Chassis Leasing in Oakland, CA

“California ports handle 60 percent of the nation’s imports from the Far East and more than 70 percent of California’s agricultural export trade.” Current contract disputes between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association are being blamed for severely straining the West Coast ports. Chassis leasing, particularly newer and special purpose chassis, may provide some short-term relief once the freight reaches land.

The Port of Oakland in Oakland, California lies near the midpoint of the West Coast putting it within a ten-hour drive of over eight million consumers. More importantly, for haulers of freight and commodities, the port is within a two (2) day’s drive of more than 50 percent of the U.S. population. Consequently, this busy port hub is critically important to maintaining a flow of goods throughout the Western United States. Chassis leasing is becoming the best and most cost effective solution available for trucking companies to meet the inherent challenges of container freight transport into and out of Oakland, CA.

While the strategic logistical benefits of an important freight hub like Oakland, CA are undeniable, so too are the challenges that it faces in terms of congestion slowdowns and the cost-effective transport of freight in and out of the hub. Chassis leasing can help in alleviating three of the primary sources of these problems.

Some of the challenges that can be alleviated by promoting increases in chassis leasing, particularly in favor of long-term leases, include:

• Improvements to chassis availability, which will alleviate current shortages.

• Improved chassis safety.

• Increasing the number of special purpose chassis to haul heavy loads and bulk liquids along Northern California’s challenging roads.


Shortage of Chassis for Leasing


The on-going chassis shortages across the country are particularly acute in and around major California shipping hubs like the Port of Oakland. Shortages result from port congestion and the practice of chassis-coupled container storage. Additionally, an aging chassis fleet and other maintenance and repair problems contribute to the lack of sufficient chassis numbers. This lack of availability has a negative impact on both long haul and drayage transporters moving through Oakland.

Improving the ability of freight and logistics transporters to add special purpose leased chassis to the mix (in both short-term and long-term leasing scenarios) would enable transporters to move more freight. This would help to alleviate congestion and improve the transporter’s ability to meet deadlines that may otherwise result in reduced profit as well as operating capital losses. Having a chassis fleet on a long-term lease provides the lessee with a lower average cost per day and more control over their maintenance and operations, which should translate to greater cost stability for transporters.

This is best accomplished by working with chassis leasing companies that have strategic depot locations throughout the U.S. The result is that transporters can have a cost effective chassis fleet to keep freight moving while keeping costs low and profits higher.


Chassis Safety

Another major factor in port congestion resulting from insufficient chassis availability is the age of the available chassis fleet. Older equipment, if not properly maintained, can be detrimental to the safety of the cargo and the environment and can injure drivers. In addition, the equipment is coming under greater regulatory oversight. Over-the-road transporters should be aware that chassis must meet the requirements of the FMCSA’s 2010 Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program.

The most competitive third party chassis leasing companies have a significantly newer average fleet age for their chassis in inventory and on the road. This inventory, required to meet a broad variety of hauling requirements, should undergo a thorough on-hire and off-hire inspection, and have an on-going maintenance program so that the equipment will meet the highest standards of roadworthiness.

The advantages of leasing newer chassis are evident when compared to the potential for older equipment to breakdown or have maintenance issues that may result in regulatory violations, fines, and penalties. Proper maintenance also lowers fuel costs and results in less wear and tear on the chassis and tires.

Chassis designed to meet freight transport challenges in Northern California

The hilly terrain of northern California coupled with the region’s concentration of bulk liquids production (i.e. wine, milk and other food grade liquids) has always presented special challenges for transporters. Increasing demand for these products must be met by increased freight transportation including just-in-time delivery for perishable commodities. While current chassis have met the needs of this region for over a century, chassis shortages result in scheduling concerns for freight in this region.

Drop frame chassis suitable for food-grade and other liquids are designed to meet the challenges of hauling “bulk” liquid such as steep slopes and sharp curves that can shift loads in sudden and unpredictable ways. Today, specialized chassis leasing companies are providing newer drop frame chassis designs that provide a better alternative to traditional drop frame chassis. Modern lightweight chassis with reinforced frames provide a lower center of gravity for maximizing the movement of heavy liquid loads.

These new designs feature the ability to incorporate Flexi-tanks for greater capacity, stability, containment and safety. New lightweight dropframe chassis with these attributes are now available for lease in the Oakland, CA region. Ultimately, long-term chassis leasing of new lightweight chassis provide transporters with greater all-around efficiency while stabilizing costs and improving profit margins.


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April Uhlenburg
April U

April has been working with Penn Intermodal’s Sales and Operations teams to educate clients on the benefits of leasing chassis for bulk liquid storage and transport since 2012.