DCLI has invested more than $80 million in US chassis pools with an emphasis on converting to more durable radial tires in markets such as Memphis and the Gulf Coast, bringing the company a step closer to realizing its goal of upgrading its entire fleet as such by 2023.
Underscoring the investment is DCLI’s belief that by not outsourcing to a cooperative pool, it can provide greater oversight of quality, tracking, and maintenance of equipment. Proponents of the so-called interoperable chassis model — allowing truckers to use chassis supplied by several providers — argue cooperative pools also provide high-quality chassis, consistent service, and a competitive environment between suppliers.
Regardless of the model, being able to rely upon equipment is critical for supply chain fluidity.
“This effort is just one of the ways that we are making sure DCLI chassis are the most dependable in the industry and that we remain our customers’ chassis partner of choice,” said Ryan Houfek, chief commercial officer for DCLI. “Our focus is on improving the trucker’s experience when using our chassis because we believe that delivering a great driver experience is good for the whole industry.”
Approximately half of DCLI’s Gulf Coast chassis fleet has radial tires, which can better withstand the rigors of commercial transportation than bias ply tires, according to equipment providers. About 30 percent of DCLI’s Memphis pool is on radials. DCLI has announced an ambitious plan, however, to install radial tires on all Gulf Coast chassis by end of this year and all Memphis units by mid-2021. Markets in the Gulf region include Houston, New Orleans, and Mobile.
DCLI has exited the Gulf Coast, Mid-South, and Chicago and Ohio Valley cooperative pools in recent months, a move the company said will allow it to sharpen its focus on chassis quality and user experience.
Advocates of cooperative pools across the US also express frustration with chassis splits, a move these fleets consider an inefficient use of time. They also worry about the potential of equipment shortages outside of a cooperative pool, particularly in wheeled rail operations, such as what happened in Memphis when TRAC’s private fleet ran out of equipment in January 2019. It was the cooperative pool in Chicago, though, that ran out of chassis at the same time, showing there is no guarantee any pool can weather the strain of a sudden burst of cargo on equipment supply.
DCLI counters that the advantages to private, neutral pools — e.g., reliable equipment, a strong maintenance program, and better customer service — outweigh risk of chassis splits.
Cooperative pool operators disagree with the assertion that they are incapable of reliable equipment, strong customer service, good maintenance, or track and tracing capability. A source told JOC.com that equipment providers have pushed to control their own upgrades in cooperative fleets to the latest safety features, rather than let a third party control the efforts, but completing the work is more important than how it is done.