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3PL Trends to Watch in 2016 and Beyond

June 16, 2016

For third-party logistics, 2015 was a year dominated by mergers and acquisitions, ample carrier capacity, and sagging fuel prices.

3PL net revenues grew 4.5% in 2015 to $71.9 billion.

Overall gross revenues had a muted 2.2% increase, primarily due to reduced fuel prices in 2015 versus 2014 and the resulting reduction in fuel surcharge revenue for non-asset domestic and international transportation managers.

The total U.S. 3PL market expanded to $161.2 billion.

Big M&A deals changed third-party logistics from mid-2014 through 2015. Brad Jacobs and his XPO Logistics team helped make 2015 the largest 3PL M&A year (with purchases including Con-way and Norbert Dentressangle) for deals over $100 million at 11, since A&A began tracking activity in 1999. The resulting M&A operations integrations have increased concentration on efficiency and profitability. They should add further emphasis on quality and “lean” process improvement initiatives.

For 2015, the domestic transportation management (DTM) 3PL segment led the way with net revenue growth of 12.4%. DTM is the modern and sophisticated offspring of freight brokerage.

International transportation management (ITM) rebounded with 4.8% net revenue growth.

Dedicated contract carriage (DCC) net revenue saw muted growth of 4.0% due to ample carrier capacity in the market. 

While many 3PL warehouses were full in 2014 and 2015, pricing pressure has dominated the competitive landscape. Value-added warehousing and distribution (VAWD) had a meager 2.2% increase in net revenue for the year.

In warehousing the market has been affected by Amazon’s sequential growth in its fulfillment center operations. If all of Amazon’s warehouses, accounting for 100.6 million square feet of space were counted as 3PL VAWD space, it would be the third largest global VAWD 3PL behind DHL Supply Chain & Global Forwarding with 248 million square feet and XPO Logistics with 151 million square feet (through the combination of Norbert Dentressangle, Menlo Logistics, and New Breed Logistics).

Amazon is also growing its internal freight forwarding and domestic transportation management skills,  which puts the company in a position to go to market as an integrated 3PL. It has already described itself as a transportation service provider in a recent 10-K filing.

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