The anchor story in this feature about how blockchain technology could impact trucking as an owner-operator:
Carriers, manufacturers and other trucking players are flocking to an emerging ‘distributed ledger’ approach to online business. Here’s how it could affect owner-operators.
As software programs and online interfaces have proliferated in trucking, so have communication problems. Getting the software of an individual transportation management software (TMS) system to integrate with a load board could require complicated development work by the TMS provider, the carrier using the TMS and the load board itself.
Blockchain systems could form a backbone for a lot of what happens in the supply chain, says Chris Burruss, president of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance. He believes standardizing systems now will grease the skids for companies being able to benefit from future technology.
“We don’t want to have to wait three years for a standard to be developed” before too many applications are developed in private blockchains, Burruss says. For BiTA, a “core focus will simply be determining use cases to take a look at. What can blockchain be a solution for?”
While private blockchains may come into play independently along the way, Burruss says, “we don’t want the supply chain members all dancing to their own music. That defeats the purpose, the efficiencies to be gained.” This could happen in situations such as a load board with permissions assigned only to those who can use it on either side of a freight move, or a shipper building a blockchain to tender loads to a specific carrier.“What we don’t want is hubs of private blockchains that can’t communicate with each other,” Burruss says. “We’ve got trucking companies, but we also really need the TMS providers, telematics providers, those outside of trucking companies and shippers” all involved in the effort to “try to keep some standardization to allow everyone” to benefit.
Jerry Wallace, chief technology officer for factoring company Apex Capital, a BiTA member, agrees. “In the past, you’ve had to buy software systems to interface with companies on their terms,” he says. “This is more like a shared communication platform.”
Broadcasting some of your data to a blockchain ideally would occur with whatever software platform you’re using to manage the business, and it won’t matter what the party on the other end of the line is using. “You can communicate where everyone else is communicating,” Wallace says.