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US-based CIE Manufacturing takes aim at chassis shortage

In addition to congestion, an “aging problem” is plaguing fleets and port chassis pools from coast to coast

The Pioneer Chassis line is manufactured at CIE's Emporia, Virginia and South Gate, California factories. Image: CIE Manufacturing (CIEM)

From sea to shining sea, CIE Manufacturing (CIEM) is gearing up its container chassis production for the North American market. With chassis already rolling off the line at the company’s manufacturing facility in Virginia, and manufacturing of the second wave in California is now underway.

Headquartered in South Gate, California, CIEM is now producing its new North American Pioneer Chassis line on the West Coast, just a 20-minute drive from two of the country’s most congested ports — the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Trevor Ash, CIEM’s executive vice president and CCO, suggests that production of its globally sourced North American-made chassis in such close proximity to the ports provides a solution to those customers enduring long delays who are looking to the possibility of bringing their own intermodal equipment to increase time efficiency.

Port congestion for drayage truckers has been a problem for the San Pedro Bay ports for quite some time. To make matters worse, the ongoing pandemic and trade war between the United States and China haven’t deterred shipments from flowing into the Port of Long Beach. 

The Port of Long Beach looks to have finished 2020 strongly as it moved a November high of 783,523 TEUs in 2020, a 30.6% jump for the month year-over-year. The cargo surge marked the second consecutive record-setting month for the port as October recorded 806,603 TEUs — breaking its previous port record by more than 11,000, which was set just a month earlier.

While oceanside business has boomed for the Southern California seaport, drayage and detention delays have only gotten worse.

In a joint statement, the Harbor Trucking Association (HTA) and the California Trucking Association (CTA) voiced their concern for the San Pedro Bay port complex cargo crisis, requesting temporary suspension of detention and demurrage charges in both ports by ocean carriers and marine terminals. According to the November statement, cargo flow is nearing a complete gridlock due to a lack of dual transactions and a three-month chassis shortage.

The HTA and CTA are leading a coalition to persuade the Los Angeles and Long Beach port authorities to exhaust all options to promote dual transactions — when a truck driver delivers a container and picks one up in the same trip — in the hopes of creating chassis certainty.

In fact, congestion has gotten so bad that Long Beach announced that it’ll begin releasing weekly reports informing cargo stakeholders of its anticipated cargo volumes, among other challenges.

The port said that Weekly Advance Volume Estimate (WAVE) will project cargo container volume and vessel calls several weeks ahead and include estimates of categories of cargo, such as exports, imports and empties, as previously reported by FreightWaves.

Ash added that both Los Angeles-area ports have regularly issued “bring your own chassis” notices through the HTA due to shortages.

More specifically, he addressed the “aging problem” that’s plaguing fleets and port chassis pools from coast to coast — specifically at the adjoining ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where truckers incur costly delays when attempting to select dependable chassis. Years of heavy-duty wear and tear take a toll on many chassis, inhibiting them from passing inspection for use.

“A lot of ports are now undergoing chassis renewals,” Ash said. “The Port of Virginia — about 90 miles from CIEM’s East Coast facility — is actually renewing their whole chassis fleet and chassis pool. Chassis pools in general can be anywhere from 15 to 20 years old, possibly older. This is one of the contributing factors for the delays and gridlock drivers are currently experiencing.”

He noted that Milestone Equipment holdings  and TRAC Intermodal purchased the first round of Pioneers on the East Coast as part of the First Virginia Pioneer Program; these new chassis will contribute to the pools at the Port of Virginia and other East Coast ports increasing efficiencies and reducing down time for drivers.

It’s apparent that a durable, dependable chassis that won’t contribute to unnecessary delays is desperately needed. Ash suggests that CIEM’s Pioneer Chassis will play a key role in squelching port bottlenecks and filling the chassis shortage gap.

CIEM produces the Pioneer Chassis Line in South Gate, California, and in Emporia, Virginia, and touts robotic precision welds, laser metal cutting and a KTL powder coat paint system to prevent rust and corrosion. Customers can choose a customizable warranty — five-, seven- or 10-year — upon purchase.  CIE Manufacturing is able to offer chassis to any customer that is best served by the faster lead times and lower transportation costs of having production on both coasts.

CIEM currently manufactures 40-foot and 40-/45-foot intermodal chassis exclusively but will soon expand its capabilities to produce any model of intermodal chassis at both facilities.

CIEM rolled out its first batch of Pioneers at its newly expanded manufacturing facility in Emporia in November. Embracing its newfound American routes, CIEM has since deployed a westward expansion of its Pioneer manufacturing by firing up the assembly lines at its renovated South Gate headquarters.

“CIEM is adapting, changing and we’re moving production here — because our customers needed us too,” Ash said. “We play a vital role in the transportation industry because we’re able to build volumes that no one else can. We owe it to our customers to evolve and adapt, so that’s what we’re doing.”

Jack Glenn

Jack Glenn is a sponsored content writer for FreightWaves and lives in Chattanooga, TN with his golden retriever, Beau. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.