| ||Third party logistics service providers (3PL) become more and more important because most companies seek to outsource logistics tasks. However, 3PLs perform their services for many different clients. Thus a simple outsourcing approach of the given structures (i.e., operating existing warehouses and transport means for each customer separately) will not result in overall optimised logistics network. Hence, a 3PL must have a better understanding how to organise their networks (i.e., where to place hubs, how to integrate different transport modes, etc.). Furthermore, customers ask more and more 3PLs to supply added value services which have greater complexity compared to the \"traditional\" simple forwarding services. 3PLs that can perform added value services (e.g., goods distribution, material replenishment, co-ordination with customers and suppliers) do have a considerable competitive advantage. Furthermore, increased logistics capabilities of European 3PLs improves the competitiveness of European production companies as well.|
The major 3PLs are faced with a number of problems and challenges:
they have to locate their scope in terms of services offered to shippers;
they have to extend their geographical coverage, offering a really pan-European service;
they have to reorganise their network, combining the unique selling points of partners;
they have to offer a variety of transport options, including the use of intermodal transport;
they have to optimise their transport processes with the aim of decoupling the rise of economic growth from the rise of transport volume (reducing the negative effect on the environment);
they have to supply additional services to their customers including the operation and management (SCM) of complex distribution/supply structures for their customers.
Intermodal transport has become an important part of both national and European transport policies, especially from a sustainability point of view. But although there is a general understanding that intermodal transport could have a beneficial impact on the environment and congestion, only few 3PLs actually are using intermodal transport to distribute their goods. The present state-of-the-art within the transport market shows a decreasing share of intermodal transport within the modal split.
A number of problems prevent the implementation of intermodal transport on a broad scale. One of them being too high prices and too high producing costs. The involvement of various actors in intermodal transport, not only leads to an increase of the costs and a rise of the prices asked but also to a non-transparency of the process, which makes it less attractive for shippers and 3PLs to switch from conventional transport to intermodal transport.
Although a lot of information has been gathered the past couple of years, not only in national studies but also on a international level, the impact and role of 3PL providers on transport, especially on intermodal transport, on a European scale still has to be made. Also, a structured analysis of the main logistics regions and the reasons of their success hasn’t been carried out at a European level so far. In addition, there has been some research on the perception of shippers regarding the use of intermodal transport, but not from the 3PL point of view. Therefore, the European Commission wants to investigate the role of third party logistics providers and their impact on transport. After all, clarity on these issues might offer possibilities for a growth of this kind of transport.