Secretary Pete Buttigieg Touts FLOW Data Initiative

Port of Los Angeles
Port of Los Angeles

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More than half a year after the launch of an information-sharing forum meant to facilitate communication between freight stakeholders, the country’s top transportation officer gave it a resounding endorsement.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touted the Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) supply chain forum, established to respond to ongoing freight bottlenecks that disrupted access to commercial transportation ports.

The Biden administration launched FLOW in mid-March. “Most Americans would assume there’s more data sharing than there is,” Buttigieg told freight and trucking executives last month, emphasizing that access to such data might improve dialogue among stakeholders. “That’s going to allow us to see things in the system that we just can’t see right now, in terms of where the backups are going to be.”

In expressing optimism about the program, the secretary also acknowledged potential challenges from data-sharing in the marketplace. As he put it, “One possible obstacle I can see eventually is, as we grow it people start to be kind of jealously protective of their data.”

“We’re not going after anybody’s proprietary data,” he continued. “We’re just trying to get information that it would make sense for everybody to have. So we may need to have that conversation later. But right now, it’s so new that I’m very satisfied with the level of participation we got and very mindful of that it is on us to, I think, get these prototypes going.”

Stephen Lyons


The administration describes the FLOW initiative as an information-sharing pilot program that aims to alleviate concerns stemming from the movement of freight along key corridors. Ret. Gen. Stephen Lyons, port and supply chain envoy to the Biden-Harris administration supply chain disruptions task force, also has endorsed the program.

“The start of data sharing between industry and [the U.S. Department of Transportation] is an important milestone for FLOW. 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,” Lyons said recently.

“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,” according to 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.”

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FLOW partners include DHL, BNSF Railway, C.H. Robinson, Port of Los Angeles, Port of Long Beach, TRAC Intermodal, True Value, UPS Inc., FedEx Corp., Werner Enterprises, West Basin Container Terminal and Target.

In a statement following a meeting of stakeholders over the summer, Scott Fremont, Target’s vice president of transportation, said: “Target remains committed to finding solutions to the challenges facing the U.S. supply chain. We will continue to work with the administration and industry leaders to increase data transparency to move goods more efficiently and meet the needs of American families and the U.S. economy.”

“It’s a crucial task at an important time, and we are pleased to be engaged in a plan that will benefit U.S. consumers and businesses alike by making this country more competitive in international trade,” said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach.