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White House unveils freight data exchange to bolster supply chains

DOT to be ‘honest broker’ among shippers, ports, trucking, warehousing

DOT will coordinate information sharing among shippers, carriers, third parties. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The White House announced on Tuesday a freight data exchange to be coordinated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Biden administration sees the exchange as the next step toward strengthening supply chains.

The Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) includes 18 initial participants including shippers, trucking, warehousing, logistics companies and ports.

“These key stakeholders will work together with the Administration to develop a proof-of-concept information exchange to ease supply chain congestion, speed up the movement of goods, and ultimately cut costs for American consumers,” according to a White House fact sheet. “DOT will lead this effort, playing the role of an honest broker and convener to bring supply chain stakeholders together to problem solve and overcome coordination challenges.”

According to the White House, FLOW will test the idea that sharing basic digital freight data is in the interest of public and private parties, and expects to have the proof-of-concept freight data exchange by the end of the summer.

“I think people might commonly assume more than is there in terms of the level of data visibility” among supply chain participants, said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during a White House meeting on Tuesday discussing the project.

“What we know is, if an importer doesn’t know the location of their cargo, or if a warehouse doesn’t have visibility of what’s coming in, or a truck driver doesn’t actually know when, in a seven-hour window, is the right time to hit the port gate or the warehouse, that has consequences in terms of shipping times, business costs, and very importantly, right now, in terms of battling inflation and prices people are paying.”

FLOW will be able to ensure early return dates for containers are consistent across partners, more accurately measure chassis availability and aggregate dwell times throughout the supply chain, the White House stated.

“With approximately 2 billion annual digital transactions with shippers and transportation providers, C.H. Robinson’s scale and data information advantage will be an asset to the [FLOW] project, and we look forward to collaborating with the other participants,” commented C.H. Robinson [NASDAQ: CHRW] CEO Bob Biesterfield, one of the 18 partners in the pilot.

Prologis [NYSE: PLD] COO Gary Anderson said that with the flow of goods through his company’s buildings representing 2.5% of global GDP, “we play a unique role in the global supply chain,” and that his company is “pleased to be part of this effort to use data to improve the systems that support the movement of goods in this nation.”

The administration emphasized that the project is voluntary, will be available to participants who share data and will be “sustained by supply chain operational improvement.”

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, who attended the White House meeting, acknowledged that getting the private sector comfortable with participating in the exchange could be difficult.

“How do we break down some of the silos in which we operate, and how do we get people confident that the data won’t be weaponized, whether it be in the private sector, public sector or in the labor workforce? That’s a key hurdle to get over for all of us,” he said, adding, “we don’t want to use anything that’s proprietary.”

The 18 partners participating in the initial pilot for the exchange are:

  • 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, UPS.

DOT plans to launch a web page within the next month for companies that want to participate in a potential long-term FLOW effort beyond the pilot project.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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.