What’s a blockchain and why should you care?
If bitcoins and blockchain make you scratch your head in confusion, you’re not alone. I spent the better part of last week doing exactly that — scratching my head and wondering how this new technology relates to us and why I keep hearing about it from my trucking industry peers.
I googled blockchains and quickly felt overwhelmed by a multitude of articles on the topic. It turns out people are very excited about them. I promptly ran into a problem though. I could not wrap my mind around the technology. It seemed like an incredibly complicated concept, so I figured I would change my approach. Forget the mechanics behind it, let’s focus on what it does.
So, a blockchain is an internet-based system that is efficient, transparent, very secure, and highly customizable. A ledger is a proper description, as it allows multiple parties to record transactions and agreements with great ease.
Getting back to my original question though, how does this relate to trucking?
Imagine you are a manufacturer that needs to ship some freight, or better yet you are a trucker looking to transport some cargo. Blockchain technology enables the logistical connection between these two parties. An electronic contract records the agreement between the shipper and the carrier. All parties to the contract can access and confirm any of the details at any time. And this is how you create the first block of blockchain and trucking.
Blocks keep adding up as more players take the stage. Shippers, receivers, carriers, customs agents, compliance officers, financial institutions, and all parties involved in the logistic process create input which translates into new blocks explicitly relating to their part of the process.
Blockchain technology, however, offers more than just transparency and ease of access. Process validation performed by third parties regularly checks and double-checks every transaction and agreement on the network against all relevant rules, laws, and regulations.
So, let’s put this in perspective
Say you are a trucker who has to deliver some customer freight. Say delivery will have to happen within the framework of hours of service along with any other DOT rules and regulations. This blockchain eliminates the need for third-party transportation intermediaries because of the transparency and ease of access to the entire process. Electronic logging devices and global positioning systems transmit location and transit information directly. Therefore, all parties can log in and double-check any aspect of the block they are part of.
Deals can be revised and adjusted in real-time to identify and address issues as they arise. As a carrier, you can plug in additional caveats to the deal such as detention, layover and stop off charges.
The shipper can do the same. They can request temperature control on their shipment by adding it to the agreement. Onboard temperature sensors in the trailer will record and transmit that information to the block. Once again, all parties involved in the contract can access that block in the chain and verify the shipment is proceeding by their agreement.
As delivery is made and the blockchain is completed, everything is validated and signed off on in real-time. Once all conditions are met, the carrier receives its payment immediately. All invoicing and billing is part of the blockchain already in place.
Blockchain and trucking
This is all good, and well you say, but why should drivers care about how customers and carriers transact? After all, computer systems have been around for a while, but without the guy or gal behind the wheel, logistics is just a bunch of phone calls and empty promises.
Well, see, here’s the thing. Blocks make the blockchain, and the essential building blocks of logistics and transportation are the drivers. Going back to the concept of a universally accessible ledger that records every step of the process we now have a tool that eliminates the most common problems that drivers struggle with on a daily basis. Detention, downtime, stop off charges and mileage pay are all seamlessly becoming part of the ledger as they occur.
But that’s not all, here’s where this technology stands out. If you ever drove a commercial vehicle, you are painfully aware of not just the multitude of rules and regulations but also the fines that go with them. Instead of penalizing the drivers, the industry needs to reward them.
Department of Transportation and employers record and report driver's mistakes. Now good driving records will finally be a part of the drivers’ files as well. The same way a good credit score opens doors for consumers, a good driving record will now open the door to opportunity.
So being an owner-operator or company driver, maybe the blockchain can provide the answer to the question "Are truckers paid enough?"
Experience and performance can finally be quantified and documented, and there you have it, our industry is instantly revolutionized. Now join Logiflex and ride the wave with us or try to catch up if you can!