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Freight Logistics Optimization Works

What is FLOW?

Freight Logistics Optimization Works (“FLOW”) is a public-private partnership among industry and government to build a forward-looking, integrated view of supply chain conditions in the United States. The program, which was launched in March 2022 in response to supply chain disruptions, helps participants forecast how current capacity and throughput will fare against future demand. This information enables participating companies to anticipate changes in supply chain throughput and thus take proactive steps to mitigate delays and fees. BTS serves as the independent steward of FLOW participant information, ensuring data is confidential and secure. 

Members of the program (e.g. beneficial cargo owners, ocean carriers, ports, terminals, railways) share individual logistics data (highlighted in bold in the graphic below) with the USDOT and in return receive an aggregated, anonymized, and holistic view of the relationship between incoming containers (demand), the available assets to move containers (supply), and throughput within a supply chain region. Incoming demand is shared up to 90 days in advance of arrival.


How It Works: FLOW Data Inputs and Outputs

FLOW Process Diagram



BTS as FLOW Data Steward

BTS serves as an unbiased data steward for FLOW. As such, BTS works in collaboration with the Office of Multimodal Freight Infrastructure and Policy (OST-F), an office within the Office of the Undersecretary of Transportation for Policy and the office responsible for overseeing FLOW, to operate the FLOW program.

As data steward, BTS guarantees compliance with the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA), which establishes uniform confidentiality protections for information collected for statistical purposes. When collecting or acquiring information for a statistical purpose under CIPSEA, BTS:

  • must use a pledge of confidentiality
  • must protect the information
  • cannot allow unauthorized access to the information
  • may share the information for statistical purposes if the respondent consents, and then only under a written agreement signed by the director of BTS
  • makes sure any party or agent receiving released confidential information pledges confidentiality, becoming subject to the restrictions and penalties provided in CIPSEA
  • enforces that employees, contractors, and agents are subject to felony charges and fines for knowingly disclosing confidential information (5 years prison and/or $250,000 fine)
  • cannot release the information under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request

Under FLOW, BTS anonymizes, regionally segments, and aggregates information submitted by FLOW participants to maintain confidentiality. These efforts are executed using strict protocols for data collection and protection.

Do you want to learn more about how BTS keeps data secure and confidential? Review the BTS Confidentiality Policy or submit a question to BTS.