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What is a Container Chassis (Updated for 2022)

Views: 72     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-09-07      Origin: Site

A container chassis is a frame and a set of wheeled containers used to transport cargo. chassis is uniquely designed and reinforced for crane loading and unloading. chassis design includes locking mechanisms to secure containers to the chassis for short or long hauls.  The Chassis needs to charge extra. Although this special mode can reduce the operating cost of the fleet for many years, it has aggravated the congestion of the US shipping routes in the past two years.


In this guide is divided into 7 parts:

What is a Container Chassis?

What is Chassis Fee?

Container Chassis Types

The Impact of Chassis on Sea and Rail Transportation

Currently Improving

Three Container Chassis Provider

Grounded and Chassis Container Terminal Operations


chassis freight



What is a Container Chassis?

Container chassis, also known as multimodal chassis or skeleton trailer, is a semi-trailer designed to safely carry multimodal containers. Truckers use the chassis to transport containers between ports, rail yards, container yards and shipper facilities. This type of trucking is sometimes referred to as drayage.


In order to rapidly develop their own transportation capacity, American shipowners provide many preferential measures to various customers. For example, in the early 1990s, the benefits of the same price of IPI became the first pot of gold for the first batch of American shipowners.


Compared with the above, the benefits of Chassis were actually born earlier. When container transportation was born in the United States, the ship owner was already responsible for providing frames for the fleet to use. When the network support matures, the shipowner finds that the chassis service is a project that has nothing to do with the main business and has huge additional expenses, so he has been looking for opportunities to exit the frame market. After the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008, shipowners finally made up their minds to sell their chassis to relevant leasing companies, thereby getting rid of chassis services.


However, although the shipowner no longer owns chassis, after all, the long-standing operating habits and service-derived functions make it still closely related to chassis leasing company. Moreover, each leasing chassis company even has an exclusive agreement with the ship owner, that is, the fleet can only cooperate with the chassis company designated by the ship owner. Currently, there are 3 well-known chassis rental companies in the United States, with a total of nearly 400,000 chassis.


What is Chassis Fee?

Unless one carrier owns the drayage trucks used throughout a shipment, the transfer of a container to a chassis incurs a chassis fee. The chassis fee is a flat fee for FCLs (full container loads) which depends on the trucking company, and a variable fee for LCLs (less than container loads). Chassis fees are also higher for overweight containers that require tri-axle chassis. While somewhat dependent on location, as a general rule, a load weight of more than 36,000 to 37,000 pounds for a 20 foot container or above 44,000 pounds for a 40 foot container classifies as overweight. Chassis fees - sometimes listed as chassis usage fees - are required, and can also include charges for additional days of use.


Container Chassis Types

Since there are multiple shipping container dimensions, there must be varied chassis to haul them. Some of the different types of chassis outlined here have specific use cases for short-haul and some for long-haul situations.


· 20ft and 40ft Chassis: Standard international shipping container

· 45ft and 53ft Chassis: Shipping containers used in intermodal drayage

· Two-Axle: Standard chassis configuration for 20ft and 40ft loads

· Three-Axle: Standard chassis configuration for overweight 20ft and 40ft loads

· Extendable: Provides the option to carry various container sizes

· Gooseneck: A chassis with a lower bottom so they can carry taller containers

· Lightweight: A chassis with a lower bottom so they can carry taller containers

· Heavy-Duty: A chassis with a heavy weight, that can carry heavier loads than normal

· Combo: A chassis that can use a 20ft or 40ft application

· Flatbed: A chassis that can hold two 20ft containers or one 40ft container

· Straight Frame: A chassis with no tunnels, where a gooseneck has tunnels

· Rear B-Train: A chassis with back to dock capability, carrying 20ft or 40ft containers



The Impact of Chassis on Sea and Rail Transportation


1. Impact on sea shipping

The mode of shipping is to arrive at the port, and the container directly falls in the container yard, waiting for the fleet to pick up the goods. As a team, you need to go to the leasing company to pick up the chassis of ship owner A, then go to the port area to pick up the cabinet of ship owner A, and then send it to the customer warehouse. According to the efficiency of the United States and the expensive waiting time of the fleet, customers are often accustomed to leaving the chassis and the container together in the factory after unloading, and then having the fleet pull the empty container and chassis back to the port area to return the container after a few days. However, it is possible that after the convoy reaches the port area, it needs to pick up the locker of ship owner B, so that the team has to first return the chassis of ship owner A and then pick up the chassis of ship owner B, and finally go to the port area to propose ship owner B cabinet. The waste of transportation capacity caused by the chassis and the efficiency loss of the frame staying in the factory greatly limit the circulation of chassis, and even there are various embarrassing situations in which there are vehicles but no chassis, which leads to the inability to carry cabinets. In the end, a series of chain reactions such as slow container flow and port congestion were exacerbated.


2. Impact on railway transportation

The railway mode is completely different from the shipping mode. The containers are often placed on the frame, and the fleet only needs to pick it up directly. We call it the wheeled operation mode. However, the number of chassis is far less than the number of containers, so that more containers have to fall directly into the yard like the port area, and due to space constraints, the containers have to be stacked on top of each other, resulting in the wheeled operation being forced to become grounded operation. However, the long-standing wheeled operation mode makes the railway yard not equipped with the operation capacity of the shipping yard. When the trucks come to pick up the goods, they will be told that the cabinet cannot be picked up due to insufficient cranes, manpower or chassis, which further results in a waste of transportation capacity. 



Currently Improving

At present, the congestion situation in the United States has been significantly alleviated. The chassis market, which has always been smooth sailing, has experienced this severe pain and is also accelerating changes. For example, more and more shipowners have abandoned relevant exclusive agreements, and each fleet purchases enough chassis for their own transportation, and railway yards and yards have also begun to consider using grounded operation mode for a long time.



Three Container Chassis Provider

1. Direct Chassis Link (DCLI)

Direct Chassis Link was originally owned by Maersk and was later sold to a private equity firm in 2012. Because of this relationship, they have undertaken a lot of previous Maersk frames. DCLI has 154,000 marine frames (to service imported containers) and 90,000 domestic frames (to serve the most common 53-foot container shipped in the US).


2. FlexiVan

FlexiVan has more than 120,000 frames in more than 200 yards across the United States. The service objects are shipping companies, trailer companies, cargo owners, and freight forwarders. In February 2020, the owner of American Intermodal Management (AIM), a mid-size frame rental company, purchased FlexiVan and merged the two companies, with former AIM CEO Ron Widdows as CEO of the new company. Friends of the original APL should be familiar with this name: Ron Widdows was APL's CEO.


3. TRAC Intermodal

TRAC Intermodal has the largest number of marine frames in the United States, with a total of 180,000. There are more than 600 storage yards and 11 chassis pools in the United States, providing three types of frame rental services: chassis pool, individual frame rental, and customized rental (such as the frames required for ZIM's clipper service).


The following is the relationship between each shipping company and container chassis provider in the LA/LB area:

What is a Container Chassis



Grounded and Chassis Container Terminal Operations

Grounded operation means that the container is unloaded from the ship, not on the frame, but directly on the ground of the dock yard, and the containers are stacked on top of each other. We are familiar with this approach. When the container needs to be lifted, the container should be placed on the frame by the yard crane and towed away. The advantage of this is to save heap space. The downside is that you have to carry the frame with you when carrying the container.


What is a Container Chassis What is a Container Chassis-2



Here comes the problem. Most of the trailer companies do not have their own frames, and need to be provided by the dock and shipping companies. Taking LA as an example, with 12 docks, hundreds or thousands of trailer companies, and a dozen shipping companies, how to manage the frame is a big problem. The towing company generally needs to go to the chassis pool in or near the designated dock to pick up the frame, and then go to the dock yard to pick up the container. There are many similar chassis pools, and each large frame rental company has its own dedicated pool. This approach of each tube brings many disadvantages, which greatly limits the use area of the frame. Towing companies need to sign up with each chassis pool or rental company individually. Each towing company may go to any of the 12 terminals to drop off the container. The location of each terminal and each frame rental company is different. It is necessary for the towing company to drop off containers from different shipping companies. Running to different places, the time and money costs are greatly increased.


By the way, SSA wharf is special, they manage their own chassis pool, called WCCP (West Coast Chassis Pool). The main shipping companies using the SSA terminal are Matson and SM LINE.


What is a Container Chassis-3


In response to this situation, the industry has launched a gray pool, which means that several frame rental companies put the frames in a common pool for the trailer company to use. The biggest advantage is that no matter which shipping company the trailer company is carrying, they can go to this gray pool to pick up the frame. Gray pool usually has a special management company responsible for unified management, and each frame rental company charges frame fees according to their own agreements with shipping companies and trailer companies.


The largest gray pool in the United States is in Los Angeles, called The Pool of Pools (POP), with a total of more than 65,000 frames, which is simply the king of the pool. Not surprisingly, LA/LB is responsible for more than half of the U.S. container import business, and has the most complex number of terminals and operations. POP is an agreement between the three largest frame rental companies with their own exclusive chassis pools (DCLP, TPSP, FLBP). Specifically, this protocol allows the frames of the three chassis pools to be used interchangeably at 18 drop-off frame points covering the LA/LB terminal and rail yard. Signed towing companies can pick up or return frames from any of the 18 pick-up and return points, greatly improving operational efficiency.


POP also has a dedicated website that regularly publishes various data, such as frame inventory and gaps. There is also the average dwell time of the frame on the dock and on the street (time from leaving the dock to returning). The picture below is the latest dwelltime.


What is a Container Chassis-4


It can be seen that after a large number of frames flowed out of the dock, they were pressed in the guest warehouse for a long time and not returned, which was an important reason for the shortage of frames. Of course, it's not that the guests don't want to return it. The operation of the guest warehouse itself and the difficulty of returning empty containers also objectively caused a large number of frames to be unable to return to the pool in time. The supply chain is interlinked, and it takes everyone's efforts to solve the problem completely.

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