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Logistics Terms Chassis

Registration dateMAY 02, 2024

Chassis
A chassis is a specialized frame or platform that supports various types of freight containers during transport. This crucial component enables the seamless transfer of cargo from ships to trucks or trains, making it an indispensable part of intermodal transportation. These platforms not only ensure the safe and secure handling of goods but also facilitate a more flexible and rapid distribution process. In this blog, we learn about the functions, configuration, and usage fees of the chassis.
  1. 1) Key Functions of Chassis

    A chassis is a critical component in intermodal freight transportation. It is a specialized trailer frame that allows containers to be moved between different modes of transportation, such as from ship to rail or truck. The chassis provides a structural base for the container and allows it to be securely transported.

    1. Mobility
    The mobility function of chassis transforms standard freight containers into mobile units, capable of traversing public roads as part of a semi-trailer. This adaptability is crucial for ensuring that goods can be transported directly from a central hub to their final destination without the need for additional handling processes.

    2. Interchangeability
    The interchangeability feature highlights the chassis' role in facilitating the smooth transition of containers between various transportation modes. This standardized design minimizes downtime and logistical complications, allowing for a seamless flow of goods across global supply chains.

    3. Storage Capacity
    The storage capacity function underscores the strategic use of chassis in optimizing space within ports and rail yards. By enabling containers to be stacked, chassis significantly increase the storage density of these areas, improving operational efficiency and reducing the overall footprint required for storage.

    a vehicle that carries containers (Source : Firefly, Adobe)
  2. 2) Main Components of a Chassis

    The chassis, a fundamental element in container transportation, is ingeniously designed to integrate several main components. Each part plays a specific role in ensuring the chassis delivers support, strength, and stability, essential for the safe and efficient transport of cargo containers. Here's a closer look at these vital components:

    1. Frame
    The frame stands as the chassis's backbone, providing the essential structure and shape. Crafted to bear significant loads, the frame harmoniously holds all other components together. Its robust construction is designed to support the considerable weight of the container, ensuring stability during transport.

    2. Suspension Components
    The suspension system, comprising coil springs or leaf springs, shock absorbers (also known as dampers), control arms, and various other elements, is fundamental to the chassis's functionality. This intricate assembly is key to absorbing the shocks and vibrations from uneven road surfaces, maintaining traction for safety, and enhancing the comfort of the ride. It allows for a smoother transportation process, safeguarding the cargo from potential damage caused by road turbulence.

    3. Axles
    Axles serve as the critical linkage between the wheels and the chassis, playing a pivotal role in transmitting power from the engine to the wheels, in the case of powered vehicles. For a container chassis, which is typically towed, axles are crucial for bearing the load's weight and ensuring the smooth rotation of the wheels. This component is indispensable for the mobility of the chassis, facilitating its movement across various terrains and through different modes of transport.

    Together, these components constitute the chassis, each contributing to its overall functionality and reliability. The frame provides the structure, the suspension components ensure a smooth transit, and the axles afford mobility. This synergy between components allows the chassis to perform its essential role in the logistics chain, carrying goods across the globe with efficiency and security.

    a vehicle that carries containers (Source : Firefly, Adobe)
  3. 3) Main Types of Chassis

    The logistics industry relies on a diverse range of chassis types to transport cargo containers efficiently across various distances and terrains. Each chassis type is uniquely designed to meet specific needs, ranging from the standard transport of cargo to accommodating oversized loads or adhering to stringent weight regulations. Here's an overview of the main types of chassis used for cargo container transportation:

    1. Standard Chassis
    Standard chassis are the backbone of container transportation, designed to carry the most commonly used ISO containers. These chassis are typically configured for 20-foot and 40-foot containers, aligning with the international standards for cargo shipping. Their versatility and compatibility make them a fundamental resource in global trade.

    2. Tri-Axle Chassis
    The tri-axle chassis represents a specialized solution within the logistics and transportation industry, specifically designed to handle overweight Full Container Load (FCL) shipments that exceed the standard weight limits. These chassis are equipped with three axles instead of the typical two, providing additional support and stability necessary for safely transporting heavier cargo. This extra axle distributes the load more evenly across the chassis, reducing the pressure on road surfaces and complying with legal weight limits and regulations for road transport.

    For a 20-foot container, the threshold weight requiring a tri-axle chassis is approximately 36,000 lbs (about 16,329 kilograms). This means that any 20-foot container shipment exceeding this weight would necessitate the use of a tri-axle chassis to ensure the safe and legal transport of the goods by truck. Similarly, for a 40-foot container, the weight limit is set around 44,000 lbs (about 19,958 kilograms). Shipments exceeding this weight must be transported on a tri-axle chassis to handle the additional load efficiently.

    3. Slider Chassis
    Slider chassis offer adjustable lengths to accommodate both 20-foot and 40-foot containers. This flexibility is achieved through a mechanism that allows the chassis frame to extend or retract, matching the size of the container it carries. Slider chassis are valuable for operations requiring the transport of containers of varying lengths.

    4. Extendable Chassis
    Extendable chassis are similar to slider chassis but offer even greater flexibility. They can adjust to carry containers of various lengths, including those longer than 40 feet. This capability makes extendable chassis ideal for transporting unusually long or oversized containers that do not fit standard sizes.

    5. Gooseneck Chassis
    Gooseneck chassis are distinguished by their forward-mounted gooseneck design, which enhances weight distribution and maneuverability. This design feature is particularly beneficial in regions with strict axle-weight regulations, as it allows for more efficient handling and transport of containers. Gooseneck chassis are often favored for their ability to navigate through tight spaces and their enhanced stability.

    6. Lowboy Chassis
    Lowboy chassis are distinguished by their reduced deck height, which makes them particularly suitable for hauling taller cargo containers or specialized equipment that exceeds standard height restrictions. This lower center of gravity not only allows for the transport of high-profile items but also enhances stability during transit, making lowboy chassis a preferred choice for oversized freight.

    7. Tank Container Chassis
    Designed with specific structures to carry cylindrical tank containers, tank container chassis feature cradles or supports that secure these containers in place. They are indispensable in the transport of liquid, gas, or powder products, ensuring that tank containers are transported in a safe, stable manner, thereby preventing spills or accidents.

    8. Flatbed Chassis
    Unlike other chassis types, flatbed chassis do not have twist-lock mechanisms for securing standard containers. Instead, they provide a versatile platform for carrying oversized or non-containerized cargo such as construction equipment, large machinery, or irregularly shaped items. Their open design and lack of containment sides or tops allow for the transportation of goods that would not fit in standard containers.

    9. Specialized Chassis
    The logistics industry also employs a variety of specialized chassis designed to meet the needs of unique cargo types. This category includes:

    Refrigerated (Reefer) Container Chassis: These are specifically engineered to transport temperature-sensitive cargo, ensuring that refrigerated containers maintain the required temperatures throughout their journey.

    Chassis with Special Securing Mechanisms: Designed for specialized containers, these chassis have customized securing systems to handle unique or delicate freight, providing added safety and stability.

    The evolution of specialized chassis reflects the logistics industry's capacity to adapt to the diverse and changing needs of global trade. From transporting delicate refrigerated goods to accommodating oversized construction machinery, these chassis types play a crucial role in ensuring that every kind of cargo can be moved efficiently and safely, highlighting the industry's innovation in tackling logistical challenges.

    a truck with a special chassis (Source : Firefly, Adobe)
  4. 4) Chassis Fee

    The Chassis Fee in freight logistics is a critical component of the cost structure associated with transporting cargo, particularly when it involves moving containers by truck from ports to warehouses or other destinations. This fee, sometimes referred to as a chassis rental fee, represents the cost of using a chassis for the transportation of cargo. Here's a detailed breakdown of what encompasses the Chassis Fee and its implications in freight transportation:

    Understanding the Chassis Fee

    Nature of the Fee: The Chassis Fee is essentially a rental charge. It is applied when a trucking company or logistics service provider utilizes a chassis to carry a container. This fee is charged because the chassis, as a piece of equipment, is not owned by the trucking company but is borrowed from another entity that owns fleets of these trailers.

    Basis of the Fee: The amount charged as a chassis fee can vary significantly based on several factors. The primary determinant is the volume or weight of the cargo being transported, reflecting the demand for the chassis' carrying capacity. Additionally, the type of chassis required—standard, tri-axle, extendable, or any specialized type—also influences the fee, given that some chassis types are more costly to manufacture, maintain, and operate than others.

    Rate Structure: For FCL (Full Container Load) shipments, the chassis fee is typically a flat rate determined by the container's size. This simplifies the billing process and provides predictability in costs for shipping full container loads. On the other hand, for LCL (Less Than Container Load) shipments, the fee is more variable and is calculated based on the volume of the cargo, acknowledging the partial use of the chassis' capacity.

    Who Charges the Chassis Fee?
    The Chassis Fee, an essential charge in the transportation and logistics industry, is levied on the consignee by the provider of the chassis. This fee reflects the cost associated with using a chassis to transport cargo from one point to another, typically from a port to a warehouse or final destination. Understanding the nuances of who charges this fee, and under what circumstances, is crucial for businesses and consignees navigating the complexities of shipping logistics. Here's a breakdown of the key players involved and the various scenarios in which the chassis fee is applied:

    Carriers: Carriers, who transport cargo, often provide the chassis for moving containers. In this scenario, carriers charge the consignee a chassis fee, also known as a chassis usage fee. This charge compensates for the use of the carrier's chassis and is designed to encourage the consignee's appointed trucker to utilize the carrier's equipment.

    Ports : Some ports in the United States offer a chassis pool system, allowing consignees to borrow chassis directly from the port. This system is designed to streamline operations and reduce the complexity of sourcing a chassis. However, not all ports provide this service, which can lead to alternative arrangements by consignees to secure a chassis for their cargo transportation needs.

    Separate Providers : When a chassis is not available from the port or the carrier, the consignee may need to turn to separate providers to rent a chassis. This scenario introduces an additional cost, known as the chassis rental fee. This fee is charged by the entity from which the chassis is rented and is distinct from the chassis usage fee charged by carriers or ports.

    What is the Chassis Split Fee?
    The Chassis Split Fee arises in logistics operations when a consignee is required to source a chassis from a provider other than the carrier or port. This situation necessitates additional logistical steps, including an extra trip for the trucker to pick up the chassis before heading to the port to load the cargo. The chassis split fee compensates for the extra time, fuel, and labor involved in these additional steps. It's a critical concept in freight logistics, reflecting the complexities and costs associated with container transportation under specific circumstances. Here's a closer look at the nuances of the chassis split fee:

    Split-Pickup Fee : This fee is incurred when the terminal or port does not provide a chassis for the cargo container. As a result, the trucker must make an additional journey to a separate location to pick up a chassis before proceeding to the terminal to load the container. The split-pickup fee covers the costs associated with this extra leg of the journey, including the trucker's time, fuel, and possibly tolls.

    Split-Return Fee: Conversely, the split-return fee applies when a container has been delivered, but the terminal does not accept the return of the chassis. The trucker must then transport the chassis to another location for return or storage. Like the split-pickup fee, this fee compensates for the additional resources required to complete this task.

    In summary, the chassis is a key component in Full Container Load (FCL) transportation within the international logistics network. It functions as an essential instrument for the smooth transfer of containers from sea to land transport mechanisms. At its core, these durable, wheeled structures serve as the portable foundation for shipping containers, facilitating the movement of FCLs, destined for the importer, to their final destination through road transportation. This capability significantly improves the transfer efficiency of containers and promotes a more efficient and dependable delivery system.