Photo: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, 2007.
Many freight transport companies are offering less-than-truckload (LTL) services to their customers. Such shipments are generally composed of items of various sizes filling up specific orders that are usually not recurrent. In the above photo, a FedEx (second largest LTL carrier in the United States) truck is picking up cargo at a concrete foundation mold manufacturer in Kansas City. This shipment is likely bound for a specific construction project. Under such circumstances, FedEx is acting as a third-party logistics service provider (3PL) since it offers transportation and logistics services to its customers. A company usually relies on a 3PL instead of its own account when dealing with complex transportation processes (e.g. seasonal, market changes) or when a third party can provide cheaper and more reliable services.