Watch Now

DOT opens probe into container, chassis shortages

Assessment to support Biden’s goal of unclogging supply chain bottlenecks

DOT wants supply chain disruption data including information on container, chassis shortages. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The Biden administration is asking a “broad range of stakeholders” involved with moving freight to help solve the country’s container and intermodal chassis shortages while also trying to alleviate supply chain chokepoints.

In an information request to be posted in the Federal Register on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation wants to get public comment on current challenges faced by the freight and logistics sector, including:

  • Current and potential future shortages and/or distribution limitations of essential cargo-handling equipment, such as chassis and shipping containers, and how these challenges can be or are likely to be addressed by the freight and logistics industry over both the medium and longer term.
  • The identification of major infrastructure or operational bottlenecks and chokepoints across all aspects of the freight and logistics supply chain — including shipping/receiving, intermodal transfer, rail/water/truck transportation, warehousing, etc. — that slow or impede efficient cargo movement within the freight and logistics sector and the most effective investments and management practice improvements that could be made to alleviate those bottlenecks.
  • Warehouse capacity and availability, and any challenges faced in operating and siting/constructing those facilities, as well as challenges faced by third-party logistics service providers and other stakeholders in the logistics system.
  • Technology issues, including information systems, cybersecurity risks and interoperability, that affect the safe, efficient and reliable movement of goods. Would greater standardization of those technologies help address those challenges?
  • Opportunities and challenges with respect to the existing and future workforce to ensure a well-functioning freight and logistics supply chain and achieve the president’s goal of increasing good-paying jobs with the choice of a union. Are there additional workforce or skill set opportunities and needs currently or expected in the future? 

The information request will help inform an executive order signed by President Biden in February directing federal agencies to take action to secure and strengthen America’s supply chains.

The executive order requires the secretary of Transportation to submit to the president within one year a supply chain assessment that will build off work being conducted by Biden’s Supply Chains Disruption Task Force.

The task force, established in June and co-chaired by the secretaries of Transportation, Agriculture and Commerce, was formed to address near-term supply chain challenges and constraints in the transportation sector, particularly for ports, rail and trucking.

Comments are due within 30 days.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Walter monzon

    I was working in Chicago railroad as owner operator for the last 25 years. We are still using the same chassis over and over. The chassis are junk. We need new equipment. The railroad facilities monopolizes the chassis . No chassis are allowed to be taken out. The demand is for general good. The American people are demanding more general goods.

    1. Logistician

      Your comments are true, short and to the point.
      Government involvement will take too long to produce any results. The most immediate results will be massive tax credits and subsidies, few standing commitees, and of course, endless reports and studies.
      So glad to see another formerly privately operated sector of the economy become socialized.

      1. John Cok-Toastin'

        Not holding my breath that this will produce anything positive. Nobody wants to touch the real problems. I’m literally looking at idle cranes @ Hugh Leatherman Terminal, brand new container terminal that has been operating at 10% capacity since April due to ILA pushback against the preapproved contractual agreement with SC ports put in place before the first shovel of dirt was moved.

  2. Jessica line

    There have been little to no chassis available at any Seattle or Tacoma ports for months. I have over 200+ loads that have been sitting in offsite terminals including t5 racking up demurrage charges at $275 – $480 per day because either the pprta can’t take empties or there are no chassis available. There are 3700 chassis sitting in Matson alone not being used. This is your bottleneck!

    1. Sales rep

      I have a hard time believing that the customer should be paying demurrage for containers and chassis when it’s the shipping companies holding up the return of the equipment. This is price gouging at its worst and I liken it to a criminal intent to extort money from American businesses. The Department of Justice should be taking a hard look at this.

Comments are closed.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.