NMFTA’s Digital LTL Council Developing Full API Roadmap for LTL Shipment Data Stream


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Everything from Creation to Cash Will Be Digitized Via APIs That Shippers, Carriers, and 3PLs Can Download

Alexandria, Virginia, July 12, 2023 – The Digital LTL Council, a division of the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), announced during its Membership Meeting on June 28 during SMC³’s Connections that it is developing a complete API roadmap to cover the full LTL shipment data stream – from quote to cash. When complete, the resulting downloadable APIs will make it possible for shippers, carriers, and 3PLs to perform every function within the LTL shipment data stream digitally.

Application Program Interface, otherwise known as API, provides a digital method to allow multiple computer programs to communicate with each other. The standard API definitions being developed in this effort will smooth the way for various players in the LTL industry to interact in a variety of ways through their respective computer systems.

“It will greatly improve the efficiency of the industry,” said Digital LTL Council’s Executive Director Paul Dugent. “We’ve already identified adequacies with electronic bills of lading, almost eliminating the manual entry of information into the carriers’ billing system and thereby eliminating keying errors and reducing the overall number of mistakes.”

Dolly Wagner-Wilkins, chief technology officer at Worldwide Express, chaired the Digital LTL Council committee that produced the roadmap. She said the effort will reduce redundancy and work to make the entire LTL industry more effective.

“API standards are key because they allow everyone in the industry to build APIs one time and use the same API for all their partners, versus taking the time and spending money to build to each partner’s specifications,” Wagner-Wilkins said. “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 that is now nearing completion, through which the Council established industry-wide standards for electronic bills of lading (eBOL) and led an expansive and successful effort to promote adoption of the standard.

The new program will establish seven operational APIs and two administrative APIs. The seven operational APIs will be:

1. Rate quotes
2. Electronic bills of lading
3. Pickup requests and pickup visibility
4. In-transit visibility
5. Preliminary rate charges
6. Financial rate disputes
7. Cargo loss and damage claims

The two administrative APIs will be:

1. Document retrieval
2. Carrier route guides

Once implemented on an industry-wide basis, the initiative will eliminate time-wasting phone calls and other inefficiencies, including communication mishaps that arise from problems in shipping.

The Digital LTL Council’s Chairman and PITT OHIO’s Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President Geoff Muessig shared that LTL carriers do a very good job advising shippers and 3PLs by digital communication when shipment milestones have been successfully passed.

But he said that where LTL carriers can improve is in using that same digital communication when a shipment exception arises.

“This includes a pickup that was missed, or a shipment misrouted, or additional charges such as a liftgate fee added to an invoice,” Muessig said. “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.”

The process is in the early stages and NMFTA is gathering its members to seek their thoughts on how to prioritize the nine APIs, as well as how to get the details right.

“As we move forward, we will prioritize the APIs outlined on our roadmap and publish more standards until we have digitized the entire LTL shipment and billing flow,” Wagner-Wilkins said. “The faster we all adopt the APIs, the faster we will see benefits as an industry.”

NMFTA’s Executive Director Debbie Sparks said the API roadmap project is a natural next step for an organization that already made such an impact with the eBOL standard. Carriers already implementing the eBOL standard include Dayton Freight Lines, Estes Express Lines, Old Dominion Freight Line, PITT OHIO, R+L Carriers, Roadrunner Transportation, Southeastern Freight Lines, and TFI International which represent 37% of revenue in the LTL industry.

“NMFTA continues to lead the LTL industry in its drive to digitize,” Sparks said. “These APIs will serve as a welcomed change to carriers who want to digitize but struggle with the time or the expertise to develop their own digital tools. Now they won’t have to. They can download the ones we will offer, and that will mean the entire industry is harmonized and operating according to the same standard.”


Since 1956, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, Inc. (NMFTA) has represented the interests of the less-than-truckload (LTL) motor carrier industry. The NMFTA publishes the National Motor Freight Classification® (NMFC®), assigns Standard Carrier Alpha Code™ (SCAC®), assignment of Standard Point Location Codes® (SPLC™), develops digital standards for the LTL industry, and safeguards those digital standards through cybersecurity research, dissemination of studies, and education. Membership in NMFTA is available to all for-hire interstate and intrastate motor carriers. For more information, visit www.nmfta.org.


Marli Hall
Director of Communications & Member Services