In facilitating efficient management of your supply chain, choosing a transportation and logistics partner with right combination of services that fit your company needs is essential. Unfortunately, industry jargon breeds confusion. For example, 3PL (third-party logistics) and freight brokering are often spoken of as if interchangeable. They aren’t.
As our Cleveland 3PL experts can explain, there are some similarities, but also a few key differences. When you’re in the market for a logistics partner, those differences matter.
At On Time Delivery & Warehouse, we want clients to have the information and tools necessary to determine the best solutions for their operations.
What primarily sets 3PL services and freight brokers apart (as well as freight forwarders and motor carriers) is the range of services they provide (including whether they are asset or non-asset services) and the type of primary insurance coverage they carry. Much of this is spelled out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the regulator responsible for ensuring safety and legal compliance of over the road transportation.
What is a Freight Broker?
Freight brokers are individuals or entities that arrange for motor carrier transport of goods or property for a fee. The broker isn’t the one who actually transports the goods. They aren’t responsible for the property, nor do they own the equipment necessary to move it.
Being that freight brokers don’t own the assets themselves, their profit is gleaned from being a transactional agent. Through their connections, they buy and facilitate transport from mode-specific carriers, including truckload or less-than-truckload service providers, on behalf of their clients.
Another key point about freight brokers is the insurance coverage they offer in transport. Unlike motor carriers (those who own the trucks), brokers don’t provide cargo liability coverage. They may offer contingent coverage, but that will only kick in if the motor carrier’s coverage isn’t adequate to cover the losses. Wise freight brokers carry some form of insurance, but it’s not mandated by law so not all do. They can in some cases (depending on your contract) be held liable if a shipment is lost, stolen or damaged, but the contract could require the manufacturer or shipper to carry cargo insurance. These are points you’ll want clarified if you’re thinking of partnering with a freight broker.
By contrast, motor carriers own the assets required to move the goods, as well as carry the liability insurance coverage mandated by law.
If a freight broker fails to pay a carrier for a shipment moved on behalf of your business, your company may be stuck holding the bill. That’s why it’s important if you are contracting with a freight broker to work with one that has a solid reputation.
What is a 3PL (Third-Party Logistics Provider)?
A 3PL has the same operating authority of a freight broker under FMCSA terms. However, they do move freight for companies.
The primary difference is that a Cleveland 3PL like ours utilizes a much broader range of tools, services and technology compared to a freight broker. They can be asset services (like ours, as we own our own truck fleet) or non-asset providers, but instead of just moving materials, they also provide logistics services – for freight, warehousing or both.
Logistics providers also tend to have the most up-to-date track-and-trace technology necessary for supply chain transparency.
On Time Delivery and Warehouse offers these services, plus the value of a Container Freight Station and Customs exam site for consolidation and de-consolidation of both import and export freight.
What is a Freight Forwarder?
A freight forwarder is an individual or entity that offers transportation of goods for a fee, and also assembles and consolidates distribution operations of shipments.
A freight forwarder is responsible to transport products from the place it is received to the point of destination and can utilize transportation of rail, motor carriers and water carriers overseen by either the FMCSA or the Surface Transportation Board.
They may be responsible for holding the primary liability insurance coverage to move your goods if they are moving international freight in-house.
The Value of 3PL and Freight Broker Services
So why would anyone need to contract with a freight broker or logistics provider? Why not just go direct to the motor carrier?
The answer comes down to service and capacity. Most businesses don’t have relationships with hundreds of motor carriers necessary to ensure their supply chain is cost-effective and streamlined.
Having a trusted Cleveland 3PL, freight broker or freight forwarder available to help you navigate can be invaluable.
What are the definitions of motor carrier, broker and freight forwarder authorities? Nov. 11, 2017, FMCSA
More Blog Entries:
Cleveland 3PL Can Lower Client Liability Risk, July 30, 2019, Cleveland 3PL Provider Blog
Cleveland intermodal transportation is a combination of two or more shipping modes, such as truck, ship, rail or aircraft, used to move goods to their final destination. It’s often most beneficial for shippers who need to move materials a distance of 750 miles or more. Third-party logistics teams are often contracted to help oversee supply chains involving intermodal transport as it involves multiple carriers each responsible for a specific mode.
Intermodal transport has been altered drastically just in the last several decades, with advances including automated terminals and double-stack cars. This led to soaring growth associated with cost reductions and productivity gains. The benefits of Cleveland intermodal transportation are still apparent, but the momentum does appear to be slowing a bit, according to the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA).
Domestic intermodal volume has fallen 6 percent year-over-year in the first half of 2019 and there was a nearly 8 percent drop in the second quarter of 2019. Intermodal traffic moving in trailers and containers has grown just 0.1 percent in the last five years, but it did hit a peak just last year.
Cleveland truckload shipping rates are constantly in flux, thanks to numerous cost variables such as distance, type of product and mode.
The ever-changing cost of truckload shipping can make determining an exact rate for a single freight somewhat challenging, especially if the plan is to use more than one carrier or mode.
To keep Cleveland truckload shipping rates as transparent, manageable and consistent as possible, work with a third-party logistics (3PL) firm. Establish open communication upfront. This will ensure your truck pricing quotes are more accurate and that you’re fully leveraging all the services and technology benefits your 3PL and carrier partners offer.
Efficiency in Cleveland warehousing is essential for a company to thrive. This is especially true when inventory is one of a business’s largest assets – and biggest expenses. But warehousing is a huge undertaking, which is why so many firms outsource this crucial function to third-party logistics teams that specialize in it.
Third-party logistics companies, or 3PLs, work in varying capacities to manage your supply chain. Warehousing is a critical cog in the supply chain wheelhouse, key to the protection, packaging and delivery of your goods from the front end of production to the final consumer destination.
There can be benefit in managing in-house warehousing, but it should be understood it’s a challenging specialty enterprise all its own.
The term “driver detention” in trucking refers to occasions when a trucker’s fastest route is delayed at the location of either pickup origin or delivery destination – costing the driver and other stakeholders time and money and posing possible safety risks on the road. Our Cleveland trucking service providers are familiar with the old adage, “If the wheels aren’t turning, truckers aren’t earning,” and work to address these issues to improve efficiency and capacity and keep costs in check.
Loading dock times longer than a two hours is considered a substantial delay, and it’s become a common issue weighing heavily on the trucking industry the last several years.
reported that, on average, only 6.5 of the total 11 hours of drive time available under federal Hours of Service rules are spent actually driving. Much of the rest spent waiting to load and unload.
Working with a Cleveland trucking service with warehousing and logistics capabilities can help to identify which issues and individual suppliers/receivers pose the most driver detention risk and work to reduce those risks.
The concept of supply chain visibility wasn’t an issue many Northeast Ohio warehousing and logistics firms considered much until just the last couple decades. Supply chain visibility is the tracking of products or components from manufacturer to final destination and making this information readily available to all stakeholders, customer included, with the goal of strengthening and improving the supply chain.
Today, supply chain transparency is a top priority for logistics powerhouses, with top-level managers across a range of industries paying close attention.
Businesses are under increasingly intense pressure from consumers, governments, non-profits and other stakeholders to delivery goods in tact and on time – and to do so in a way that is considered responsible and sustainable from ecological and humanitarian standpoints.
Cleveland trucking companies expressed alarm about the plight of several truck drivers in recent months arrested on serious felony drug trafficking charges – for hauling federally-approved industrial hemp across state lines. Along with its oil extract, cannabidiol (CBD), hemp was declared legal by Congress with the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.
To be clear, hemp and CBD are not the same substance as marijuana, which contains the psychoactive ingredient THC. Both hemp and marijuana are parts of the same cannabis plant, but neither hemp nor its CBD derivative contains more than trace amounts of THC (0.3 percent maximum by law).
Hemp is a versatile plant used for thousands of years as a food and fiber source. It was widely grown in the U.S. prior to WWII, until the government chose to strictly regulate it alongside marijuana. Hemp-derived CBD is purported to have a number of health benefits for a range of conditions, ranging from depression to rheumatoid arthritis to epilepsy.
The problem for trucking companies in Cleveland and throughout Northeast Ohio is that this change in federal statute did not automatically alter any state laws. States have been tackling it one-by-one, and some still have the old laws in place. That means truck drivers hauling hemp and CBD material through these states will remain at risk.
Here in Ohio, lawmakers passed a CBD/hemp bill, SB 57, about a week ago – more than six months after the 2018 Farm Bill went into effect. The measure aligns state and federal law.
Bottlenecks – on urban roads and interstate thoroughfares – have been on the radar of our Cleveland trucking firm for some time.
Transportation bottlenecks in the supply chain could include:
- Congestion on a freeway in an intercity trucking freeway;
- A traffic light that’s poorly-timed on an urban trucking corridor;
- Routine crashes at an intersection that’s improperly-designed or outdated.
Everyone knows the pain of a traffic jam, but for the U.S. trucking industry, per a report last year from the American Transportation Research Institute, trucking industry time losses due to clogged highways collectively added up to 1.2 billion hours annually. According to the agency’s release, this is equivalent to more than 425,000 truck drivers sitting in idle mode – for a full 12 months. Total cost of this traffic congestion to the trucking industry (which ultimately affects shippers and consumers too) is nearly $75 billion.
Worst Trucking Bottlenecks in U.S. Supply Chain
Our Cleveland trucking company stays constantly apprised of traffic flow and congestion on major and minor routes, maintaining contingencies for alternative routes to help save time – and ultimately money. For example, if every UPS vehicle every day experienced a 5-minute delay, this would total $115 million in additional costs a year.
Our third-party logistics supply chain partners in Cleveland are adept at helping clients navigate all challenges impacting the timely flow of goods to their final destination. Sometimes, the issue is a faraway natural disaster or social unrest. Other times, it’s homegrown regulation or infrastructure challenges.
Right now, there’s swelling concern over recent promises by President Donald Trump to shutdown the U.S.-Mexican border if neither Congress nor the Mexican government takes what he deems decisive action to stem the tide of illicit drugs and illegal immigration into the U.S. Ohio 3PL partners at On Time Delivery & Warehousing are watching the situation closely, and have begun mapping supply chain contingency plans.
The likelihood of an actual border shutdown isn’t clear. While some of the president’s allies in Washington D.C. have stated a total border closure would be “catastrophic” to U.S. supply chains, the president isn’t exactly known for always toeing the party line. He’s said that secure borders take priority over trade. He has floated a potential compromise: A border closure solely permitting the back-and-forth flow of commercial trucks. Whether that would be enough to blunt the biggest supply chain impacts isn’t certain.
Meanwhile, trucks at the Mexican border have reported long delays this month, after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers were abruptly reassigned from import regulation to immigration processing, according to Bloomberg.
For us, this is not about choosing political sides. Our role as an Ohio 3PL partner is to be prepared for all scenarios with the goal of minimizing the product and financial losses for our clients – and that’s what we intend to do.
Warehousing bottlenecks are a source of time-consuming and costly delays that ultimately chip away at customer confidence. A once-in-a-while warehouse bottleneck might be manageable, but even an occasional bottleneck can signal larger, non-obvious systemic issues that are hurting your bottom line. If this or constant in-house warehousing bottleneck headaches sound familiar, it’s time to discuss these concerns with an knowledgeable Cleveland 3PL provider.
Outsourcing warehousing services to a third-party logistics firm is sometimes the smartest way to manage complex and/ or fluctuating operations long-term – and avoid warehousing bottlenecks.