3PLs vs. Asset-Based Shipping Companies

When searching for the perfect carrier to move your freight, you might find yourself wondering how to decide between an asset-based carrier and a non-asset based provider (also known as a third-party logistics company, or 3PL). Working with a company that has their own fleet of equipment might seem like the obvious answer as to who you should call to move your freight. While it’s true that by going this route, you can work directly with the carrier that will be physically hauling your shipments, you may be missing out on some extra perks.


First, there’s the issue of capacity. With an asset-based provider, the capacity they have is whatever their particular fleet can handle at the time. This can range from one or two trucks to hundreds of trucks, depending on the size of the company. With truckload capacity being tighter than ever over the past few years, having access to only a small number of trucks can be risky business. If your asset-based carrier of choice is booked up, your freight may end up on the back burner.

You might imagine that working directly with an asset-based carrier would lead you to build better relationships, and thus, better access to capacity, but by working with a 3PL, your network would increase dramatically. By building relationships with one or two sales reps at a 3PL, you’ve secured a network of thousands of carriers, and greatly increased the capacity you have access to.

Daily Freight Management

Many shippers often find themselves wishing they could save time when it comes to scheduling and tracking their freight, or managing inevitable issues like delays and breakdowns. Working with an asset-based company means you’re on your own when these things happen, and it’s up to you to work it out with the carrier.

Time is truly of the essence when it comes to freight management, and no one knows this better than an experienced 3PL. This is why 3PLs are a good choice for those looking to save a little time in their daily freight management. A 3PL works out any issues that arise with the carrier directly, and only involves you if necessary.


Finding asset-based carriers on your own may leave you wide open for potential risk, from freight claims to stolen cargo or worse. Unless you have procedures in place to vet the asset-based carriers you’re working with, you could end up getting scammed, working with an uninsured driver, or someone who is non-compliant with government regulations. Working with a 3PL who has a carrier compliance department would ensure that only highly vetted carriers are hauling your freight. Any reputable 3PL will do their best to build a carrier base that is compliant and trustworthy.

If you’re used to working with asset-based carriers, hiring a 3PL to handle your shipments may come off as a little intimidating at first, as working with a “middle man” may be different than what you’re accustomed to. However, be careful to not let your hesitation cost you both time and money, as you may be missing out on valuable pros that come with working with a 3PL.

If you’re interested in how a 3PL, like Trinity, could help make managing your freight easier, click here