Carriers, shippers and logistics companies have started sharing critical freight capacity information with the federal government in the first data exchange aimed at untangling congested supply chains.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the development Wednesday before hosting a meeting of participants in its Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) program.
If successful, DOT’s initiative would be seen as a significant step toward overcoming long-standing concerns associated with sharing proprietary information among competitors across the freight supply chain.
“The start of data sharing between industry and USDOT is an important milestone for FLOW,” said Stephen Lyons, the supply chain envoy to the White House. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate with industry to develop this tool to enable industry to make more informed decisions that will improve the movement of goods along our supply chain.”
FLOW, which was launched in March, is considered a first-of-its-kind effort to develop a digital freight exchange with the goal of giving companies information on the condition of a node or region in the supply chain to speed freight flow.
Data submitted by participants — including 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 — will be used to create an index of demand over capacity, according to DOT. The index is expected to act as a leading indicator of freight congestion and supply chain performance.
“It has been great to collaborate with the FLOW team since the very beginning and see the progress already being made toward achieving true end-to-end visibility that includes every link in the supply chain,” said Ed Aldridge, president of CMA CGM America and APL North America, before the meeting. “This is essential for increasing fluidity of operations in the U.S. and will enable all parties in the supply chain to more accurately forecast and address potential issues.”
Andy Damkroger, vice president of logistics for Werner Enterprises, called FLOW a “well-organized, thoughtful approach” to aligning supply chain goals among transportation modes.
“Collaboration is vital across industries to streamline the intricate exchange of information,” Damkroger said.
Last month DOT sought an emergency order from the Office of Management and Budget to help expedite the initiative, which is starting out as a pilot to test proof of concept.
DOT also announced Wednesday it had doubled the number of voluntary participants in the program to 36 from the initial 18. Participants that have joined the program since March include:
- Ocean carriers: Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk.
- Marine terminal operators: APM Terminals, TraPac, West Basin Container Terminal, Yusen Terminals.
- Importers/exporters: Procter & Gamble, Samsung.
- Trucking: J.B. Hunt, Werner Enterprises, C&K Trucking, RoadOne.
- Intermodal chassis: Consolidated Chassis Management, TRAC Intermodal.
- Logistics and warehousing: Flexport, DHL; Becton, Dickinson and Co.
- Railroads: BNSF.
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