CEO offers his views on why technology will change transportation
Blockchain has become the latest buzzword to enter industry lexicon. While many still may not know what it is – it is basically a decentralized electronic ledger of transactions – it is likely to be a technology that transforms trucking and the way it operates.
The recently formed Blockchain in Trucking Alliance wants to help with that transition and produce a set of guidelines and best practices for the industry to follow. Within the transportation and logistics industries, blockchain has the potential to streamline processes, ensure trust among parties, verify and speed payments, and produce verification that regulations are being followed, among other possibilities.
“I think there is rising interest around blockchain and, in particular, the BiTA alliance,” Tony Lourakis, CEO of Fleet Complete, told FreightWaves. “If you are a shipper, it doesn’t pay to do the heavy lifting [to verify carrier compliance], but blockchain can enable such verification."
Fleet Complete is one of the companies that has signed on as a member of BiTA. It provides telematics and GPS fleet tracking solutions worldwide. In 2016, the company acquired BigRoad and now offers the Fleet Complete Electronic Logging Device (ELD) in the U.S. and Canada.
Lourakis notes that he views blockchain as “a data exchange, data authenticity, a data layer so you can … have trust.”
While Fleet Complete is not currently running any programs with blockchain, Lourakis knows the potential of it. “For us, this is about the future,” he says. “We can’t claim to have implemented any blockchain in our systems today, but we see great opportunity. It’s the way of the future.”
With over 250,000 vehicles currently running a Fleet Complete solution, blockchain could serve as a way to coordinate all those data points as the company grows and expects to add millions of connected vehicles to its platforms.
“We’re going to capture data in seconds and as we capture that data it could be useful to third parties,” Lourakis says, noting the potential to supply data to OEMs to improve vehicle performance or for autonomous vehicles as two examples. “We intend to use blockchain across our architecture.”
To make all that data useful to Fleet Complete, and others as well, there needs to be trust that the data is accurate and transparency that the data being supplied is what it is said to be. Blockchain removes the human element from these data transfers and makes the connections between parties a trusted relationship.
Lourakis says that one of the benefits of blockchain is its standardization, which brings together systems from different companies.
“One of the most interesting opportunities with blockchain is connecting disparate systems … and doing it with trust,” he explains. “When you look at the members [of BiTA], we all have roles, some overlapping and it’s okay if there is overlap, because we all want to [support customers].”
As an example, Lourakis points out that a shipper may book a load with Convoy and through the process that load information transfers at some point to a McLeod Software system. The driver could be using a Fleet Complete ELD. And a customer may have yet another system. Ensuring that shipment makes it through the system requires a number of touchpoints and integration with several systems, but blockchain can bring those systems together, communicate delivery ETA to the customer, generate the necessary approvals or confirmations, and initiate necessary payment or regulatory paperwork along the way.
“I think it’s probably going to take a little bit of time to get it going,” Lourakis says of blockchain. “Like us, all tech companies have a bit of a backlog and blockchain will go into that backlog. I think in the next few months we’ll start to see some testing and a year or two from now, I think we will start to see it [adopted].”
Fleet Complete is one of those companies that expects to be on the ground floor.