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3/28/2016 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

EDI vs. APIs

Many Fleets, Shippers Continue to Use EDI Despite Newer, More Flexible Alternatives

This story appears in the March 14 print edition of iTECH, a supplement to Transport Topics.

Standard electronic data interchange generally works well, and many fleets have invested heavily in it over the years. Those are two big reasons that some trucking companies cite for continuing to use it.

However, some technology vendors said standard EDI — the transmission of data between computers following a strict format that was defined decades ago — is outdated and inefficient.

Carriers need systems that generate “dynamic rate quotes that take into account market conditions and quickly get those rates in front of shippers and [third-party logistics providers],” said Wally Ibrahim, chief technology officer of Project44, a technology firm based in Chicago. He cited the pricing models of airlines or sporting events, noting, “They fill their seats based on variations in their supply and demand.”

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That ability to do “real-time, online pricing” is powered by API Web services, Ibrahim said.

API Web services — the letters stand for application program interface — allow different computer systems to communicate with each other. Compared with standard EDI, they provide flexibility and enable a faster, more efficient exchange of electronic documents such as load tenders, shipment status and invoices, Ibrahim and other vendors said.

“Freight APIs are the best technology solution for carriers to communicate in real time with their shippers and 3PLs — and vice versa,” Ibrahim said.

Yet many shippers, including new customers, continue to require standard EDI, several carrier executives told iTECH.

“We’re seeing a pretty heavy uptick in EDI setup requests,” said Eric Whitton, vice president of information technology for Covenant Transportation Group. “EDI is still very heavily in demand [by] our shipper base.

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By Stephen Bennett
Contributing Writer

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