In an ideal world, every one of a shipper’s loads would all be the same weight, have the same pickup times each day, and be between a very limited number of origin and destination pairs. Carriers love transporting this type of freight because it’s predictable. “Regular” lanes give carriers the ability to plan better, and as a result, earn consistent revenue and better manage their equipment and driver resources.
Ultimately this helps them manage their costs better, which can then lead to lower rates for their customers, too. Regular lanes also increase a carrier’s familiarity with the locations and products, which introduces more efficiency and better service to the entire logistics process.
At the same time, any example we could provide of a shipper having “perfect” loads is not the norm for the majority of companies - most have to deal with all types of irregular deliveries. This is thanks to business requirements that are anything but predictable and consistent. That’s just the way it is. The solution for shippers who cannot commit regular loads to carriers is often the spot market, which gives them the reliable ability to handle infrequent or unplanned shipments.
Shippers who need help with pretty much any delivery can look to the spot market for an instant rate and capacity to cover it. The problem can be, due to the urgency of the situation, spot rates and overall costs tend to be higher for shippers than pre-established or contract rates in regular lanes.
While this may not be the most desirable type of freight for carriers, an experienced third-party logistics provider, or 3PL, with good relationships can help both the shipper and carrier in these situations. Having to find last-minute capacity and rates on the spot market is something many shippers experience, so it’s important for them to work with 3PLs who can get the most competitive rates close to, or at, the typical rates paid for consistent lanes.
Benefits of Leveraging a 3PL for Irregular Lanes
3PLs have access to a larger network of carriers who can specifically cover loads on a spot basis. Shippers can leverage this network and additional carrier resources to quickly cover their loads with more reliable carriers who have been previously vetted by the 3PL. A 3PL partner will not only help shippers quickly address capacity issues and find more competitive spot rates, but they can also help reduce costs by identifying more backhaul opportunities (which carriers love, too). These kinds of opportunities can further optimize product movement and improve the bottom line for shippers.
3PLs also have a better understanding of how the market functions and they use this knowledge to buy freight more efficiently. In other words, they live in the spot market and understand how rates move. Leveraging their resources and broader visibility into the logistics marketplace, 3PLs can help small and mid-sized shippers make more informed decisions based on accurate cost data. This expertise enables shippers to manage their own transportation costs more effectively.
Irregular routes don’t have to lead to shippers paying unnecessarily high spot rates with the help of the right logistics partner. Shippers should consider what 3PLs have to offer when dealing with complex routes and limited capacity.