Andrew Petrisin, supply chain advisor with the U.S. Department of Transportation, describes the role of the agency's Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) initiative.
FLOW is a public-private partnership in the form of a data trust, Petrisin says. DOT serves as an independent “steward” that facilities voluntary information exchange in pursuit of the common goal of aggregating data about freight capacity — including available containers, vessel slots, warehouse space and chassis — so that shippers and carriers can model their supply chains accordingly. Similar data trusts have been previously established for air carriers, oil and gas, and safety, but this is the first DOT initiative to address the supply chain, he says.
FLOW removes any concerns about releasing proprietary information by aggregating the data so that it isn’t associated publicly with any particular carrier or service provider. In addition, privacy laws ensure that the data isn’t subject to disclosure by subpoena or legal discovery. That level of trust incentivizes the private sector to participate in the initiative.
The genesis of FLOW was formation of a White House Supply Chain Disruption Task Force in the fall of 2021, formed to monitor congestion at West Coast ports. It was less about determining the status of a particular container than trying to understand “fluidity through the supply chain, from inbound containers to warehouse availability,” Petrisin says.
DOT has been asked to expand the initiative to other modes, “but right now we’re primarily focused on getting the first part right,” Petrisin says, adding that the next step will likely be the collection of data about oceangoing exports. In the meantime, DOT is working to get the insights obtained by FLOW integrated into the systems of private carriers and other service providers. “We want to see this run for a long time,” Petrisin says.
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