Bentonville-based logistics technology company FR8relay has received a $206,468 federal grant that will help it prepare for a project to increase transportation efficiencies and reduce emissions in underserved and disadvantaged areas.
FR8relay was one of 210 small businesses in 38 states awarded a share of $53 million from the Department of Energy to support innovation in clean energy development and climate solutions. The Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant will support a study of the areas in which the project would be completed. The Phase 2 grant will cover the pilot project if the company receives it.
Deme Yuan, chief operating officer, and CEO Aayush Thakur are the co-founders of the company established in May 2018 in Memphis, Tenn. The married couple moved to Bentonville in early 2020 for a startup accelerator program and decided to stay.
Thakur has experience in transportation technology and has worked in the private and public sectors as a consultant. He identified inefficiencies that a systematic change could solve through his work, including as a freight planner for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
He found that the existing long-haul trucking model could be changed from a point-to-point model to a relay model. Yuan noted the lack of capacity due to high truck driver turnover and a difficult driver lifestyle.
“If we could implement this relay model, we could get drivers home daily, transforming their lives and families,” Yuan said.
She added that the relay model also would be good for business with drivers not having to rest roadside for 13 hours a day. That would allow carriers to get double the use from their trucks and trailers and complete shipments in half of the time. Also, emissions would be reduced as this would cut idling time and empty miles.
Yuan said the model allows drivers headed in opposite directions to switch trailers and return the way they came to complete the shipments.
FR8relay previously received an SBIR grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The company has two employees.