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Intermodal 101:Role of a 3PL

Intermodal 101:Role of a 3PL

As a refresher, a 3PL is a Third-Party Logistics provider. This means that a 3PL essentially acts as an intermediary between the shipper and the carrier to ensure that freight is transported correctly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. The 3PL will work with the shipper to create the optimum shipping plan using several different means.

The 3PL will coordinate with the shipper and determine if there is a need/opportunity to lock in intermodal pricing where it makes sense to do so.  This could be lanes that have the following characteristics:

  • Require equipment commitments from the rail providers
  • Need to move at predictable pricing, so they can budget the transportation costs.
  • Have static transit requirements that must be met

At the same time, the 3PL will look for lanes may have a higher level of flexibility available to them.  The shipper may be more willing to ride the pricing up and down as it changes throughout the year.  To take advantage of this, the freight should:

  • Have more flexibility to the expected delivery date
  • Be a commodity that may be able to tolerate longer transit times
  • Lane should have consistent equipment availability within 48 hours of request

In the next update, we will discuss the advantage of bringing in a 3PL to assist with shipping.