The Digital LTL Council, a division of the National Motor Freight Traffic Association Inc. (NMFTA), said Wednesday that it is developing an end-to-end application programming interface road map to cover the full shipment data stream from freight “quote to cash.”
When complete, the APIs will enable shippers, carriers and 3PLs to digitally transact every function within the less-than-truckload data stream, the group said. APIs provide a digital method for multiple computer programs to communicate with each other. The API protocols in this effort will facilitate various LTL players’ interactions with each other through their respective computer systems.
The new program will establish seven operational APIs and two administrative APIs. The seven operational APIs are rate quotes, electronic bills of lading, pickup requests and pickup visibility, in-transit visibility, preliminary rate charges, financial rate disputes, and cargo loss and damage claims.
Once implemented industrywide, the initiative will eliminate wasteful phone calls and other inefficiencies, the council said.
Geoff Muessig, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of LTL carrier Pitt Ohio and the council’s chairman, said LTL carriers do a very good job digitally advising shippers and 3PLs when shipment milestones are met. Where LTL carriers fall short is in using the same tools when a shipment problem — or exception — arises, he said.
“This includes a pickup that was missed, or a shipment misrouted, or additional charges such as a liftgate fee added to an invoice,” said Muessig. “These new real-time APIs will allow carriers to communicate shipment and invoice exceptions as they happen, thereby reducing costs and improving service for all parties.”
Dolly Wagner-Wilkins, chief technology officer at Worldwide Express and chair of the committee that produced the road map, said, “API standards are key because they allow everyone in the industry to build APIs one time and use the same API for all of their partners, versus taking the time and spending money to build to each partner’s specifications. This enables faster digitization, which in turn, greatly reduces errors and improves visibility of pickups, shipments and charges between carriers and shippers.”
The effort is an expansion on an initiative in which the council established industrywide standards for electronic bills of lading and led an expansive effort to promote adoption of the standard.
Debbie Ruane Sparks, NMFTA’s executive director, said the API road map project is a “natural next step” for the group following the progress on the eBOL standard.