Container chassis, also called intermodal chassis or skeletal trailer, is a specifically designed trailer frame which links up to a semi-trailer truck. Its main purpose is to carry a shipping container and make it easy and efficient to transport. A container chassis is basically composed of a steel frame, tires, axles, suspension, and brakes. New models of container chassis might include other bells and whistles, such as ABS, GPS tracking system, LED lights, weight sensors and other electro-mechanisms that we usually see in commercial vehicles.

Depending on the requirements, such as load weight, class, and container specification, container chassis come in different types and sizes. Standard chassis are designed to transport ISO standard containers which come in two different sizes, which are 20ft and 40ft. These container chassis come with 2 axles. When bearing relatively heavier than normal loads, a container chassis with 3 or more axles might be required.

Why is there a need for container chassis?

The use of container chassis dramatically increases the efficiency and decreases the waste of the global supply chain with most container chassis usually being made out of lightweight materials that are durable enough to hold heavy containers.

Since there are many different kinds of containers, manufacturing different trucks for different containers would just increase complexity and add up to transportation prices. Modularizing the trucks helps keep shipment transportation costs down by separating the container chassis and truck cab which in turn, reinforces the reusability of the truck cab which carries the huge engine and is easily the costliest part of a container truck.

Modularity also gives you the option to go for larger container chassis which has the advantage of being able to haul multiple containers at the same time making the process more efficient, greatly reducing the risk of extra charges for your shipment due to untimely delivery.

Different kinds of container chassis

Container chassis, aside from specific design and characteristics differ mostly in size and number of axles ranging from 2 to 8. The most common lengths of container chassis include: 

  1. 20ft Container Chassis
  2. 40ft-45ft Container Chassis (also called International or Marine Chassis)
  3. 48ft-53ft Domestic Container Chassis

Note that Marine container chassis in the United States (U.S.) are generally designed to specific container sizes (mostly 40’ and 20’) and have two axles; they are typically lighter than chassis in other countries given lower U.S. national gross vehicle weight standards. Most ocean container chassis cannot accommodate 53’ domestic intermodal containers.

Common Container Chassis types by characteristics/design 

  1. Gooseneck Chassis

40-foot and longer chassis are sometimes called gooseneck chassis. Gooseneck chassis have a bend in the chassis frame which is designed to fit into the tunnel at the bottom of containers.

  1. Extendable Chassis

These are chassis that are variable in length. Depending on the length of the container being hauled, extendable chassis can be extended or shortened accommodating up to 53ft containers.

  1. Tank Chassis

Tank chassis are used for bulk liquid containers or ISO tank containers. Tank chassis are longer and have lower deck height than standard chassis which is ideal for constantly shifting payloads. These chassis might also come fitted with accessories including lift kits to facilitate the discharge of contents to another container. 

  1. Bomb Carts

Bomb carts are used by dockworkers to move containers within a port. Unlike normal container chassis, they have side panels instead of twistlocks which allows crane operators to quickly place containers on them.

Which Container Chassis is Right for You

As mentioned above, the container chassis that you would need largely depends on several different factors and requirements. Do note that with the constantly increasing volume of shipments throughout the world, container chassis rental prices are rising and it’s getting more and more difficult to get your hands on a chassis because of the ports being congested.

Usually, it is freight forwarders like SFI’s job to secure a container chassis and provide related services at reasonable costs for shippers. Let us handle your shipment and we’ll make sure you’ll get the best price-to-service ratio in the market.