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What’s the Difference Between a 3PL and Freight Forwarder?

July 28, 2017
5 min read
Less Than Truckload
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Shipping is a complicated business, especially if you’re trying to stick to a tight schedule while navigating the confusing world of carriers. There are two common services used by companies looking to navigate a complex shipment arrangement: freight forwarders and 3PLs. But many don’t know: what’s the difference between a 3PL and freight forwarder?

What is a Freight Forwarder?

A freight forwarding company can work with you to get your shipment from Point A to Point B using one or more carriers and shipping methods. For example, if you wanted to get a shipment from Akron, OH, to Edinburgh, Scotland, you might use a freight forwarder to arrange the air lift to Cleveland, marine shipment to England, rail from England to Scotland, and highway to the local destination in Edinburgh.

While your shipping process may not be this complicated, using multiple carriers can be a hassle, and a freight forwarder can help make it easier by arranging everything for you. The thing to remember is that a freight forwarding company is not a shipping company and they are not actually responsible for your shipment at any time. They are simply setting up all of the shipping services you need with the carriers so you don’t have to.

What is a 3PL?

On the other hand, a third-party logistics company, or 3PL, is a full-service shipping company that takes care of everything for you. The 3PL takes care of the entire supply chain from warehousing to shipments and straight down to logistics and they take responsibility for the shipment while it’s in their care.

Using our previous example, if you wanted to get your product from Akron to Scotland, you’d simply hire a 3PL and they’d take care of everything for you. If something got lost, damaged, or shipped to the wrong place, the 3PL carrier would remedy the situation. You wouldn’t have to make any decisions about carriers, packers, warehouses, or shipping methods. You could rest easy knowing that your product is getting where it needs to go and you don’t even have to lift a finger.

Using a 3PL also adds the advantage of making it easier for you to get real-time shipment updates, since some offer a web-based shipping software that provides tracking and billing information.

3PL vs. Freight Forwarder

A 3PL offers additional services that a freight forwarder doesn’t offer. 3PL companies are full-service, whereas a freight forwarder is just a middle man between the shipper and the carriers. A 3PL acts as carrier, keeper of warehoused goods, packer, and biller—all in one.

Third Party Logistics Services for You

When your shipping needs are complex, get a company that does it all. A 3PL company can simplify your shipping process, help you stay on budget, and ensure that your product gets where it needs to go on time. Contact the team at Amware now to learn more about 3PL and Public Warehousing services. Download a FREE 30-Day trial of our logistics software – Amrate.

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