.