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Recent analysis shows that supply chain improvements and reduced shipping costs have resulted in more than 80% reduction in inflation in the U.S. economy.

Biden-Harris administration announces new milestone in supply chain initiative

March 27, 2024
Recent analysis shows that supply chain improvements and reduced shipping costs have resulted in more than 80% reduction in inflation in the U.S. economy.

On the second anniversary of the launch of the Freight Logistics Optimizations Works initiative, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the FLOW platform has begun to publish data on inland freight hubs, including rail terminal and warehouse end destination data, that will enable FLOW members to have an enhanced view of future container import volumes and traffic. This data will help inform capacity decisions and avoid supply chain challenges, such as delays, for FLOW participants, which will help lower costs for consumers. 

FLOW is a private-public partnership created and led by DOT that creates a more complete, shared picture of the U.S. supply chain for members, which includes the nation’s busiest container ports, major ocean carriers, and some of the largest retail importers. 

In February 2021, President Biden ordered a whole-of-government approach to tackle supply chain disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration’s efforts to improve supply chains in the short, medium, and long term have lowered costs for consumers and lowered inflation across the economy. A recent analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisers found that supply chains normalizing in some form explain more than 80% of the disinflation the U.S. has experienced since 2022. 

“Two years ago, we launched FLOW, the first public-private platform of its kind to share data on supply chains in order to help goods move quickly and cheaply,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “The Biden-Harris Administration's efforts to strengthen American supply chains have helped reduce inflation from pandemic peaks—and today, with the expansion of FLOW, we expect to see even greater benefits to American families and businesses.” 

See also: Biden vetoes Congress’ attempt to scrap Clean Truck Plan

FLOW complements work happening across DOT to invest in supply chains through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Earlier this month, the U.S. Maritime Administration announced that $450 million from BIL is available through the Port Infrastructure Development Program, part of the historic $17 billion included in the infrastructure law to strengthen coastal and inland waterway ports. In January, DOT announced nearly $5 billion in grants to build or repair infrastructure projects that will ease trucking bottlenecks and improve freight movement across the country. 

DOT and supply chain stakeholders are applying lessons learned from the pandemic-caused disruptions as it helps manage changes in freight traffic resulting from the reckless Houthi attacks against vessels in the Red Sea, as well as the reduction of traffic in the Panama Canal due to drought conditions. Secretary Buttigieg has met with mariners, ocean carriers, ports, and other industry leaders to discuss the ongoing situation in the Red Sea and its impact on shipping and the freedom of navigation. The department has held regular listening sessions with the freight industry and mariners since the Houthi attacks began last year and has worked with FLOW participants to leverage data on shifting traffic caused by the ensuing disruptions.

Earlier this year, Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg traveled to Panama to underscore the importance of building resilient global supply chains and discuss the impact of the drought in the Panama Canal on international commerce.  

How FLOW works 

Through the FLOW initiative, DOT collects, aggregates, and anonymizes key information shared by participants on inbound containerized freight, starting with importer purchase orders, and aligns future demand volumes against current regional capacity to move ocean containers. FLOW now includes the five largest U.S. container ports, seven of the largest ocean carriers, and nine of the 20 largest retailers by imports, and it has over 60 companies in the onboarding process. 

Industry members who join FLOW can access secure data through a shared online portal or API hosted by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. DOT works with industry members to continue to improve and build use cases with FLOW data. FLOW members are currently working with DOT to use FLOW data to estimate port and inland network congestion and monitor cargo shifts due to the Houthi attacks.  

Participants are using FLOW data as an input into existing company processes to better inform supply chain planning. These efforts work to smooth out supply chain volatility and support commercial needs. As FLOW continues to grow, DOT will continue to work with its industry partners to further develop and improve America’s supply chain, including at the upcoming FLOW annual meeting at DOT headquarters. 

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