Truck Tech

Blockchain Explained, Part 2: What Can it Do?

Blog commentary by Jack Roberts, Senior Editor

November 3, 2017

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Blockchain could become the platform that brings all aspects of fleet operations together in one, online place.
Blockchain could become the platform that brings all aspects of fleet operations together in one, online place.

Last week, I laid out the basics on Blockchain for you. This week, I’m going to flesh things out a bit and explain why blockchain has the potential to create transparency across the entire trucking industry in a relatively short time, as the technology platform that pulls every aspect of logistics together into one, neat, integrated package.

Keep in mind, there’s not just a single blockchain. There will likely be hundreds, perhaps thousands of them around the globe in few years’ time, and each one will be unique in its own way – sort of like how Amazon and Ebay each have their own, individually tailored sales programs. UPS is a good example of a forward-looking company that is using a proprietary blockchain system and continually refining and evolving the concept.

So, a short time from now, your company may be invited to join one, or several, blockchain systems in order to do business with certain shippers, like Walmart, for example. Obviously, most fleets don’t have the resources to create their own blockchain systems, so you’ll likely look around for a blockchain developer/provider, such as TMW Systems or McLeod Software.

But here’s an important point: Parts of any blockchain system will be confidential – the particulars of a deal you and a shipper have for getting a load to a destination, for example. Other parts of any blockchain will be public – shippers looking for carriers to move freight, for example. And different blockchain systems will synchronize with each other, so the visibility of available business in any given city or region or country expands exponentially.

So what you get is a vast virtual matrix of blockchains around the world bringing trucking fleets, shippers, railroads, air cargo companies, maritime shipping companies, owner-operators, parcel delivery companies, and any other interested party together in a transparent logistics marketplace that operates in real time, all the time.

But the matrix doesn’t stop there. Because you’ll also have other entities plugged into the blockchain network as well: truck OEMs, dealerships, fleet managers, federal and state DOTs, law enforcement, truck drivers, bicycle messengers and average old John Q. Public, who just wants to know where his package is and when it will arrive.

For example, a state DOT could access a blockchain and see everything it needs to know about a truck approaching a weigh station: What its cargo is, information from the ELD, the truck's emissions history, how much it weighs, and so on. And if everything is good, a message could flash on the driver information screen letting him know he doesn’t have to pull in to the scales. He can keep on rolling.

Likewise, an OEM or a dealer troubleshooting a truck can access the blockchain, which will be tied in with their own telematics network, and find exactly where a truck was when a problem developed – if it was operating at a high altitude in the mountains or in the desert.

Blockchain will allow a beer distributor or fast food chain to verify that its shipments were held at mandated temperatures during shipment, or get an alert if a problem develops.

And OEMs will be able to use blockchain data to automatically flash powertrain updates to trucks on the move, per another blockchain agreement with a fleet, reconfiguring torque and horsepower from optimal fuel economy settings to better deal with climbing over a mountain range, for example.

Obviously, there will be a lot going on with a blockchain system. But keep in mind, no one person needs to know every aspect of a blockchain agreement. Blockchain is simply the system that is used to track everything in real-time with full transparency. And you’ll simply log into a specific blockchain to get specific information you need to do your job – whether you’re a driver, a dispatcher, a fleet manager or a DOT officer.

Now, keep in mind that blockchain is relatively new and is still being developed. It’s likely going to be kind of an organic system once various systems are up and running and interacting with each other. At first, the systems will likely focus on logistics basics, with the other entities such as maintenance and law enforcement joining the party later on. And there are no guarantees everything I outlined above will happen. But it is very likely that over time, a vast, global, blockchain matrix will become the platform that brings all of the aspects of trucking and logistics together in one virtual place where any interested party can get information they need at a moment’s notice.

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Author Bio

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Jack Roberts

Senior Editor

As a licensed commercial driver, HDT senior editor Jack Roberts often reports on ground-breaking technical developments and trends in an industry being transformed by technology. With more than two decades covering trucking, in Truck Tech he offers his insights on everything from the latest equipment, systems and components, to telematics and autonomous vehicle technologies.

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