Study calls for intermodal chassis inspection legislation in U.S.
A study commissioned by unions and the American Trucking Associations urges the U.S. government to introduce legislation to more closely regulate the inspection regime and safety of intermodal container chassis.
Peter F. Swan, of State College, Pa., said in a study commissioned by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Longshoremen’s Association, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the ATA that “the system for maintaining intermodal equipment is broken and needs to be fixed.”
In the conclusion of his “Study of the Economic Impacts and the Need for Proposed Changes to Intermodal Container Chassis Inspection Rules,” Swan argues that there is strong statistical evidence of a serious problem with maintenance of intermodal chassis, and that people are dying as a result.
“The chassis providers have some economic disincentive to not provide adequate maintenance because they can force motor carriers to provide much of it for free,” the study says. “This situation is made worse by the terms of the standard interchange contract, by which motor carriers are required to indemnify chassis providers against lawsuits, even when such lawsuits may result from inadequate maintenance by chassis providers.”
The study argues that the present system does not lead to adequate periodic or preventative maintenance because chassis providers, who are generally ocean carriers, shift the liability to the motor carriers using the equipment.
“Motor carriers are incapable of performing periodic/preventative maintenance on this equipment and daily inspections that they do perform are not substitutes for an effective maintenance program,” the academic warned.
He said that most solutions to this will require chassis providers to perform regular daily inspections, perform more frequent periodic inspections, and take responsibility “for at least some maintenance failures.” The cost of these actions would not be stifling for the industry, Swan said.
He estimates that such practices should provide economic incentives to chassis providers to develop effective preventative maintenance programs in addition to the threat of enforcement actions brought by federal and state governments.
Swan also said that driver productivity would increase if drivers no longer spend time securing roadworthy chassis. “Because one out of 10 intermodal shipments experiences equipment related delay, the reliability of the system should also improve, saving money for shippers and consignees,” he added.
Swan urged the adoption of new legislation on intermodal chassis. “Given the current ability of some chassis providers to avoid fulfilling their duty to provide safe equipment, the government needs to step in and regulate intermodal motor carriage equipment, in the same manner that it regulates other trucking equipment, railroad equipment, and airline equipment,” Swan argues.