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What Is a Chassis in Freight?

February 11, 2022 Kevin Baxter

Chassis Port

Container shortages (as well as plenty of other supply chain shortages) are common knowledge at this point, but another key piece of freight equipment has also been running short for sometime - the chassis. A chassis in freight and logistics terms refers to a rubber-tired trailer under-frame on which a container is mounted for street or highway transport. Sometimes referred to as a container chassis or skeletal trailer, a chassis is a necessity to transport containers across the supply chain - from ocean or rail (see intermodal shipping) to truck - onto their final destination. There are chassis options to fit 20 foot and 40 foot containers, as well as chassis specially designed for overweight container shipments, called tri-axle chassis. To sum up their importance, even if containers became more plentiful, without enough chassis, those loads would be severely limited in options to get where they need to go.

What is a chassis fee?

Unless one carrier owns the drayage trucks used throughout a shipment, the transfer of a container to a chassis incurs a chassis fee. The chassis fee is a flat fee for FCLs (full container loads) which depends on the trucking company, and a variable fee for LCLs (less than container loads). Chassis fees are also higher for overweight containers that require tri-axle chassis. While somewhat dependent on location, as a general rule, a load weight of more than 36,000 to 37,000 pounds for a 20 foot container or above 44,000 pounds for a 40 foot container classifies as overweight. Chassis fees - sometimes listed as chassis usage fees - are required, and can also include charges for additional days of use.

Why is there a chassis shortage? 

Chassis shortages during peak shipping season have been common for quite some time. But in 2021 and into 2022, the chassis shortage came into sharper focus as the supply chain became especially stressed. Why is there a chassis shortage? Because shipping volume has only risen, while the volume of chassis if anything has dropped. New chassis aren't being produced at a high rate - if at all - and many existing ones fall into disrepair due to age and heavy usage. That's just one reason for the chassis shortage, others include:

  • More vessels (and larger ones) coming into port with more containers at once
  • Higher chassis prices
  • Limitations based on ports allowing truckers to use only certain chassis types
  • Chassis being held longer

At InTek Freight & Logistics, we've seen the chassis issue affect our clients firsthand, and perhaps the only easy solution is for carriers to own their own chassis. Otherwise, availability can be especially challenging, with chassis taking two weeks or even longer in some locations. If there's a positive to be taken from this experience, it's that our talented team has used its knowledge, the latest technology, and our connections in the industry to find creative solutions, even in the midst of this chassis shortage. If you'd like our help, let us know, and we'll be happy to discuss your company's unique needs. 

Get more definitions and in-depth information about freight and logistics - by visiting our Learning Center. We've also included a few key links below to get you started: 

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