Meet Brandon, owner and operator of Chicago Cargo

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Brandon on Milwaukee Avenue across from Café Mustache, where we met last week.

I briefly introduced Brandon Gobel, a Chicago courier, in Monday’s article about Zipments and how it will change the bike and small-scale messenger industry. I promised we’d talk more about him and his business, Chicago Cargo, today.

His background

Brandon drove tractor trailers in Indiana when he was 18, delivering farm commodities to the market. Later he moved to transporting steel tubing in South Bend, Indiana, and later moving steel and building materials in Chicago.

In 2009, the “over the road” trucking company he worked for closed up – “a blessing in disguise.” He moved to San Diego, his hometown, where he built himself a “retirement present”: a nice fixed-gear bicycle. He moved back to Chicago, in July 2010 and carried airplane deicer around O’Hare airport.

His business

So how did he get to start a business moving goods around a smaller area in a Danish cargo bike?

I was in a weird place, being a truck driver, only knowing how to drive trucks, and being comfortable with that business. I was unemployed for about 1.5 years. It was tough to find a job [in a different industry] that paid what I was used to making.

I really wanted to get back into the trucking industry, but I realized it wasnt the best thing for me – it’s not the best lifestyle; I had already done it for awhile. It’s kind of a go nowhere job – there’s only so good you can be. I’d pretty much done everything it had to offer.

Brandon already had an interest in bicycling to get himself around town, and combined with his experience carrying cargo, he created Chicago Cargo, LLC.

There’s a good balance, with the cargo bike, without having to be a city messenger. The business, and my interest in creating it is more about a logistics. My capacity is also greater.

It was between Chicago Cargo or doing handyman work. The bike would be a good way to get my tools and supplies around town. I noticed people in Europe and Copenhagen moving everything by cargo bike. “Chicago doesn’t have anything like this,” I though. That was the epiphany: no one’s moving their business around or making deliveries with cargo bikes on a large scale.

His bike

As I mentioned in Part 1, Brandon rides a Danish Long John-style cargo bike, called the Bullitt, from Larry vs. Harry. He bought it from Splendid Cycles in Portland, Oregon, and it’s the company’s John Player Spezial model, in black with “gold trim.” One upgrade he chose was to replace the Shimano Alfine 8 for the new model with 11 gears.

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He’s outfitted the bike for cargo with the watertight and locking aluminum box.

His plans

Brandon is working on developing relationships with local, sustainable businesses who want another avenue to reach their customers.

Not everyone sees it as a viable form of transportation. I know I’m not going to compete with a flat bed truck. I want to help the small business owner that is transporting their own items to the marketplace; the craftsman, the homemade, and the handmade. From Logan Square Kitchen to Logan Square restaurants, saving the owner time, money, and gas.

Before he brings on more bikes or more workers, Brandon wants to create enough work for each day of the week. “I want to get setup so I can make it through winter time, by myself. In spring time, if things pick up, I’ll consider it. Get at least one other bike going.”

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Brandon riding his Bullitt southbound on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square. 

Why he uses Zipments

Zipments is an online marketplace for shippers (you) to find couriers (Brandon) to deliver packages. They have an easy to use website as well as an iPhone app for registered couriers (anyone can join). Zipments and Chicago Cargo seem meant for each other.

I wanted to start the business low-key. I didn’t want to be overtaxed trying to keep everyone happy. With Zipments I can choose the jobs I want, but it’s hard to fill up a whole day – the Zipments marketplace is a new concept and not everyone knows about it or understands how it works.

I also like that It’s a secure community, I know I will get paid within 24 hours. Zipments doesn’t take anything from the courier; it charges the customer for the posting. The courier doesn’t have to pay anything, except for the standard PayPal fee. The trucking industry’s standard for payment is 60-90 days from invoice!

Contacting Chicago Cargo

You can reach Brandon by phone, (773) 340-0312, or Twitter. I’m sure he’d love to hear about how he and his cargo bike can help your business reach its customers. If you need something “shipped” across town, you can find him in the Zipments marketplace.

I’ve an idea: If I’m going to have a barbeque at my house and I need a beer keg or two delivered, I could hire Chicago Cargo to pick it up (prepaid, of course) and deliver it.

View all the photos of Brandon, Chicago Cargo, and Zipments in this photoset

Update

It appears that while Chicago Municipal Codes 4-168-020 License, and 4-168-050 Insurance, do not require casual Zipments couriers to have insurance, Illinois Compiled Statute 625 ILCS 5/11-1515 does require liability insurance in the levels stated in 625 ILCS 5/7‑203.

14 thoughts on “Meet Brandon, owner and operator of Chicago Cargo”

  1. Is Zipments legal in Chicago? Their website says nothing about providing or requiring insurance (Google: “Your search – insurance site:zipments.com – did not match any documents.”), yet 625 ILCS 5/11-1515 requires that messengers (in Chicago) be insured.

  2. Is Zipments legal in Chicago? Their website says nothing about providing or requiring insurance (Google: “Your search – insurance site:zipments.com – did not match any documents.”), yet 625 ILCS 5/11-1515 requires that messengers (in Chicago) be insured.

  3. Is Zipments legal in Chicago? Their website says nothing about providing or requiring insurance (Google: “Your search – insurance site:zipments.com – did not match any documents.”), yet 625 ILCS 5/11-1515 requires that messengers (in Chicago) be insured.

  4. Is Zipments legal in Chicago? Their website says nothing about providing or requiring insurance (Google: “Your search – insurance site:zipments.com – did not match any documents.”), yet 625 ILCS 5/11-1515 requires that messengers (in Chicago) be insured.

    1. Zipments does not hire bike messengers.
      Also, the bike messenger ordinance does not apply to people who work for themselves and don’t deliver in the central business district.

      Think of Zipments as an eBay for local shipping of goods.

      1. 625 ILCS 5/11-1515 is an Illinois statute. Did you have a chance to check it out before you posted?

        What you’re talking about sounds more like a local ordinance, Municipal Code of Chicago 4-168-050. While 4-168-050 doesn’t require insurance, 625 ILCS 5/11-1515 still does.

  5. Since its Terms of Service claims that Zipments “does not operate or provide transportation services”, it sounds like, under the law, the couriers are responsible for insuring themselves, a duty of which they may be ignorant.

    If an uninsured Zipments courier (unlike conventional, insured bike or car couriers) were to injure someone, the victim would have no recourse but to the sue the courier, and even then only recover what the court can force the courier, likely not well-heeled, to pay.

    1. The relevant Chicago Codes are:
      4-168-020 License – Required.
      (b) This section shall not apply to a person who provides bicycle messenger services exclusively for himself or herself, or for his or her employer. This section shall, however, apply to a person who provides bicycle messenger services as an independent contractor for any person other than pursuant to a contract with a person with a license issued under this chapter. [This means people who deliver for Jimmy John’s, nor Jimmy John’s itself, need a license, as long as they are regular employees and not independent contractors, which typical bike messengers are.]
      4-168-050 Insurance – Required.
      (a) Each applicant for a bicycle messenger service license shall provide proof that the applicant and each bicycle operator engaged by him has insurance coverage in the following minimum amounts:… [No license required, no insurance required.]
      The above are not my comments as to the legality of the agreement between Zipments, the courier, and the shipper, but I’m pointing out that I believe couriers who use Zipments to find jobs are not required by law to have a license or insurance.

  6. I am sure that a young man such as  Brandon will do well with his delivery project! It’s rare to see that much enthusiasium and passion in today’s world ! Very refreshing indeed.

  7. I am sure that a young man such as  Brandon will do well with his delivery project! It’s rare to see that much enthusiasium and passion in today’s world ! Very refreshing indeed.

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