If it’s not that, then what will it be?

Friday, November 9, 2018


I’ve had some great feedback on the editorials over the past month or so: agreeing, agreeing to disagree, vehemently agreeing, and vehemently disagreeing. Best summed up as democracy in action. We’re a privileged people.

One reader felt global warming will have no impact on trucking whatsoever. I’ll agree it’s easy to get swept up in facts, figures, and forecasts; and any motivational speaker worth the hubcap on their Rolls will tell you that walking stridently against the tide is surely the pathway to utopia. Here’s hoping.

So, let’s bring it in a bit closer to now. This week I’m picking two rising stars, vehicle autonomy and Digital Ledger Technology (DLT), commonly called blockchains, harking back to their origins in the mysterious world of digital dosh. Understanding DLT in that context isn’t easy, but like so many of the world’s inventions, applying it to something else e.g. FMCG supply chains, makes things a lot clearer.

When considering logistics as a discipline, DLTs are to autonomy what the invention of steam was to sailing ships. Yep, there have been a couple of hiccup starts, but everyone knows that sorting the bugs will result in unprecedented change.

It’s not rocket science that the ultimate strategic ‘driver’ to autonomous vehicles is the elimination of the cab and all the cost and complications that come with it. The long-term goal is a truck as a land-based drone. As we are, platooning will ease the public into it, and with Gen Z and beyond about to take control, there will be fewer and fewer obstacles to progress. Eliminate drivers and you essentially eliminate the need for carriers; after all drivers are the key component carriers bring to the party. As I’ve touched on before, we’ve not done that well delivering our key component to the distribution chain. The driver shortage is a global phenomenon that’s been around for decades now and its origins lay in an inability to identify what it is we actually contribute, and therefore undervaluing it.

Progressing on, the big OEMs have all intimated that they’ll happily provide a ‘transport component’ to the world’s giant manufacturers and sellers; many do now, even though one party has to supply the driver. That opportunity is made all the more available with the rise of DLTs and the associated Smart Contracts. All you need is a ‘From’, a ‘To’, some rules agreed to by all parties, and you’re away – e.g. ‘One pallet of soap powder from ‘X’ to ‘Y’, to be delivered by XX/XX/XX, for $YY.YY’. The Smart Contract easily transcends the complexities of international shipping, borders, currency, and corruption – from a colossal backhander right down to ‘innocently’ fudging the POD date and time stamp. If you want to give someone a huge backhander or employ a carrier from your ‘Midnight cowboys’ list hidden in the drawer in the small book under the hazards list, they’ll need to be in the Smart Contract from the start and seen by all parties. Likewise, the Smart Contract will agree payment terms so there’ll be no spontaneous amnesia in that department at 11.59pm on the 19th of the month – your 00 account will be debited at the date and time the contract states, probably 0.7 seconds after the POD is confirmed. Potential human involvement in an FMCG world full of smart warehouses and land-based drones? Not a lot.

So the safest job in trucking 20 years hence? I reckon 400 ewes from Bill Smith’s farm at Moa Flat to Pareora.

All the best

Dave McCoid