What are the main 3PL Services?

Admiral E. J. King famously said “I don’t know what the hell this “logistics” is that Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it.”

Since he was an admiral, I am pretty sure somebody got Mr. King some logistics.

Admiral King was no doubt surrounded by logistics activities and logisticians. He just didn’t know which functions were actually considered logistics.

We have the same problem in the 3PL business. We are surrounded by so many different types of 3PLs and 3PL services. Where does one service stop and another begin? What is considered logistics vs what is considered supply chain? Or distribution?

So what is a 3PL?

According to CSCMP, a Third Party Logistics Provider is:

A firm which provides multiple logistics services for use by customers. Preferably, these services are integrated, or “bundled” together by the provider. These firms facilitate the movement of parts and materials from suppliers to manufacturers, and finished products from manufacturers to distributors and retailers. Among the services which they provide are transportation, warehousing, cross-docking, inventory management, packaging, and freight forwarding.

What are the 3PL Services?

Below are the 5 categories of logistics services along with a listing of the 46 services.

Logistics Services

  • Inbound Logistics
  • Just-in-Time (JIT)
  • Payment Auditing / Processing

Transportation Services

  • Package Delivery
  • Air Cargo
  • Ocean
  • Less Than Truckload (LTL)
  • Truckload
  • Fleet Acquisition
  • Equipment / Drivers
  • Dedicated Contract Carriage
  • Intermodal
  • Final Mile
  • Rail


  • Pick and Pack
  • Sub-assembly
  • Site Location
  • Transloading
  • Distribution Center Management
  • Vendor Managed Inventory
  • Cross-docking
  • Fulfillment

Special Services

  •  Direct to Home
  •  Direct to Store
  •  Sustainability and Green Logistics
  •  Reverse Logistics
  •  Product Lifecycle Management
  •  Supply Chain Security Analysis
  •  Contingency / Crisis Planning
  •  Global Expansion
  •  Foreign Trade Zone
  •  Logistics/Transportation Consulting
  •  Import / Export / Customs
  •  Labor Management
  • Marketing / Customer Service

Technology/Web Services          

  • EDI
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Predictive Analytics
  • Technology/Web Services – Global Trade Management (GTM)
  • Transportation Management System (TMS)
  • Warehouse Management System (WMS)
  • Supplier Management
  • Customer Management
  • Cloud Based Solutions
  • Visibility
  • Wireless


Every year Inbound Logistics magazine publishes a list of the Top 100 3PLs. Along with the top 3PLs, they describe the services so I used that as my guide. I wrote an ebook with definitions for each of these services a few years back. The definitions would have made this post way too long so I will save them for another post.

Do you agree with this list of services? Any services missing?

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