Funny how the ELD mandate is already coming to mean something more significant to the industry than few were discussing in the year-long 2017 ELD strife and speculation building up to the Decemer 18 deadline. Turns out, possibly the single-most important aspect of the ELD mandate is not safety, but the beginning of a necessary technological shift to the blockchain revolution.
Revolution, disruption, transformation, call it what you will, ELDs are preparing the yellow brick road of documentable, transparent, and lightning-speed-fast ledgers. “Ledgers” doesn’t sound sexy, but when you think about all it means, it is.
Blockchain is also often called “disruptive” because it can revolutionize society, from the way Smart Cities are conceived and executed, to the way our grids work, to how we commute to and from home, to how we shop. Intermediaries and brokers are not going away—unless they want to stay in their pajamas and make phone calls from the basement of their parent’s house. They’re going to adapt or die just like everyone else. Drivers and carriers and law enforcement are just breaking new ground with the ELD adoption, or you could call it, ELD adaptation.
According to recent KPMG data, the transportation industry’s “global value was $8.1 trillion in 2015, and is expected to grow to $15.5 trillion by 2023.” Not many industries get bigger. “55 billion tons of freight was transported in 2015, with expected growth to 92 billion tons by 2024. In the US, freight and logistics spend in 2015 totaled $1.48 trillion, 8% of the country’s GDP," according to Select USA.
The supply chain is complex. The lack of a unified communication platform prevents the cooperating players from interacting efficiently.
“Most land transportation providers, carriers, governments, customs brokers, and freight forwarders have outdated ways of keeping track of their goods,” according to the KPMG report. “40% of global manufacturers lack information and material visibility across their supply bases. In some cases, companies are still using paper ledgers to track their products. Given that upwards of 65% of the value of a company’s products or services is derived from its suppliers and its supply chain, utilizing older highly ineffective systems results in tremendous amounts of wasted time, resources, and money.”
And at the exact same time that freight volume increases and finds more efficient ways to meet rising consumer demands, so do the expectations from consumers. As economist Jason Schenker recently told FreightWaves, "The funny thing about technology, the first time a drone delivers our package to our doorstep, we’re going to be like mind blown. The second time we’re like where is that damn thing?” Both industrial and individual customers expect faster shipments with more flexibility, more transparency, and lower prices.
Shippers will like the blockchain because they must handle all the complexities of booking, tracking, tracing, and regulatory compliance, unless they hire teams of full-time, experienced staff. This puts smaller shippers at a disadvantage, and makes larger shippers extremely inefficient. Carriers will enjoy the benefits of knowing when a vehicle is stopped, as well as how long drivers are held up at docks, among other things.
Drivers should begin to see gains across a number of areas. Data generated by semis decked out with sensors connected to the internet is going to be huge. Everyone will be able to see exactly where, say, trucks are hitting the brakes. Information about traffic snarls, ice patches and highway closures can be shared with other truckers.
It gets better. Consider a long-haul trucker on a long stretch of highway heading home with a half-empty trailer when he receives a message on his smartphone. There is cargo nearby that would easily fit into the underused trailer being pulled across the country. The software behind the message has already calculated his hours of operation, and knows he can pick up the load and deliver it without exceeding the hours-of-service limits. The message also tells the driver how much the job pays.
After accepting the job, the driver isn't worried about finding his way to this unexpected, but welcome cargo. The technology platforms that are emerging across the sector -- due in large part to the technical development of ELD technology in the first place -- guides him to the cargo's exact location.
Disruptive technologies are rolling toward us fast. Yes, the much-maligned ELD mandate is already having a possibly indirect effect on trucking. It’s paving the concrete sea, forcing late adopters to comply -- and inspiring a generation of tech talent to develop apps to accommodate the complex needs of the industry.
That should be something we can all get on board with because we want our packages, and we wanted them yesterday.
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