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DOT to advance container congestion/demand index

Agency looks to White House for emergency approval to kick-start proof-of-concept data exchange

DOT brokering a data exchange to improve container cargo flow. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking to the White House to help expedite its container data exchange initiative aimed at improving cargo flow through domestic freight networks.

In a notice scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has requested emergency approval from the Office of Management and Budget for a pilot effort to develop a proof-of-concept Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) data exchange, launched by the administration in March.

DOT anticipates the pilot project, which is the first phase of the FLOW initiative, to involve 21 participants — 18 of which were announced in March — and move toward what the administration hopes becomes a permanent voluntary program with up to 200 participants during its first three years.

Developed following the congestion turmoil that peaked earlier this year at major container ports and backed up the entire domestic U.S. freight supply chain, the White House noted in a previously issued fact sheet that FLOW will test the idea that sharing basic digital freight data in a “novel data-sharing partnership” is in the interest of public and private parties.

“Data collected under this initiative is necessary to support the administration’s directive to identify and operationalize an information exchange to support a more resilient and fluid supply chain,” BTS’ OMB request read. “Data will be submitted by participating companies via a secure online portal. Data submitted will include purchase order forecasts, cargo bookings, vessels in-transit, marine terminal space availability, drayage truck dispatch capacity, over-the-road truck dispatch capacity, chassis availability and warehouse capacity.

“These data will be used to create an index of demand over capacity that is expected to act as a leading indicator of freight congestion and supply chain performance. The index, which will help communicate the degree of oversupply or undersupply of logistics assets, is intended to support a data driven approach to balance U.S. cargo traffic demand with system capacity.”

Industry partners participating in the initial pilot for the exchange include:

  • Port authorities: Port of Long Beach, Port of Los Angeles, Georgia Ports Authority.
  • Ocean carriers: CMA CGM, MSC.
  • Terminal operators: Fenix Marine Terminal, Global Container Terminals.
  • Importers/exporters: Albertsons, Gemini Shippers, Land O’ Lakes, Target, True Value.
  • Trucking: CH Robinson.
  • Chassis: DCLI, FlexiVan.
  • Logistics and warehousing: FedEx, Prologis, United Parcel Service.

Carl Bentzel, a commissioner with the Federal Maritime Commission, last year spearheaded a separate information sharing initiative aimed at producing common data standards to help streamline container cargo processing. Recommendations based on a series of meetings Bentzel sponsored with industry officials are expected to be presented to the FMC sometime this month.

Comments regarding the FLOW pilot effort should be submitted within five days after publication in the Federal Register, BTS stated, with all other comments submitted within 60 days.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.