Drayage drivers serving the port of Charleston will soon start using a new off-terminal chassis depot as the 10th largest North American seaport preps to handle higher container volumes.
The South Carolina Ports Authority said the REO Chassis Depot will open October 26. Drivers will no longer be able to drop off bare chassis at the Wando Welch Terminal as of that date.
The 40-acre site is located outside of the Wando Welch terminal gates.
Consolidated Chassis Management (CCM) will manage the facility under the auspices of the South Atlantic Chassis Pool (SACP), a neutral leasing pool for carriers to utilize chassis from any of the major lessors.
Mike Wilson, Chief Executive Officer of CCM, said moving chassis storage out of Wando Welch allows the space to be used for containers, “which is good for the growth of the port.”
Wilson said, “They can design terminal operation specifically for containers without having chassis in the mix.” Similarly, Wilson said a separate yard will allow truckers easier and faster access thanks to having available chassis in a “ready row” for ease of pick up.
Previously, roadable and non-roadable chassis “were mixed in together. There were three or four different spots where chassis were stored. It wasn’t a consolidated operation.”
“It’s the next evolution in chassis provisioning,” Wilson said. “It separates mechanics from the very busy terminal operations, so it’s a safer environment altogether.”
Wilson said the depot expects to handle between 700 and 1,000 gate moves per day.
Chassis availability was one of the headaches facing drayage carriers during last year’s peak shipping season. Many truckers reported difficulty in securing chassis ahead of a container move while marine terminals and ocean carriers would limit chassis drop-offs due to space constraints.
Instead, marine terminals have been moving chassis to off-site locations such as the Columbia Group-run Elizabeth Chassis Depot in New Jersey. Savannah is also looking to isolate chassis operations at its terminal away from container operations.
Along with the yard, Wilson said the SACP is making operational changes that “were needed and that most constituents appreciated.”
By the end of 2021, chassis in the SACP will all be equipped with radial tires and LED lights. The majority of chassis will have anti-lock brakes, but Wilson said the deadline for full implementation of anti-lock brake will be 2023, given the cost to the leasing companies.
SACP also plans to limit the number of chassis that are out of service to 5% or less of inventory at any given time. This allows more chassis to be ready, Wilson said.
“In some of the proprietary pools, chassis operators would slow down their repair operations as the utilization dropped, which created a latency in the repair,” Wilson said. “So when the demand went up, you had to repair a lot more. It would cause a real slowdown in the supply chain.”
In addition to a low out-of-service inventory, CCM will add chassis to the fleet at time of peak seasonal demand.
During last year’s peak season, beneficial cargo owners and carriers would keep chassis for extended periods for wheeled storage of containers. Wilson said the SACP plans to monitor “any excess chassis build-up at any given facility.
Some terminals have had a tendency to hang on to chassis,” Wilson said.
SACP also plans to institute an operations committee of terminals, ocean lines and chassis lessors to review any problems related to chassis provisioning.