What Is a 2PL in Shipping and Logistics?

Shipping and logistics can be pretty complex

  • Written by Tess Holman
  • Published on December 7, 2023
  • Time to read 9 minutes


Shipping and logistics can be pretty complex, involving many companies and services to move products from one place to another. One important player in this process is called a 2PL, or Second-Party Logistics provider. Let’s dive into this topic to understand this service and how it fits into the bigger logistics picture.

What Is a 2PL Provider?

A 2PL, or Second-Party Logistics provider, is a company that specializes in handling one specific part of a business’s logistics. Unlike a 1PL, where a company manages its own logistics, or a 3PL, where an external company manages multiple logistics tasks, a Second-Party Logistics provider focuses on just one job within the supply chain.

What a 2PL Does

Here are the primary jobs:

  • Getting Things from One Place to Another: This company will ensure products are moved from where they are to where they need to go. This includes planning delivery routes and ensuring things arrive on time.
  • Storing Products: Some Second-Party Logistics professionals are experts at storing products until needed. They track what’s in storage and ensure orders get filled correctly.
  • Helping with Shipping: Sometimes, 2PLs act as middlemen between the companies sending products and the people delivering them. They arrange the transportation and make sure everything goes smoothly.
  • Dealing with Customs: A Second-Party business might help with customs paperwork and rules for shipments crossing international borders, ensuring everything gets through without problems.

How 2PL Differs from Other Logistics Models

To understand 2PL better, it’s essential to know how it’s different from other ways of handling logistics, like 1PL and 3PL.

  • 1PL vs. 2PL:
    • Who Does It: In a 1PL, the company handles logistics, but with a second party, an outside company does it.
    • What They Do: A 1PL handles everything about logistics, while a 2PL only deals with one specific part.
  • 2PL vs. 3PL:
    • Specialization: A 2PL focuses on doing one job well, while a 3PL does many logistics tasks.
    • Control: When you work with a 2PL, you usually have more control over your logistics than a 3PL, which takes care of many things.

Why Partnering with a 2PL Is a Good Idea

Now that you know what a 2PL does and how it’s different, let’s explore why teaming up with a 2PL can be helpful.

  • Experts at What They Do: 2PLs specialize in their specific logistics area. This means they know how to do their job well, which can save you time and money.
  • Save Money: Hiring a second-party provider often lowers your costs. This is excellent for businesses looking to spend less while still getting good service.
  • Focus on What You Do Best: When you work with a 2PL, you can concentrate on what your business does best instead of worrying about logistics details.
  • Flexible: 2PLs can usually adjust their services to match your changing needs, making them a good choice if your business goes through busy and slow times.
  • Global Help: If your business deals with other countries, a second party can help you navigate international shipping rules and ensure things go smoothly.
A comparison chart is shown, illustrating the differences between a 1PL, 2PL, and 3PL.

Choosing the Right 2PL Provider

Selecting the right 2PL provider is essential for your business’s success. Here’s what to think about when making this choice:

  • What You Need: Determine which part of your logistics you want the 2PL to handle. This will help you find a provider that specializes in that area.
  • Experience and Reputation: Check if the provider has a good history and what their past clients say about them.
  • Technology and Innovation: Make sure the provider uses modern technology to make things easier and more efficient for you.
  • Costs: Understand how much the 2PL will charge you and if there are any extra fees.
  • Adaptable: See if the provider can adjust to your changing needs as your business grows.
  • Customer Service: Good communication is essential. Make sure the provider has a customer service team that is responsive.

Examples of How 2PLs Have Helped Businesses

Let’s look at a few real examples to see how 2PL providers have made a difference:

  • Amazon’s FBA: Amazon’s FBA program helps sellers by taking care of storing, packing, and shipping their products. This is a second-party service.
  • FedEx Supply Chain: FedEx offers second-party services to businesses, including warehousing, transportation, and distribution solutions.
  • DHL Customs Brokerage: DHL helps businesses deal with international shipping by handling customs rules and paperwork.

Challenges and Things to Think About

While 2PL providers can be very helpful, there are some things to be aware of:

  • Losing Control: When you hire a 2PL, you’re giving up some control over that part of your logistics. Make sure you and the provider understand each other well.
  • Connecting Systems: Integrating your systems with the 2PL might take effort to ensure everything works smoothly.
  • Managing Risks: Consider the risks involved in your logistics and ensure the 2PL has plans to deal with them.
  • Quality Check: Monitor the service quality to ensure it stays high.


A 2PL can be a great business partner in the world of shipping and logistics. They help you save money, focus on what you do best, and make sure things run smoothly. You can improve your logistics and business by understanding what a second-party logistics partner is and how to pick the right one.

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