Pete Buttigieg Eyes Expansion of Supply Chain Data-Sharing
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A voluntary forum through which freight sector stakeholders can share information on supply chain issues is poised to expand, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently told members of Congress.
Created last year by the U.S. Department of Transportation in response to freight bottlenecks that vexed the global supply chain, the Freight Logistics Optimization Works — or FLOW — supply chain forum will continue to add input and launch more broadly later this year, Buttigieg said during an April 20 hearing before the House transportation funding panel. The data sharing initiative aims to improve connectivity along commercial corridors.
“We brought in a number of players from across the sector — retailers, ports — anybody who we think has data that, if they were just talking to each other more, would make our ports more efficient and our supply chains more fluid,” Buttigieg said. He added that the effort has attracted participation from dozens of partners, largely from the private sector.
Responding to specific inquiries about the Biden administration’s efforts to expedite the movement of agricultural exports, Buttigieg said the budget request includes funding to expand FLOW to broader industry use.
“We are working toward being able to have a prototype of that model up and running this year,” he said. “It’ll be a small dollar amount compared to most of our requests, but I think an investment well spent for exactly the reasons you’re raising.”
Supply chain connectivity requests included in President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2024 budget include $230 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program, which would be used to advance programs designed to facilitate the movement of freight at commercial ports.
In defending the White House budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, Buttigieg recounted the administration’s response so far to freight-centric congestion.
“With regard to supply chains, we’ve strengthened ports around the country — from smaller ports like Helena, Ark., and Kaskaskia, Ill., to major ones in Portsmouth, Va., and New York City,” he said.
The FLOW initiative, per DOT information, will launch in pilot form as a way to alleviate concerns associated with movement of freight along shipping corridors.
“While there will always remain a series of two-way communications between partners in the supply chain on container status and location, it is difficult to paint a picture of supply chain context across parties,” according to background information from the agency.
FLOW aims to provide an integrated picture of future supply chain conditions for use by participants to support a more resilient freight network. With DOT providing aggregate incoming container demand over asset supply, FLOW participants receive a preview window to enhance overall fluidity. Over time, FLOW aims to enable participants to understand the effect of a given aggregate demand and supply.”
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Current participants in the initiative include: Century Distribution Systems Inc., C.H. Robinson, DHL, FedEx, STG Logistics, UPS, J.B. Hunt, RoadOne and Werner.
“Supply chain disruptions have raised national awareness of the need for improved information exchange. Supply chain stakeholders deserve reliable, predictable and accurate information about goods movement and FLOW will test the idea that cooperation on foundational freight digital infrastructure is in the interest of both public and private parties,” per background from the White House. “FLOW is designed to support businesses throughout the supply chain and improve accuracy of information from end-to-end for a more resilient supply chain.”