Intermodal freight transport is a foundational concept in the world’s economy.
The ability to move shipping containers (and the goods inside them) across the globe is powerful. It gives businesses the opportunity to form more partnerships with vendors and clients and access more materials and inventory. Companies also have the potential to reach new customers.
The standardization of intermodal shipping is a key factor in its widespread adoption and success in the supply chain. Ships, trains, trucks, railyards, ports — these vehicles and facilities are all equipped to work with shipping containers. And while shipping containers themselves come in many sizes, most are made to follow International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards.
Therefore, the tools that load, unload, transport, and secure containers can be used efficiently. Major adjustments are generally not required between each container. This smooth workflow, and the standards that lead to it, can’t be overlooked.
However, there are situations where containers and their contents can exceed recommendations and hard limits. We mentioned containers that don’t meet ISO standards, but that’s not where our focus is today. Instead, we’re going to focus on overweight container trucking.
Keep reading to learn more about what overweight container trucking is and why some companies choose to use it. We’ll also look at the advantages and drawbacks of overweight container trucking and more.
What is Overweight Container Trucking?
Overweight container trucking refers to the overall weight of the vehicle and load involved in intermodal transport.
This is a complex consideration that can vary from one port, state, and container trucking company to the next. There are federal and state laws that restrict the overall weight of trucks using highways and public roads. That can be the total weight of the vehicle and load, as well as the weight on the axles of the chassis.
Understanding Federal and State Weight Limits
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) maintains a list of rules, exceptions, and related information for road weight limits at the state level. Each state is different to some degree in terms of laws related to overweight cargo and public roads.
On the federal level, the maximum allowable gross weight of a vehicle is 80,000 lbs., According to the FHA, a single axle can weigh as much as 20,000 lbs., while a tandem axle group can hold up to 34,000 lbs. These rules only apply to interstate highways. Individual states set rules for their roads.
Consider that the maximum cargo weight for a 40-foot container is about 45,000 lbs. Combined with the cab and chassis, that will add up to more than the 80,000 lbs. gross weight allowed on interstate highways. For fully loaded 40-foot shipping containers, it’s vital to work with an overweight container trucking service.
Some transportation services will eagerly take on work operating an overloaded truck. At least as long as the weight doesn’t exceed the limits of the special permits and exemptions they use to legally transport the shipping container.
In many areas, overweight permitted vehicles are allowed to carry cargo. However, there are still upper maximums that can’t be exceeded. Even when choosing to work with a company that can work with container weights exceeding regular limits, you must pay close attention to a container’s weight.
What Happens if a Truck is Overweight?
A truck that lacks the proper equipment to handle an overweight container could face mechanical issues or failures of key systems due to the increased weight. That can lead to breakdowns and accidents that adversely affect other drivers.
Even when trucks have the right equipment in place to secure an overweight container, they can still face severe penalties and legal action related to carrying an overweight load.
The specifics of these laws and regulations vary from one state to the next. However, penalties can be as serious as revocation of the operator’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) and liability for road and other damage.
Why do states implement these laws? There are many contributing factors involved, including:
- Higher emissions: A truck carrying a heavier load will be less fuel efficient, leading to a greater environmental impact. A single overweight truck doesn’t represent a serious environmental issue, but many such trucks making many such trips does.
- Road safety and traffic flow: Overweight loads can be especially dangerous if the container truck carrying them is involved in an accident. Cleanup and road reopening efforts can become more complicated. And large vehicles with heavy loads can also lead to traffic congestion.
- Wear and tear on roads: Roads break down over time, requiring repair and replacement that can be costly and logistically difficult. That’s one of the main reasons why state roads and interstate highways have weight limits. Wear and tear is especially important to keep in mind for bridges, which can suffer catastrophic failure.
It’s only safe to transport overweight loads when container trucks have the proper equipment and permits. It’s entirely possible, and sometimes beneficial for businesses, to ship overweight containers. But it’s crucial to find a partner that recognizes the potential risks that come along with this work and effectively addresses them.
Overweight Containers Throughout Intermodal Freight
Containers arriving at a port in the US from another country are ferried there by a dedicated cargo ship. Those containers might then be loaded onto a cargo train or a truck to reach the next step in their journey, or their final destination.
It’s easy to understand why some businesses opt for and even prefer overweight containers. The cost to carry a single container, even when overloaded, is lower than using two shipping containers.
However, at each stage of each journey, the weight of each container must be accounted for. And, as much as intermodal transport is standardized, weight limits can differ between vehicles.
A container that may be no trouble at all for a ship to carry could require special equipment and permits when transported over the road. However, ships do sometimes encounter issues.
Heavily overloaded and improperly loaded and stacked containers can fall or collapse during severe conditions. That leads to very serious problems, ranging from injuries or fatalities among crewmembers to lost cargo.
Could Overweight Container Trucking Work For Your Business?
Overweight containers pack more raw materials or inventory into the same space than would otherwise be possible, saving money on a per-container basis. That’s an attractive opportunity for many businesses across a wide range of industries.
It’s a simple but powerful concept: Packing more into the same shipping containers a business has always used. Ships usually don’t charge significantly more to carry overweight shipping containers, either. That represents a major advantage for what is often one of the longest legs of a container’s journey.
It’s crucial to do the math and determine if the added savings and costs align in your favor when it comes to overweight containers. It’s similarly critical to identify and work with dependable partners for overweight container trucking and shipping.
However, keeping all of the varying weight allowances and limits in mind and plotting the logistics of a container’s journey can be very complex. That starts with getting the container to the port where it will begin the next leg of its journey.
Whether importing or exporting, that could involve a mix of rail and truck for transport to a port and, soon thereafter, a ship. And different weight limits and needs for each. The same is true once the overweight container reaches the port or railyard where it will be ferried to its final destination. Rules related to transport can differ by country, further complicating the situation.
Finding Reliable Overweight Container Trucking at the Port of Oakland
In general, there are plenty of key qualities to look for when vetting drayage and trucking partners. Your business deserves a partner that understands the complex nature of transporting shipping containers, whether it’s for import or export.
When it comes to overweight container trucking in particular, your company truly needs an informed, aware, and compliant trucking partner. The only way to ensure your containers reach their intended destinations is to have a partner with the right experience, equipment, and knowledge of relevant laws and regulations.
At Iraheta Bros, we’re committed to providing the best possible service to each and every one of our customers. We offer an innovative transportation management system, screened and experienced drivers and staff, competitive pricing, and a transparent and simple billing process.
Our drivers all have experience working in the Port of Oakland. We equip them with the trucks, chassis, and other specialized equipment needed to successfully and efficiently transport containers.
We have the equipment to transport oversized containers to and from the Port of Oakland, and understand the rules affecting transport and permitting requirements. When you choose Iraheta Bros for drainage service to and from the Port of Oakland, you have a partner that’s dedicated to high-quality results for each and every load.
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