Shipping containers play a crucial role in intermodal freight transport. These containers offer standardized sizes that are easy to transport by ship, plane, train, and truck.
Now, a crucial shortage is affecting intermodal shipping. It’s not a lack of shipping containers themselves that’s the problem, nor the trucks that transport them. What’s missing are the chassis that trucks use to carry those containers.
The chassis is the frame that supports and controls the container in transit. Without them, container trucks can’t complete the trips that are so vital to the larger intermodal freight transport network and global supply chain.
Let’s take a closer look at the role of the chassis and the effects the current shortage has on logistics in the US and across the globe.
Why are Chassis so Important for Intermodal Freight Transport?
There’s no way around it — you need a chassis for a truck to transport an intermodal shipping container. Why is that the case?
Why are Chassis Required for Intermodal Trucks?
The most common type of tractor-trailer includes just two parts. There’s the cab, housing the engine, controls, and driver, and the dry van, which is the enclosed, wheeled container.
The dry van is intended for transport exclusively by trucks. That means it’s easy to include the container’s chassis wheels as an integral component.
When it comes to intermodal trucking and shipping containers, flexibility is crucial. The intermodal freight market is reliable and efficient in part because there are many ways to move the containers. That’s a key reason why chassis are required for intermodal trucks — to reliably fit into that larger transport network of carriers and shippers.
The Journal of Commerce projects that the current US chassis shortage will extend into 2024, with parts and labor shortages extending the problem. Let’s dive deeper into this serious issue.
What Factors are Driving the Shipping Chassis Shortage?
We know that a lack of parts and labor issues could extend the current chassis shortage past 2022. What led us to this point?
Why is There a Shortage of Chassis at Ports and Intermodal Facilities?
There are a number of factors to consider when discussing the origins of the chassis shortage. These include:
- Consistently strong international commerce that leads to more imports, putting a strain on existing chassis pools, as the Wall Street Journal reports
- Chassis being pulled from service due to safety and operational issues
- The implementation of the ELD mandate, which can discourage drivers from taking an extra trip to return a chassis, Penn Intermodal Leasing explains
- The previously mentioned parts and labor issues for chassis manufacturers, which slow down the production of new chassis
How Bad is the Chassis Shortage?
This is a much more complex question than it might seem at first glance. The chassis shortage isn’t severe enough to stop intermodal shipping or completely shut down the supply chain. Products are still making their way to manufacturers’ inventories and store shelves.
However, there are many more opportunities for delays and uncertainty in the intermodal freight process. The work can be more frustrating and time-consuming for drivers when chassis are in short supply. While the situation is generally manageable, it’s simply not a good position for importers, exporters, or logistics and transportation companies to be in.
How Does the Chassis Shortage of 2022 and Beyond Affect my Business?
Your company may experience delays and similar issues when importing or exporting goods due to the shipping container chassis shortage. That can be a minor inconvenience or a major risk for your company, depending on the specifics of the shipment and the nature of the delay.
Finding a partner that can reliably pick up and drop off your shipments at an intermodal facility is critical. After all, the shortage isn’t tied to container ships or trains — it’s the chassis for transport on trucks that’s specifically causing the problem.
At Iraheta Bros., we own and operate 20 ft. and 40 ft. tri-axle chassis as well as provide many other related services. That type of control in the supply chain makes it easier for us to complete a pickup or drop-off, which can also make things more consistent and convenient for your business.