Private Firms to the Rescue During Government Shutdown

Private Firms to the Rescue During Government Shutdown

One of the consequences of the prolonged U.S. government shutdown is the suspension of federal transportation and trade data releases. For some companies, these releases are an essential part of conducting business by providing information on market performance and goods classification, but the shutdown has left them stranded. Private organizations are now coming to their rescue by stepping up and filling in the data voids where possible.

In the trucking realm, the U.S. Department of Energy has shut down the Energy Information Administration, and subsequently will no longer supply a national fuel index, which is used by motor carriers to generate fuel invoices. In lieu of the DOE’s index, Breakthrough Fuel is offering carriers and shippers a national retail diesel fuel cost average. The fuel management company’s index will be published every Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern time.

“The lack of DOE index is a major problem because many of these carriers have contractual agreements with their clients requiring them to use the DOE’s index to determine fuel costs,” explained Craig Dickman, BreakthroughFuel’s CEO and chief innovation officer, in a written statement. “Without it, they can’t bill for their services, which will hurt many companies that may not have the cash reserves to wait for payment.”

“We’ve tracked our index against the DOE for many years and it’s accurate,” Dickman addded. “Hopefully, the carriers’ clients will understand the situation and work to allow trucking companies to use our index.”

Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture has stopped releasing its weekly Fruit and Vegetable Truckload Rate Report, a service tracking spot market point-to-point truckload rates for produce shippers. To fill that void, load-matching service DAT will provide data on truck rates for produce shippers.

“DAT RateView prices thousands of lanes with current information, while USDA only prices a handful of lanes,” said Mark Montague, pricing analyst. For the most part, he said, the USDA numbers support the accuracy of RateView’s reefer produce rates.

Montague said the DAT report is based on spot-market “broker buy” rates that freight brokers pay to carriers in most of the lanes covered by the USDA report.

“To bring the rates in line with the ‘broker sell’ rates of the USDA report, I added in a percentage to represent the commission that the broker would charge to the shipper or consignee who pays the final freight bills,” Montague said.

Importers and exporters accustomed to accessing the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule and Schedule B on the Web sites of the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. Census Bureau so that they can classify their goods are also adversely affected by the shutdown and consequent suspension of those sites. Customs Info Global Data Mining and Customs IQ have offered to help during the shutdown. Customs Info Global Data Mining is providing a digital copy of the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule — normally administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission — for imports, and Customs IQ, a tariff classification business, is offering online access to the HTSUS, as well as to Schedule B — normally provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division — for exports.