A container chassis is essential to keep your containers safe and ensure smooth and efficient transport between ports, terminals and warehouses. It also allows drivers to move containers without having to unload them first – a major time and money saver. 

These wheeled metal frames make the entire process of transporting shipping containers and other cargo simple and straightforward. Let’s learn all about container chassis, their sizes, uses and benefits below.

Container chassis

What is a container chassis?

A chassis is a trailer frame with wheels, created specifically to accommodate and move a wide range of container types (both standard and special). These metal structures are designed to carry containers via trucks between terminals, warehouses, and ports. They’re available in various types, so you can choose the kind that suits your unique requirements. 

So what does a chassis look like? Basically, it consists of a steel frame with tires and axle systems attached. Container chassis technology has drastically improved over the years, and now many include weight sensors, LED lights, and GPS tracking as well. 

Axels play an important role in the weight a chassis can manage. An axle is a long shaft that connects the wheels together. A standard chassis, with 2 axles, can carry 20ft and 40ft containers. Generally, a tri-axle chassis is needed to carry 20ft containers above 36,000 lbs, or 40ft containers above 44,000 lbs.

Now let’s find out more about the benefits of these structures.

Why use a container chassis?

Chassis are designed to transport shipping containers efficiently and safely. They are strong and sturdy, and protect containers from sharp and sudden movements whilst in transit. Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why you need a container chassis in your shipping process.

Benefits of a container chassis

  • Smooth and secure: Containers are securely attached to the chassis. This prevents unnecessary container movements – ensuring safer transportation.
  • Quick and cost-effective: You can load several containers at the same time – making the process quick and efficient.
  • Durability and easy transportation: They’re usually made out of lightweight materials, but are durable enough to move heavy loads.
  • Suits different requirements: Chassis come in various types. Companies can choose from a wide range of options based on their specific needs. 

Great, now that we know just how crucial these structures are to keeping your boxes safe, let’s dive into the different types of chassis.

Common types of shipping container chassis

We’ll start by looking at the most commonly used types. These include the tilt, common, and extendable chassis. Let’s check out what they look like, and how they’re used below. 

Chassis by type

Tilt container chassis

This chassis type makes it easy to load and unload containers. Unlike the common chassis, tilt chassis have upper and lower frames. There’s also a hydraulic system on the upper frame that tilts upward. Plus, you’ll find a roller on the upper frame that connects to the lower frame of the chassis.

This arrangement makes the process of loading and unloading secure and easy to handle. For instance, if you’re shipping granules in a container, you can simply use the tilt chassis to angle the container and unload the raw material without any hassles. A special design like this costs more money, but if convenience is what you’re after, this is the one to go for.

Common container chassis

The common container chassis comes without any modification. It’s a simple fixed structure built to transport containers from one place to another. Overhead cranes are used to load and unload cargo from this chassis type.

If you want to transport standard 20ft, 40ft, or 45ft containers, the common chassis is exactly what you need. You’ll find special markings on the body to help you identify where to place your containers. Common chassis are affordable and easy to use. However, you may end up paying extra for external equipment such as overhead cranes, so keep this in mind.

Extendable container chassis

Extendable chassis, as their name suggests, can adapt to any container size. This chassis type works similarly to a regular chassis, with one important difference. It’s extendable at the back, making it extremely versatile.

You should go for this type of chassis if you have to transport containers of varying lengths. Extendable chassis are also perfect for moving boxes across countries and states without any hiccups.

Container chassis: Purpose, features and dimensions

Now that we’ve looked at the most common chassis types, let’s take a peek at chassis categorized by dimension, purpose, feature and design.

Chassis by dimension

Depending on your shipping requirements and, of course, the container size, there are several sizes of chassis available in the market:

  • 20ft container chassis
  • 40ft and 45ft container chassis
  • 48ft and 53ft domestic container chassis

It’s important to consider the size of your chassis in relation to the size of your containers. No point in organizing a 20ft chassis to carry a 45ft container, now is there?

Chassis by purpose

You can also select your chassis based on its purpose. Certain chassis are designed to transport only specific container types or cargo. For example, if you’re needing to move tanks, make sure you organize a tank chassis. Why? It’s specially designed to hold the tank shape securely in place.

Chassis by feature/design

Chassis can also be categorized by feature and design. Choosing a chassis by design or feature depends completely on what you need it for. Choose a lightweight chassis for smaller cargo, or a gooseneck chassis if you need to stack containers. Take a look at some of the chassis by feature/design below. 

Now that you know about the chassis types, it’s time to look at the costs involved.

How to choose the right container chassis for your needs

Choosing the ideal chassis completely depends on your requirements. When trying to decide which type you need, consider the following:

Usage and requirements (Industry-specific)

If you only need to transport containers, a chassis modeled specifically for containers is ideal. But, if you need to move other types of cargo along with containers, go for a flatbed chassis trailer – as it serves a dual purpose. If you need to load/unload cargo at specific places, a tilt chassis is a great choice. This means you don’t have to hire a crane or additional lifting equipment.

Number of axles / weight threshold

You can choose the number of axles in the chassis to suit the cargo or container weight. Remember: the higher the number of axles, the more weight the chassis can accommodate. As mentioned earlier, when transporting standard containers, a 2 or 3 axle chassis is your best bet.

Costs incurred

Consider your container specifications and requirements before choosing a chassis. Usually, a specialized chassis costs quite a bit more than a regular one. So, make sure you know exactly what you need before you set out to organize your chassis.

What does a container chassis cost?

You’re probably curious about how much a chassis costs, aren’t you? Depending on where you buy chassis, the type you’re looking for, and the condition you’re after, the cost may vary considerably. 

It’s also important to note that chassis have been in short supply in the last few years. So expect prices to be on the rise over the next while.

Here are some average prices for buying standard container chassis of various sizes:

Chassis type Price range (USD)
20ft container chassis $6,800 – $12,600 
40ft container chassis $9,800 – $15,000
45 ft container chassis $10,000 – $15,000

If you’re planning a shipment, you might also be looking for containers to transport your cargo in. The good news? You can find shipping containers at great prices on Container xChange. Click here to find out about prices, plus the container types we offer.

Lease or buy a chassis?

Did you know that you can also lease a chassis? The key here is to understand your requirements and how often you’ll be needing it. With that in mind, let’s look at the differences between leasing and buying:

Buying Leasing
Cheaper in the long term Cheaper in the short term
A good option if you’re shipping goods often Perfect for transporting boxes now and then
Can modify container chassis Container chassis cannot be modified
Use any time, independent of chassis shortages May not gain access to chassis during shortages

Want to find out how to lease shipping containers? Click here to learn more. 

Chassis shortage: Why is it happening?

It’s safe to say that shippers depend upon chassis in order to get goods from ports to warehouses and other important destinations. Without these humble wheeled frames, it’s pretty difficult to get goods to market, affecting the entire supply chain.

In the last decade, along with container shortages, there have been major container chassis shortages too. So, why is this happening? In the past 2 years, nearly every chassis component has been backlogged at some point or another, making manufacturing on time difficult. 

The main reason for such a backlog has been a shortage of microchips worldwide since 2021. This has in turn led to the temporary shutdown of assembly plants in the automotive industry, having a knock-on effect on chassis building.

While the production of standard container chassis has not grown exponentially over the last few decades, freight volumes and cargo ships have. With larger volumes being transported on bigger container ships, spikes in demand have quickly eaten up available chassis capacity. Limited availability of port chassis has left massive amounts of cargo waiting to be moved. This has in turn led to serious bottlenecks in the supply chain as a whole.

To add to this, chassis are often used at docks as temporary storage for containers, leaving them unavailable when they’re needed for moving boxes.

Want more interesting and useful shipping news? We’ve got an all-in-one solution for you! Our monthly ‘Where are all the Containers?’ report brings you industry updates, container prices and trends, plus the latest container availability data, all in one document. The best part? It’s completely free to download. 

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What is a chassis use charge?

The chassis usage charge is one of the several additional charges you need to factor in when moving your cargo. Until 2009, carriers used to own and provide chassis along with containers. However, after MAERSK exited the chassis business, others followed suit. This forced trucking companies to buy or rent their chassis – bringing in an additional charge.

Ocean carriers at ports now charge a chassis usage fee for the use of their equipment. This encourages shippers and truckers to rather supply their own, in order to save on charges. It also encourages the use of the common chassis pool for pick-up and delivery. This is in an attempt to solve the container chassis shortage issue the industry is currently facing.

Chassis fees are only charged by carriers in certain ports, so make sure to check the fees at the ports you’ll be shipping to. These fees are usually applied all over the United States, but are charged in other parts of the world too.

Want to learn more about port charges? Read all about demurrage and detention fees (D&D) in this informative blog post. 

How to avoid demurrage and detention fees when shipping

Buying, leasing, and managing chassis has become a bit of a headache in recent years. When a container chassis is delayed, this creates a ripple effect, leaving you with lots of charges to deal with.

So what kind of charges are we talking about? There are congestion surcharges, terminal handling charges, consolidation fees, and demurrage and detention fees to factor in. Read more about these here

This is where we come in. At Container xChange, we can help you avoid demurrage and detention fees altogether, so that you can lower your overall shipping charges. 

We’re a marketplace for container users and suppliers. We’ve got over 10,000 SOCs (Shipper Owned Containers) available in 2,500+ locations around the globe. 

With SOC containers, you have more flexibility and control over your boxes. Choose the exact containers you need, when you need them, in the condition you need them. You can also ship goods to any location, without worrying about hefty carrier fees.

It’s so quick and easy to find SOCs on xChange. All you need to do is type in your location, choose the container type you want, and click ‘search’ to see the available SOCs on offer. Work with reputable partners, find boxes at great prices, and finally get the flexibility and freedom you’ve been looking for.

Click here to check the SOC availability for your route now.

Keep up to date with the latest logistics industry trends with Container xChange

Stay on top of the latest container logistics news and trends with our monthly ‘Where are all the Containers?’ report. 

At last, a FREE monthly report that keeps you completely in the know.

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  • Commentary on the main events happening in the logistics and supply chain industries every month.
  • The latest data on average prices for 20ft, 40ft and 40ft HCs.
  • Pick up charges for 20ft, 40ft and 40ft HCs for one way moves.
  • Container availability data for key ports around the world.

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What is an intermodal chassis?

An intermodal container chassis is a wheeled metal frame used to transport shipping containers of various shapes and sizes. Container chassis come in different types, including the tilt, extendable, and tank chassis.

How do you secure a container to a chassis?

A shipping container is placed on a chassis using a crane. This must be done carefully, ensuring that the container's corner castings are aligned with the chassis’ twist locks (pins). The container is then fixed to the chassis using these pins.

How much does a container chassis cost?

A standard container chassis can cost anything between US $ 6,800 and US $ 15,000, depending on the type, condition, location and current supply and demand.

How big is a standard ISO container chassis?

A standard ISO container chassis comes in 20ft, 40ft, or 45ft. However, it’s essential to note that there are different types of chassis available, depending on your requirements. Some chassis have fixed lengths, whilst others can be extended or shortened to accommodate the container.