Login



For PLUS+ subscription assistance, contact customer service.

Not a PLUS+ Subscriber?

Become a PLUS+ Subscriber today and you'll get access to all Supply Chain Management Review premium content including:

  • Full Web Access
  • 7 Magazine Issues per Year
  • Companion Digital Editions
  • Digital Edition Archives
  • Bonus Email Newsletters

Subscribe Today!

Premium access to exclusive online content, companion digital editions, magazine issues and email newsletters.

Subscribe Now.


Become a PLUS+ subscriber and you'll get access to all Supply Chain Management Review premium content including:

  • Full Web Access. All feature articles, bonus reports and industry research through scmr.com.

  • 7 Magazine Issues per year of Supply Chain Management Review magazine.

  • Companion Digital Editions. Searchable replicas of each magazine issue. Read them in any web browser. Delivered by email faster than printed issues.

  • Digital Editions Archives. Every article, every chart and every table as it appeared in the magazine for all archive issues back to 2009.

  • Bonus email newsletters. Add convenient weekly and monthly email newsletters to your subscription to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.

PLUS+ subscriptions start as low as $109/year*. Begin yours now.
That's less than $0.36 per day for access to information that you can use year-round to better manage your entire global supply chain.

For assistance with your PLUS+ subscription, contact customer service.

* Prices higher for subscriptions outside the USA.

You have been logged out of PLUS+


For PLUS+ subscription assistance, contact customer service.

Need to access our premium PLUS+ Content?
Upgrade your subscription now.


Our records show that you are currently receiving a free subscription to Supply Chain Management Review magazine, or your subscription has expired. To access our premium content, you need to upgrade your subscription to our PLUS+ status.

To upgrade your subscription account, please contact customer service at:

Email: [email protected] Phone: 1-800-598-6067 (1-508-663-1500 x294 outside USA)

Become a PLUS+ subscriber and you'll get access to all Supply Chain Management Review premium content including:

  • Full Web Access. All feature articles, bonus reports and industry research through scmr.com.

  • 7 Magazine Issues per year of Supply Chain Management Review magazine.

  • Companion Digital Editions. Searchable replicas of each magazine issue. Read them in any web browser. Delivered by email faster than printed issues.

  • Digital Editions Archives. Every article, every chart and every table as it appeared in the magazine for all archive issues back to 2010.

  • Bonus email newsletters. Add convenient weekly and monthly email newsletters to your subscription to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.

PLUS+ subscriptions start as low as $129/year*. Start yours now.
That's less than $0.36 per day for access to information that you can use year-round to better manage your entire global supply chain.

This content is available for PLUS+ subscribers.


Already a PLUS+ subscriber?


To begin or upgrade your subscription, Become a PLUS+ subscriber now.

For assistance with your PLUS+ subscription, contact customer service.

Sorry, but your login to PLUS+ has failed.


Please recheck your login information and resubmit below.



For PLUS+ subscription assistance, contact customer service.

Mergers, acquisitions and consolidation are driving the 3PL industry

For the second survey in a row, leading North American 3PLs identified the consolidation wave as the most important industry trend.

By ·
By ·

The Current Status and Future Prospects of the Third Party Logistics Industry in North America: The 2016 3PL CEO Survey

The March issue of Supply Chain Management Review featured The 2016 3PL CEO Survey: Threats, Disruptions, and Opportunities, the annual survey conducted by Robert C. Lieb of the CEOs of fourteen of the largest third-party logistics (3PL) companies serving the North American marketplace. Launched in 1994, this marked the 23rd iteration of Lieb’s survey. The SCMR article focused on the threats, disruptions and opportunities confronting 3PL CEO’s as they grapple with e-commerce, new technologies such as 3D printing, West Coast port issues and the political uncertainty emanating from Washington. Yet, Lieb’s study also included research into other areas. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be publishing the rest of the survey here on SCMR.com. Bob Trebilcock, editorial director.

Mergers and acquisitions (M/A)
Last week, we discussed the financial outlook of the North American 3PL industry. This week, we’ll look at mergers and acquisitions.

In our 2015 North American survey we identified the reasons for the massive wave of 3PL consolidations that occurred during 2014-2015. In our 2016 survey we focused not only on the short-term impact of those consolidations on the industry, but also on how continued consolidation might impact the regional industry in the longer-term.

In terms of short-term impacts the CEOs noted many companies that made acquisitions had already become much more diverse in their service offerings. They also reported that more intense price competition had emerged in many markets. Some respondents expressed concerns that Amazon might choose to participate in the consolidation movement by acquiring 3PLs and by doing so would become a formidable competitor in the 3PL space. One downside of the consolidation movement was noted—many companies that acquired other 3PLs are predictably experiencing significant post-acquisition systems integration problems. 

In terms of potential longer-term impact of further consolidation of the 3PL industry the CEOs suggested that:

  • Fewer, stronger players would emerge

  • Many smaller 3PLs would either be acquired or displaced

  • Niche players might enter the marketplace to handle smaller specialized customers and customers that would no longer be of interest to larger consolidated 3PLs

  • More significant entry barriers would emerge at the top of the market due to the stronger technology platforms of some of the larger 3PLs

  • Further industry consolidation would accelerate global expansion and acquisition of final-mile capabilities by 3PLs

  • 3PLs growing through acquisitions might have a difficult time optimizing customer supply chains when their own internal processes are being reformed and adapted

  • Price competition would likely intensity and large technology investments would be made as companies attempt to use it as a differentiation factor.

Five CEOs noted their companies made acquisitions during the past year, collectively acquiring three 3PLs, two transportation companies, two freight forwarders, and one warehousing company. Two companies reported they considered themselves potential acquisition targets.

Future plans
In terms of future plans, on average the fourteen companies projected that 10% of their revenue growth in the next three years would come from acquisitions, but individual company responses ranged from 0-50% with six companies indicating they expect none of their growth over that period to be acquisition-related.

When asked to identify what had been the most significant development in the regional 3PL industry during the past year, CEO responses covered a broad range of developments. For the second year in a row large-scale mergers/acquisitions and their impact on the industry were mentioned most frequently (seven times). That was followed by the continued expansion of E-commerce with six mentions. Amazon’s growth and emergence as a logistics service provider was cited three times.

The CEOs were then asked what major changes they expect to take place in the North American 3PL industry during 2017. The potential changes most frequently mentioned were continued consolidation of the 3PL industry (five mentions for the second year in a row), and the continued growth of E-commerce (mentioned four times). Among the other likely changes mentioned once were: increasing demand for local distribution centers to support E-commerce growth, the emergence of more robust solutions/services to support E-commerce, increased focus on visibility tools, and the continued technology advancement in the industry.

Robert C. Lieb, Ph.D. is a professor of Supply Chain Management at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Author’s note: 3PLs participating in the survey included Agility Logistics, APL Logistics, Cardinal Logistics, Coyote Logistics, DHL Supply Chain, DSC Logistics, MIQ Logistics, Nippon Express, Transplace, UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Werner Logistics, XPO, Yusen Logistics, (Confidential). *


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Supply Chain Management Review Magazine!

Subscribe today. Don't Miss Out!
Get in-depth coverage from industry experts with proven techniques for cutting supply chain costs and case studies in supply chain best practices.
Start Your Subscription Today!

Article Topics

3PL · 3PL CEO Survey · Robert C. Lieb · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Best Practices for Seamless Integrated Transportation Management
Few companies are putting transportation management best practices to work in their supply chain operations. However, when executed correctly, a transportation management solution is an effective way to improve cost efficiency and serve evolving customer needs.
Download Today!
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!


Latest Webcast
New Attitudes for S&OP / IBP to Keep Pace with Evolving Markets
Have you ever wondered why so many companies struggle to implement an effective S&OP strategy? In this webinar we'll examine why it's time to view S&OP as an evolutionary process that is flexible, adaptable and forward thinking
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
The Hackett Group Says Typical Procurement Organizations Need “Digital Transformation”
The potential cost take-out opportunity through digital transformation of the procurement function...
NAFTA Renegotiation and its Supply Chain Implications Explored
The first round of the negotiations among the United States, Canada and Mexico will take place in...

Resilinc Awarded Patent for supply Chain Risk Analytics and Vulnerability Maps
US Patent Number 9721294 protects the company’s unique supply chain risk analytics
Creating Holistic Supply Chain Sustainability: Not a Choice, a Given
When Oracle OpenWorld’s annual conference convenes in San Francisco this October, you can bet that...