Third-party logistics providers, or 3PL providers, offer a way to support your supply chain operations. Whether they act as a supplemental part of your freight management team or as a partner to outsource your logistics, a 3PL provider can help leverage supply chain solutions at a grander scale. Along with freight services such as truckload brokerage, less-than-truckload or partial truckload shipments, customs clearance, and international freight management, 3PL providers offer support as part of your freight solution. Below you’ll find a high-level explanation of 3PL services.  

Mary O’Connell on What Shippers Expect from 3PLs

Truckload Services: Grow Your Capacity Overnight

Truckload brokerage is a middleman between carriers and shippers. The broker finds a carrier to move the goods, negotiate a competitive rate, arrange pickup and delivery, and handle billing and payment. You need a network that fits well with your footprint—no matter how big or small. Depending on the size of the load, shipments can move by full or partial truckload. If you don’t have trucks or drivers, many options exist!

Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Services: A Critical Network 

When you have a Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) shipment, you are shipping eight pallets of goods or less simultaneously. LTL shipments go on trucks that are consolidated with other shippers’ goods. They are taken to carrier terminals, are unloaded, and reloaded based on the final destination. 3PL providers can source with multiple carriers and assign one based on your needs and carrier strengths. They have strong relationships with national, regional, and local LTL carriers. They also offer special services like expedited and drop shipments (order fulfillment). As with Truckload Services, a 3PL provider matches optimal carriers based on the commodity and your geographic locations. They negotiate competitive rates, arrange pickup and delivery, and handle auditing, billing, and payment.

International Services: An Important Partnership

Whether shipping from North America or into North America, it requires expertise and a network of freight services. A 3PL provider can provide customs clearance, access to shipping containers (LCL & FCL), container shipping, and drayage once the container reaches the port. Shipping documents must be accurate and complete to ensure the delivery of goods on time and without error. Shipping goods internationally can be particularly challenging as some companies operate in multiple countries with different laws and customs requirements. For example, obtaining several import permits or certifications from foreign authorities may be necessary before shipping certain items overseas. The right provider will be able to partner with you to manage the documentation for the best result. 3PLs work with international service providers offering air, sea, trucking, warehousing, and distribution services. The right partner can help you reduce costs and improve efficiency in managing your supply chain.

Freight Management: The Best of a 3PL Provider

One of the most time-consuming parts of freight management is auditing carrier invoices. A 3PL provider can offer pre- or post-invoice auditing, carrier negotiation, resolution of invoice discrepancies, and final invoicing. Auditing involves reviewing shipping documents to ensure they adhere to business standards and regulations. Any charges outside the agreed-upon rate with the carrier are reconciled during auditing. Carrier invoice errors can occur when requirements for a shipment change, such as adding a liftgate while the freight is in transit. It is crucial to reconcile both sides before making a payment.


Freight claim administration manages claims submitted by carriers, shippers, and other parties involved in a shipment. These claims are filed when there is a problem with the delivery, damage, or misdelivery of goods. 3PLs can provide much value in the area of freight claim administration. They do this by examining the available evidence and resolving disputes between parties. Having an expert in claims management mediation is vital as it helps prevent costly disputes between carriers, shippers, and other parties involved in a freight transaction. The claims management process is lengthy. Freight management is a critical aspect of running any business – whether large or small – and having the support of 3PL providers can ease the stress and uncertainty of invoices and claims.

Technology: Visibility and Access

Centralized data is a key aspect of the visibility of your freight movements and enables leveraging data analytics. A transportation management system (TMS) is freight software that allows you to enter and schedule shipments and garner instant rates. It includes tracking as well as shipment history and invoices. As you look for a 3PL partnership, you should address where you are with your technology and where you want to be. The right 3PL provider will have the technology to close that gap for you and your business.

In Closing

Navigating the supply chain can be a daunting task. Partnering with 3PL providers benefits you in three distinct ways:

  1.  Better Service: 3PL providers have decades of experience and can handle all your logistics needs so that you don’t have to.
  2.  Cost Savings: Negotiated discounts with carriers are passed on to customers, so you save money from day one!
  3.  Expertise: Managing carrier relationships day in and day out means a 3PL provider knows exactly how each step of the process works so surprises are limited along the way!

FLI Transportation and Logistics has operated as a 3PL provider for 20 years. We serve mid-market manufacturers and distributors who value cost-effective solutions, customer service, and partnership. FLI Transportation and Logistics provides freight and transportation services at all levels of the supply chain for everything from small shipments to large-scale projects.

The FLI team includes experts in logistics, transportation, inventory management, warehousing, E-commerce, and more. We work with our customers to find the best solutions for their needs, whether shipping materials overseas or transporting products between warehouses. We are committed to providing excellent customer service and working with clients at all levels of their organizations. Our friendly and approachable team of experienced and passionate individuals will help you navigate the logistics world easily and efficiently.

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