How Will the Chassis Shortage Affect the Intermodal Industry?

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The intermodal chassis shortage is a continuing and serious issue for businesses throughout the US.

Intermodal freight transport facilitates a significant number of shipments to and from North America each year. More than 18 million shipments were carried through the intermodal network in 2021, according to Statista.

Trucks often cover the shortest distances in this network. However, their ability to navigate highways and surface roads makes them invaluable. They play a key role in moving freight between nearby intermodal ports and to its final destination.

The container chassis shortage has caused delays and a variety of other issues as containers wait to be picked up. Let’s take a closer look at the causes of the chassis shortage. Then, we’ll review how it can affect business operations across a variety of industries.

Why is There a Container Chassis Shortage?

Why is a Chassis Required in Intermodal Freight Transport?

Chassis are vital to intermodal freight transport because, when connected to a container truck, they secure containers for transport. It’s one of three components that come together to haul these loads: the truck itself, the chassis, and the container.

Shipping containers are part of a larger logistics ecosystem. The freight market works as well as it does because of its intermodal nature. Containers can be transported by trains, ships, trucks, and other vehicles. 

The containers are the main focus of the system, so to speak. That means specialized tools, like chassis, have been developed to transport those containers.

When there’s a shortage of chassis, there’s no easy way around the problem. These unique pieces of equipment are a foundational requirement for carrying shipping containers.

A crane carries a shipping container at an intermodal port

What Caused the Intermodal Chassis Shortage?

This is a simple question with a very complex answer. There’s no single factor that caused the port chassis shortage. There are several contributing elements, however. 

Mondaq highlights several of the issues that came together to cause a shortage of container truck chassis. Its list includes larger ships carrying more containers to ports at once. Higher chassis prices and the influence of just-in-time supply chains are also important to note.

Other causes include parts and labor issues for building new chassis and safety rules that put some chassis out of service.

This means attempts to reduce the impact of the US chassis shortage have to take several issues into account. A focus on increasing chassis availability overall will likely be more effective than targeting one of the many specific problems.

How is the Shortage of Truck Chassis Holding up the Intermodal Freight Market?

Shipping containers are generally carried across long distances by ships and trains to intermodal ports. Trucks play a key role in moving many containers to their next destination and for final delivery.

With low chassis availability, container trucks can’t carry these containers on the next leg of their journeys. That leaves them stacked up in marine terminals, rail yards, and other intermodal facilities for a longer period of time. 

Port congestion increases supply chain timelines. It also introduces uncertainty about product, component, and raw material availability for businesses, and otherwise causes a variety of issues.

What Does the Intermodal Chassis Shortage Mean for my Business?

Will Costs Change Because of the Chassis Shortage?

Yes, a variety of costs can fluctuate due to the effects of the shortage. Ports are charging increased demurrage fees when cargo takes too long to unload, for example. 

Those costs, and others related to them, impact shippers and carriers. That can mean a higher price for your business.

There are also the costs of operational uncertainty and low inventory to consider. Containers that spend more time at an intermodal facility aren’t being uploaded by your business. Or shipped to your customer as quickly as possible. 

That can lead to sparsely populated store shelves and manufacturers without the parts and raw materials needed to complete work. Ultimately, that can lead to an inability to meet consumer or client needs and a reduction in customer spending.

Is the Shortage Causing Delays and Other Logistical Issues?

Yes, the intermodal chassis shortage causes a variety of logistical problems for businesses. We just mentioned the lack of goods, parts, and raw materials and how that can cause financial and operational impacts.

The Global Cold Chain Alliance explains that the chassis shortage is part of a larger global supply chain bottleneck. Congestion at intermodal facilities is a major issue. Everything from the chassis shortage to increased spending on goods contributes to the problem.

Notably, exporters face issues with finding space with ocean carriers. That’s not only an issue with having a chassis to transport a container to a port. It’s a problem caused by increased demand outpacing overall ship capacity. This is another issue that businesses using intermodal freight transport now have to navigate.

How Can my Business Work Around the Intermodal Chassis Shortage?

Efforts by port officials, government authorities, and other stakeholders to alleviate port congestion are underway. That doesn’t mean the chassis shortage will disappear immediately. However, it does help to know that the issue has been recognized and solutions are being developed.

Finding the right partner for your company’s drayage needs is crucial for navigating the chassis shortage. Transporting containers to their final destination or another intermodal facility is a crucial part of your company’s larger supply chain.

Iraheta Bros. focuses on efficiency and maintaining the staff and assets needed to reliably carry shipping containers via truck. 

Our drivers are experienced in the specialized operations and often complex regulations of ports. We maintain our own 20 ft. and 40 ft. triaxle chassis, making it easier to carry your containers where they need to be. Along with our transparent billing process and overall commitment to customer satisfaction, we strive to always provide the best service possible.
Learn more about the benefits of partnering with our team. Work with Iraheta Bros – Request a Quote Today!

How Will the Chassis Shortage Affect the Intermodal Industry?

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