ACL to phase out chassis fleet
Atlantic Container Line said Monday it will phase out its chassis fleet and shift all of its carrier-arranged trucking moves in the United States to motor carriers who furnish their own chassis.
“ACL has concluded negotiations with a broad range of truckers who have convinced the company that these same trucking companies/owner-operators can manage a chassis fleet more cost-efficiently than an ocean carrier can do,” the transatlantic carrier said. “As a result, ACL will no longer provide chassis to their contracted truckers. This will affect all container pickups and deliveries.”
Andrew Abbott, ACL's president and chief executive officer, said the change will be invisible to shippers. The company will still arrange shipments for customers to inland destinations — say the movement of a container from Pittsburgh to Berlin. Abbott said ACL arranges inland moves for about 60 percent of its business.
“I’ll do all the arrangements, but instead of putting my own wheels under the box, I’ll be working with a trucker who has his own wheels,” he explained.
ACL said it would begin the new policy June 1 in three areas — Miami, Boston and the Ohio Valley — then gradually extend it to the rest of the country.
“All motor carriers working directly for ACL customers in these areas will have to provide chassis for shipments after June 1,” the company said in a statement.
The plentiful supply of truckers willing to supply chassis and a higher percentage of carrier-arranged trucking for ACL in those three areas made them the best places to start, Abbott explained. The policy will next be extended into the Midwest and west of the Mississippi River, then South Atlantic and then further north. The company hopes to complete the process by the end of the year.
“This policy will be identical to the system that has been successfully working in both Canada and Europe for many years,” the Westfield, N.J-based carrier said.
Abbott said ACL has been working with large regional trucking firms such as Marine Transport on the East Coast, Containerport Group in the Ohio Valley, Larry's Cartage and Michaels Cartage in Chicago, to line up business with truckers who have their own chassis.
ACL’s decision is the latest attempt by a container carrier to reduce the cost of providing chassis to shippers.
ACL had a fleet of about 3,000 chassis, and Abbott said the company is offering to sell that equipment to truckers that it does business with.
“The prime motivation comes when you have to renew the fleet,” Abbott said. “If we were going to replace our entire fleet it would run into the double-digit millions.” Instead, the company will be able to use that money for other purposes, such as new ships. ACL is owned by Italy’s Grimaldi Group.
In addition, he said ocean carriers can reduce legal liability by not owning chassis that might be involved in roadway accidents.
“The terminal operators are going to love this,' he added. 'We’ve had discussions with several and now that they realize they don’t have to spend money on space for storage of chassis, they are welcoming this with open arms.” The reduced need for ACL for storage should also translate into savings for the carrier.
“We were expecting more push back, but the truckers we deal with all said, ‘we could probably do more turns per day with the equipment than you can, because we are not just dealing with a ship that comes into port just once a week. We have loads every day of the week,’ ” Abbott said. “I think the truckers are going to find that they get much better utilization of the equipment. If you look at most ocean carriers, the equipment is stacked up at ocean terminals waiting for ships to come in.”
Abbott did not expect the new policy to have a big effect on cost for shippers — he said in Canada, where truckers routinely provide chassis for inland move of cargo, the cost of moving cargo to ports is very similar to what it is in the United States where carriers usually have provided equipment.
“Given the rough economic climate we are in, you start looking at every single cost you have. This looks like a no-brainer because we have experience operating in Canada and Europe where truckers supply chassis and this is the only place in the world where carriers supply their own chassis,” he said.
ACL’s decision is part of a larger trend in the container industry.
Many carriers have joined common equipment pools in ports around the country in recent years, and Abbott said the trucking companies his firm deals with may decide to lease chassis as well as own their own, though he said most truckers he has spoken to say they will probably buy equipment.
The Ocean Carrier Equipment Management Association, a U.S.-based association of about 20 major ocean common carriers, in 2005 formed Consolidated Chassis Management to develop chassis pools. It has more than 100,000 chassis under management at pools in various parts of the country, with about 35 participants, both shipping companies and chassis leasing companies.
In March, shipping line OOCL said in a customer advisory it would no longer provide chassis for container yard or store door shipments of import and exports originating or destined to facilities in or around Boston and Miami.
Last year Maersk Line overhauled its chassis business by placing its chassis equipment under a new subsidiary, Direct ChassisLink, that leases chassis to truckers. Begun in the New York-New Jersey area, Maersk has been gradually expanding that program to other parts of the country. ' Chris