Evolution of container chassis provisioning

When Malcom McLean introduced container shipping in 1956, ports had to adapt by building marginal wharves with gantry cranes and container storage areas near the stringpiece. Container trucks have become a critical component in the supply chain.

In the 66 years since, chassis have been viewed in different ways, depending on who was providing and paying for them. And now, today, chassis provisioning is evolving into a more interoperable, homogenized, streamlined and cost-effective system.

To understand where the industry is going, we take a closer look at the evolution of container chassis provisioning models through the years and what’s ahead.

Chassis deployment and ownership through the years

In the early days of containerization, particularly outside the U.S., motor carriers owned and operated the chassis. They were allowed free access to chassis through interchange agreements.

However, by the early 1990s, ocean carriers looked for a more efficient provisioning model and began contributing their chassis to “pools.” Fast forward to 2008 and, some say, driven by the economic crisis, shipping lines began to divest themselves of their chassis. This opened the door for new provisioning models.

How the different chassis provisioning models have evolved

Chassis pools comprised of chassis contributed by ocean carriers were introduced sporadically and in different forms throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Sea Land Service was the first to implement a limited-scope chassis-sharing arrangement within its vessel-sharing agreement with OOCL and P&O Nedlloyd, which was formed in the 1990s.

In 2004, the Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association, in conjunction with Virginia International Terminals, established the Hampton Roads Chassis Pool as the first port-wide gray chassis pool in the U.S.

By 2005, many of the world’s largest ocean carriers under OCEMA created Consolidated Chassis Management, or CCM, to manage chassis on behalf of the ocean carrier in interoperable chassis pools across regions in the U.S.

Latest developments in chassis provisioning

Today, public-private partnerships are being formed to create single-provider models that combine the best qualities of existing gray pools and proprietary operating arrangements in order to ensure port users, including U.S. exporters and importers, truckers, railroads, ocean carriers and ports, have access to the most resilient, efficient and environmentally sound chassis across a wide geographic area.

With a single provider utility-type pool, the pool manager controls the availability and quantity of chassis, as well the overall quality of the chassis. Recent example is the announcement by major South Atlantic ports, OCEMA and CCM to develop the next-generation South Atlantic Chassis Pool (informally know as SACP 3.0) of 60,000 units that will debut in October.

With over 75 locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, the SACP will remain the largest fully interoperable chassis pool in the U.S.

While chassis provisioning has evolved significantly since containerization, the trend remains open to a variety of forms, including this homogenized, streamlined and cost-effective model.

Mike Wilson is CEO of Consolidated Chassis Management, CCM.