Cargo shipping container lines are shifting chassis ownership away from owning the equipment assets and providing intermodal container chassis themselves to requiring over-the-road truckers and regional freight haulers to provide their own chassis. Since many of these truckers cannot afford to, or choose not, to risk purchasing expensive equipment in an uncertain economy, the question becomes, who will fill that gap with an adequate supply of high quality chassis at an affordable price? In addition, the aging of many U.S. chassis fleets is making the benefits of leased chassis increasingly obvious.
When we look at truckers’ and the trucking industry’s concerns regarding chassis, three primary issues become evident, including:
• Regular maintenance that meets (or exceeds) standards of road worthiness.
• Chassis availability (right place, right time, right price).
• The use of high quality Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts for repairs.
Today’s leading chassis leasing companies provide the industry with younger fleets that see frequent maintenance checks to meet and exceed required standards. Maintenance most directly affects trucking companies when it comes to older intermodal container chassis. Upon reaching the later years of a chassis’ life, an owner may invest in equipment repairs to extend the useful life of the chassis as much as possible. High quality repairs use OEM parts.
The use of OEM parts for repairs can vary among chassis owners, particularly in instances where tracking the usage of each individual chassis may be difficult. This is compounded in its affect on owners and users of pooled chassis in that it is more difficult to track operator skill, chassis mileage and unreported wear and tear. Consequently, some owners seek to lower their total cost of ownership through the use of repair parts that meet specifications while not always meeting the quality of OEM parts.
Another issue is that trucking company driver evaluations and independent trucker compensation is based on the number of paid loads delivered “time is money”. Thus, since reporting minor issues takes time, it may lead to the under reporting of small equipment problems, particularly for pool chassis.
In a rapidly evolving intermodal world, quality providers of lease chassis stake their reputations and their bottom lines on their chassis being road-worthy and reliable. Consequently, in addition to regular maintenance checks and repairs that meet FHWA and IICL standards. In contrast to chassis pool equipment, the leading chassis leasing providers are working to ensure that all of their chassis standardize the use of disc wheels and newer radials as opposed to recaps. They also work to ensure that their chassis have the latest air ride capability, lighting, and twist locks among other equipment offerings. These decisions foster a safer and longer lasting chassis for short- or long-term leases.
In addition, the trucking industry sees more and more of the available chassis fleet out of operation for maintenance reasons. Leased chassis providers are stepping up to fill these gaps and provide greater availability at more depot locations throughout the country.
The attractiveness of long-term leasing is not only bolstered by equipment standards, but also cost savings when rates are compared to other short-term chassis lease options.
With the U.S. intermodal industry is in flux, the winners, in terms of chassis providers, are yet to be determined. However, one thing is clear: successful motor carriers will need to choose their chassis providers based on quality, availability, and price in order to stay competitive and financially profitable.