Maersk Line’s drive to establish a national chassis pool is starting to gain traction, even among critics.
A leader in the New York-New Jersey port trucking community said he is among drayage operators who have signed up to rent Maersk chassis under the company’s new Direct ChassisLink program, although he still has misgivings.
“We signed because there’s no alternative out there right now, short of me buying chassis,” said Jeff Bader, president of Golden Carriers of Hillside, N.J., and of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, which represents several dozen harbor trucking companies.
Bader said he wishes Maersk’s plan used the terms and conditions of the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement, the standard industry agreement covering rules for liability and other issues. “That’s my main objection,” he said.
Maersk introduced the lease plan this month in the Port of New York and New Jersey. It’s the first step in what the company hopes to expand into a national pool encompassing all of the company’s 90,000 chassis. About 5,000 chassis are covered under the program’s initial phase in New York-New Jersey.
Under the program, truckers pay $11 per day for chassis but can use them any way they want until they return them. The program is administered by Direct ChassisLink Inc., a subsidiary of Maersk Equipment. If DCLI succeeds the way Maersk officials hope it will, it could produce a landmark change in the way intermodal chassis are supplied.
In the U.S., ocean carriers traditionally have provided truckers with free chassis, a practice dating to container shipping’s roots in U.S. domestic transportation, when ship lines marketed sea and land transportation as a package deal. In Europe, by contrast, forwarders and truckers generally retained control over inland transportation and provided their own chassis.
Carriers’ unwillingness to share chassis has been blamed for contributing to costs and congestion at U.S. ports, uneven maintenance standards and wasted trips by drayage drivers.
As ship lines have come under increased financial pressure, there’s a growing movement toward pools for sharing chassis. Consolidated Chassis Management, an affiliate of the 18-carrier Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association, now has a half-dozen regional pools. Virginia International Terminals has established a portwide pool at Hampton Roads, and there are a handful of other pools, such as lessor Seacastle’s Metro pool in the North Atlantic region.
Maersk officials say they hope Direct ChassisLink will be a model for other carriers. A spokesman said 498 drayage operators had signed agreements to participate in the program as of Aug. 13.
Company officials said they hope to bring Direct ChassisLink under the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement but that this is an involved process because the UIIA is designed for carriers instead of for equipment providers such as Maersk Equipment or Direct ChassisLink, which are separate entities from Maersk Line.
If the company had discussed its plans with truckers earlier, it might have been possible to expedite its approval by the UIIA, Bader said. He emphasized, though, that Maersk historically has had a good relationship with truckers.
“Over the years, they have had the best equipment of any carrier in the port. I just wish they had handled this a little differently. I wish they had sat down before and had all these terms and conditions worked out,” Bader said. “I know deep down that they’re trying to do the right thing, but we’d like them to do the right thing under the terms and conditions we’re all used to.”
Contact Joseph Bonney at email@example.com.