Blockchain: What is it and what does it mean for your trailers?

What is blockchain? The complicated answer is that it’s a decentralized technology that can be used to jointly manage databases. Decentralized means that it doesn’t exist solely on one computer or server, and changes to the database are public so that anyone can see the history of edits and updates.

The easy answer: Think about it like a spreadsheet that anyone in your company could open and update at the same time as other people. Currently, you probably have a spreadsheet that you open, edit, save and then send to someone else to do the same. Blockchain technology can enable multiple users to access and edit the file.

The technology sprung from the world of cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin and other oddly-named digital money), and its applications are spilling into nearly every industry—including transportation. Seeing the potential for helping customers drive efficiencies in maintenance and maximize the long-term value of their assets, Great Dane jumped on the growing trend to become the first trailer and truck body OEM in the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA).

“Membership in BiTA keeps Great Dane at the forefront of innovation and sets an early foundation for our business to take advantage of blockchain technology,” said Michael Molitor, director of business development for Great Dane, who explained that the purpose of BiTA is to develop a common framework and standards from which industry participants can build applications. “In May 2018, BiTA members convened to discuss standards development with the goal of publishing the initial set of standards by the end of 2018.”

For an example of the power blockchain holds to boost trailer productivity, Molitor pointed to aftermarket service and trailer telematics, like Great Dane’s FleetPulse, as examples.

In terms of trailer aftermarket service, a blockchain-powered database would offer an accurate, trustworthy single record of asset history. “It would also help trailer buyers know the complete history of the product from the time it leaves our factory floor,” Molitor added.

As it relates to telematics, Great Dane’s FleetPulse solution, the industry’s first OEM-integrated telematics solution designed specifically to reduce trailer maintenance and increase trailer utilization, could eventually integrate a blockchain framework that allows parties to have a higher resolution view and definitive evidence into the conditions of the trailer and its respective cargo. “New regulations require everyone in the supply chain to know what is happening with freight at all times,” Molitor said, “including who touched it, where it has been and how it was maintained.” Blockchain technology could make that possible.

To unlock blockchain’s potential, Great Dane will collaborate with the other members of BiTA, including shippers, third party logistics providers, OEMs, vendors and more, educating and guiding the transportation industry towards the successful implementation and adoption of blockchain technology. Members of BiTA come from every facet of the industry, including tech vendors, OEMs, tier-1 suppliers, consultants, banks, carriers, shippers, and brokers, according to the alliance. Other industry players include FedEx, Penske, Schneider, TMW Systems, UPS, UBER Freight, and Werner, to name a few.