How to Choose a 3PL, Freight Broker, or Freight Forwarder

How to Choose a 3PL, Freight Broker, or Freight Forwarder

January 11, 2012 - 12:31 PM

We make quite a few sales calls in a week. Our response varies from hang-ups to conversions and we field quite a few rejections. Most of the rejection is centered around the premise that a freight broker is dishonest or because a service failure occurred the last time the customer used a 3PL.

As a transportation purchaser you should remember that a 3PL is based in a service industry. Customer service should be the #1 priority from your transportation provider. If you're not getting great customer service, I would encourage you to look elsewhere.

When you start looking keep the following in mind:

  1. When you call the vendor do they answer on a land line or cell phone? Do they work at home?

A strong case can be made that a representative who is not in an office regularly will be slower at completing your requests. For example, rating your shipment requires factoring many things such as spot market trends, fuel, and mileage. While a smartphone is robust, it is not the same as a desktop. If your 3PL works from home chances are they are a sole operator and that could mean in event of an emergency backup is not readily available.  Your 3PL should have an office with employees that know who you and your freight are. 

2.  When you email the vendor a rate request how long does it take to get a response?

It should be no more than 30 to 60 minutes during regular business hours.  I would suggest finding a broker who will send rates after business hours too.  The rate sent to you should be accurate and the cost should not adjust after the load is moved unless the terms of the shipment have changed.

3.  Do they save the past shipment details?  How is their memory?

Your broker should have software that will save all addresses and store all shipment specifics.   When you mention that the shipment is the same as the last load, they should remember the load and mention the specifics from memory. 

4.  When a carrier is dispatched on your shipment does the carrier know the shipment specifics when they arrive?

Many of the problems that occur on a shipment can be discovered during the dispatch process.   Your broker should convey the shipment details accurately and the carrier should be aware of your specific needs.  If the carrier is not aware of your needs when they arrive then the dispatch process of your 3PL needs improvement.   Dispatch is one of the most basic but vital parts of their job.

5.  When service failure occurs what happens?

100% of the time your broker should have a backup plan in place so that in the event a pickup/delivery is delayed you will be taken care of.   If an unavoidable service failure should occur your freight broker should be honest and fair with all parties.  They should work on your behalf and not the carriers.  

6.  How do they invoice you and are the invoices accurate?

They should have multiple delivery methods for invoicing.  The invoice totals should match the quoted rates.   If the costs changed they should have notified you in writing at the point things changed.   You should have an opportunity to control your costs.  

These are six small indicators that can tell a lot about the freight broker you're dealing with.  Making a change is never easy and inevitably there will be some red tape and a small period of adjustment.  

Hopefully if you stick to these basics rules the change will pay off in the long run.   

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