Digital waybill

Quicker, cheaper and paper-free

One way of achieving seamless documentation of transport is a digital waybill. We would like to provide you with an overview of the current state of affairs. We will also illustrate the benefits that this innovative concept entails and how small customers can also make use of it.

Digitalisation is helping to simplify processes and, in many cases, expedite them. The bureaucratic aspect of transportation is an element of logistics that can benefit significantly from this. This must be documented in full at all times, as the goods transported often involve large sums of money. For example, three copies of the freight documents must be provided, as the shipping point, the carrier and also the consignee require their own document.

If papers go missing during delivery, it is a serious problem: Payments are put on hold, delays occur at borders or at the destination, notes on possible freight damage cannot be viewed. The introduction of a paper-free supply chain would help to simplify the process, would save time and therefore reduce costs: The time saved when preparing, sending, signing and, above all, archiving the freight documents would result in a saving of up to 13 euros per document. This was the finding of a 2019 study by the University of Hasselt in Belgium and backed up the results of previous studies. The sustainability effect also needs to be taken into account. By transferring data in real time, processes become more efficient and data loss is prevented.

Advantages:

  • Real-time data transfer
  • Transparency for all parties
  • Time saving
  • Optimised archiving
  • Sustainability
  • Reduction in administrative costs
  • Protection against data loss

Use in everyday haulage

In the digital waybill, information from all steps of a logistical process is brought together. All of the relevant data is compiled in a single document and is available to all of the parties in the supply chain at any time at the touch of a button.
Investing in the appropriate digital document management software is the easiest option for small and medium-sized haulage companies – the number of providers on the market is currently growing. Since the digital waybill can also be used on driver smartphones, which are becoming increasingly common, there is rarely any need to purchase additional hardware. The data can be viewed in the prevalent PDF format, thus enabling all parties in the supply chain to monitor the current state of affairs with ease. There are, of course, high encryption standards for secure entry of changes in this electronic file.

Safety first

Software providers create secure digital waybills using distributed ledger technology (DLT). The blockchain technology is based on this DLT, thus allowing for audit-compliant processing of the transport documentation. Smart contracts are generated with this solution. Due to the fact that a kind of digital fingerprint, the hash value, is created as part of the process, the electronic waybills are protected from manipulation.
Together with the respective transaction number, this value always permits unequivocal allocation. It is verified using a smart contract in the blockchain network when the goods are handled and, at this point, establishes the link between the means of transport and the freight document. If the transaction is valid, it is time-stamped, GPS-tagged and fed back into the blockchain. This way, the parties in the blockchain have the option of checking and verifying the validity of a freight document and the vehicle identification numbers it contains online. For users in the freight forwarding industry who activate the relevant smartphone apps for their drivers, the fact that the blockchain technology is now running in the background to a greater extent has no impact on the way they are used.

Reality check: Could it be possible to have a purely digital waybill at this point?

Since 2013, Section 408 (3) of the Handelsgesetzbuch (HGB – German Commercial Code) has stipulated that an electronic waybill is on a par with a printed one – so, theoretically, a printed waybill is no longer a requirement. But a word of caution: This does not yet apply to the CRM waybill required for cross-border road haulage. In some countries, a digital version, e-CRM for short, is already in use. In Germany, the additional protocol to the CRM, which would permit an electronic variant thereof, has not yet been ratified. For the time being, therefore, the documents must continue to be available in printed form.
As such, there are still some hurdles to overcome before the digital waybill becomes the sole standard for transport documentation. However, in view of the advantages described here, this seems only a matter of time.