J.B. Hunt, others work on industry standards

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE.The J.B. Hunt headquarters building stands Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, in Lowell.

J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. is working with two industry partners to establish standards aimed at improving logistical efficiency throughout the supply chain, the companies said Monday.

The Scheduling Standards Consortium -- formed by J.B. Hunt, along with freight brokerage companies Convoy and Uber Freight -- was established to deal with scheduling challenges by developing standards for how information is shared through an application programming interface or API. The companies said current non-standard interfacing methods cause problems between carriers, brokers and shippers.

"Technology has ushered in a new era for transportation -- new players, new apps, new platforms, new services. Yet, our industry remains extremely fragmented," Spencer Frazier, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Lowell-based J.B. Hunt, said in a statement. "We want to change that, starting today with the three of us and hopefully many more providers in the coming months. We want to create an open exchange of data so that the numerous TMS and digital freight platforms can communicate at a level where we can help one another when needed."

Marc Scott, assistant professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, said in response to emailed questions that customer-centric supply chains are becoming the norm. He said by adopting industry-wide API standards the supply chain can be improved across the board, decreasing delivery times and driver wait times and resulting in efficiency gains and cost savings.

"I do believe that the group of companies leading this initiative [effort] are very well positioned to address this issue, and influence and facilitate engagement in this standardization effort," Scott said.

The consortium said adoption of the interface standard is vital for its success and plans to sign on various players, including third-party logistics providers, along with freight and warehouse managers.

"For the most part, those 2 million carriers are competitors. First you have to get the key players to the table and ensure they're willing to share information," Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association said in response to emailed questions. "After that they have to be open to change. With any major shift like the adoption of electronic logging devices, change can be uncomfortable and even challenging. But with transportation industry innovations like J.B. Hunt leading the way, others will join because the end goal is to improve the customer experience and efficiencies for all."

The Scheduling Standards Consortium's standards for full-truckload freight will be available in the first quarter of 2023.

Spencer Frazier, executive vice president of sales and marketing at J.B. Hunt said the group formed organically as they all focused on a shared problem they wanted to solve.

"Data and technology have empowered us to make big progress toward an optimized supply chain. But we're all currently working independently on different segments," Frazier said in an email. "Our three organizations knew working toward an industry standard was necessary to make it easier for users at all ends of the supply chain."

Based in Washington state, Convoy is a privately held digital freight network. Uber Freight, a subsidiary of ride-hailing firm Uber, is a logistics platform. It purchased Dallas-based Transplace, which has a substantial workforce in Northwest Arkansas, for $2.25 billion in late 2021.