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A blockchain for capacity among the possibilities

Tadmore's Pete Emahiser envisions a possible blockchain for capacity, helping shippers identify potential capacity and carriers fill their trucks. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Pete Emahiser doesn’t consider himself a visionary, but the president & CEO of Tadmore Transportation could certainly be considered a forerunner. Under Emahiser’s direction, Tadmore Transportation, a Toledo, OH freight brokerage founded in 2010, has joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA).

Emahiser is honest about his decision to be involved with BiTA, which is working to create standards and promote the use of blockchain in the supply chain. In his view, blockchain is one of those technologies that comes along and changes the way things get accomplished.

In an interview with FreightWaves, Emahiser says the blockchain will create a common language that carriers, shippers and brokers can all speak.

“I’m excited by that,” he says. “Twenty percent of what I do every day is chasing down what people say” and reconciling that with what they mean.

Emahiser says he believes the industry is ready for the change that blockchain will bring due to the globalization of freight movement and the associated paperwork involved in moving freight.

“I do think that in order for someone to embrace change, they have to [have] the short stick for a moment,” he notes, “and truckers are ready for change. I don’t know if shippers are ready yet,” but they may be within a year.

The executive thinks blockchain can help in several areas, including providing trust among parties and eventually helping with truck utilization as more visibility into truck locations is gained. To illustrate, Emahiser used the analogy of making a dinner. If you look in one cupboard, you may have one option, but if you open all the cabinets, there opportunities to make a successful dinner increase.

Trust is also important, Emahiser says, as nearly everyone in the business these days operates on credit. It can also help ease the minds of all involved in payments, from the carrier who is hoping to be paid in a timely manner, to the shipper who is hoping that the broker makes the payment on time.

Blockchain uses a distributed ledger approach that verifies and stores transactions on the chain. Once verified, the transaction can’t be changed.

Emahiser notes the onslaught of technologies invading the industry these days and suggests that blockchain is similar to the university with several schools. While the economics department has little to do with the marketing or astronomy departments, they all are contained within the overall university structure. The same can be said with blockchain, which will pull together various parties and technologies into one trusted network.

Getting more people involved in using blockchain will be critical, as will making it easier to understand, Emahiser says. “The internet was confusing for most people, but they could put a disk in the machine,” he says. “The same thing is going to happen to blockchain, who ever can make a simple” way to use it will be among the early winners.

Emahiser recently hosted a Facebook Live chat for the Rate Per Mile Masters group after attending the first BiTA meeting in November in Atlanta. In the chat, Emashiser went through a number of scenarios that he envisions as possibilities for blockchain. He sees the attractiveness of blockchain being its immutable or undeniable data and it could be used to “dispense funds, dispense loads, or dispense smart contracts.”

“When I go to book freight, I go to a customer and say I’ll move your freight,” he explains. “…The shipper pays me, I pay the carrier, but there is also an underlying agreement that I agree to pay that carrier on the shipper’s behalf. They are trusting me, or any broker, to pay the truck for that shipment. …I could totally see in my world where GM releases GM coin (cryptocurrency) and in order for me to move GM freight, I have to secure a certain amount of GM coin.”

Emahiser addressed concerns over visibility of trucks, and noted that blockchain’s proof of transaction ability could eventually lead to a “capacity blockchain.”

“If I go to spend $5, it says I have $5, but it also says I have $3 from Roxy and $2 from Sue, therefore my proof of transaction is this is where my money came from, therefore I am allowed to spend $5,” he explained. “In a way, I could almost see a proof of capacity. I took a load going to Florida, therefore I can take a load out of Florida; rather than some guy in Washington State dialing phone numbers and saying, ‘yes, I have a truck in Florida;’ this actually would show where the truck is.”

It would also create more visibility into truck movements. “Right now, there’s a lot of questions about who’s my truck, when’s my truck coming in?” Emahiser said in the chat. “We have a lot of people who are double brokering and not being good citizens in our community and this will help a lot with that.”

He also noted the amount of data that could be put onto a blockchain, such as safety records or maintenance records. “It enters into a pretty big scope of the data that will be available on a transaction basis,” he said.

Emahiser said he was excited to join BiTA and be part of the discussion going forward with a broad cross-section of industry stakeholders. “BiTA is kind of an exciting thing,” he told the Facebook group. “It’s the alliance to get everybody together acting in the same way, which I hope we can.

“The BiTA group is getting various people in transportation aligned so we don’t have the same cluster that we had with EDI,” he added. “With EDI, this guy had his standards, this guy had his standards and this guy had his standards, and there was really no standards across the board. So, the BiTA alliance is setting the standards and there were huge players [at the meeting]. People as big as CH Robinson and people as little as us; we were sitting right next to them.”

For Emahiser, who acknowledged he is still learning about the potential of blockchain, it has opened up many possibilities in the future.

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