Chassis Phase Out

May 16, 2011, 9:37 AM

In order to reduce costs, ocean carriers are beginning to phase out their long standing practice of providing chassis to their customers. Port truckers have always been responsible for bringing the containers to and from the terminals; however, the carriers have provided the chassis with the container as a unit. The chassis are necessary to carry shipping containers; therefore, truckers will be forced to find another way to obtain and pay for these chassis.

This will be a major adjustment that will no doubt be refined through a transition period. Many options face the industry. The trucking companies may either buy or rent their own chassis. However, not all trucking companies will have the capital to buy the chassis and some companies will be so small that the additional money and logistics of renting the chassis will pose a real threat to their business.

Many ports, such as Virginia International Terminal, may take advantage of chassis pools. However, with time, the ownership of these pooled chassis will be transferred from the various carriers to leasing companies. Another approach has already been utilized by Maersk Line, which uses its subsidiary, Direct Container link, to charge truckers a flat fee of $11 a day for unlimited use of the chassis.

Once all the kinks are worked out regarding who will supply the chassis and how much they will cost, the positive effects of this transition may become apparent to the industry. For instance, no longer will truckers be forced to use different chassis for containers, depending on the carrier from whom they borrowed it. Truckers will have the benefit and ease of simply using the same chassis for multiple hauls during the day. Also, more competition will promote the abundance of safer and higher quality chassis.

There is no doubt that this transition will include obstacles for the industry as a whole, which will require the international trade industry to come together and devise a workable solution. The different industry areas, which each have their own unique set of concerns, all have a stake in seeing that the end result is both systematic and cost-effective. If properly handled, the industry will thrive from this challenge in the long run. -R. Ellen Coley