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March 20, 2018 1:45 PM, EDT

Next Trucking Partners With International Shipping Giant Mitsui O.S.K. Lines

A Mitsui O.S.K. containership A Mitsui O.S.K. containership under construction in June of 2017. (SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg News)

A company that got its start as an online marketplace to connect drivers and loads is branching out to provide a broader array of logistics services between the United States and China.

Next Trucking, a service through which truckers connect with shippers by posting their real-time availabilities, preferred routes and rates, has entered into a partnership with Mitsui O.S.K. Lines that the two companies said will lower costs and improve efficiency for small and medium enterprises that ship goods from China and other locations in Asia to the ports of Los Angeles and Oakland.

The two companies believe that working together to automate and streamline the shipping process will save small- to medium-sized businesses in China as much as 20% on their shipping costs and solve logistical problems those companies face.

“We are trying to drive down the logistics cost because our industry is a legacy industry and there wasn’t a lot of technology in the past,” said Next CEO and co-founder Lidia Yan. “Our ultimate goal is really to get a virtual fleet and empowering more trucking companies so they can become more competitive in the market and make more money and have increased efficiency.”

“This is a valuable partnership that will benefit MOL’s customers by streamlining the shipping process and reducing costs,” added T.K. Konishi, MOL’s chief executive representative for the Americas.

The partnership will give small- to medium-sized e-commerce vendors the opportunity to consolidate their goods in China, share on container costs, and gain end-to-end shipping transparency from the port to the final destination, the companies said, specifically targeted to drayage, warehousing and delivery of goods in the United States.

“It’s the demand in the United States that is increasing. We have a lot of customers and the purchasing power is increasing compared to 10 years ago,” Yan said. “The industry is booming, the demand for products is increasing, but the shipping supply is not.”

Yan said about 10% of the truckers who do business with the company are working exclusively with Next Trucking. The company is currently working only with California home-based drivers, but said it does plan to expand into an as-yet-unnamed East Coast city later this year.

It would be the latest in a series of turns for the company; nine years ago, Yan and her husband, Elton Chung, were leading a profitable flash sale company in China that sold products from 35 international brands as companies sought to liquidate unsold inventory. After a move to Southern California, they founded Next in reaction to the logistical challenges they experienced in both countries.

Based in Japan, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines ranks No. 13 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest Global Freight Carriers. The company has operations at 10 ports around the world and three in the United States at Los Angeles, Oakland, Calif., and Jacksonville, Fla.