The unprecedented demand for chassis that began during the pandemic in 2020 is expected to continue through 2021 – and most likely into 2022. This is why carriers must consider these key factors when leasing chassis to successfully meet their needs in this challenging environment: chassis condition, leasing flexibility and service quality.

By Doug Hoehn, EVP Marine Chassis, Milestone Equipment Holdings, Special to the AJOT

Value of NEW, Modern Chassis

With the industry average chassis age between 15 and 20 years old, most chassis available for lease are older with outdated features such as two-piece, five-spoke wheels and bias ply retread tires. This leads to greater maintenance and repair costs, especially with more usage during the pandemic, as well as more breakdowns that produce lost driver time on the road and lost revenue from missed appointments. For example, bias ply retread tires often have blow-outs, especially in southern parts of the country with scorching temperatures, and one blown-out tire typically causes three to four hours of downtime for drivers – and significant lost income for carriers.

However, carriers should lease newer chassis as their superior reliability significantly lowers the company’s operating costs. These premium chassis have modern safety and technology features like OEM radial tires, LED lights, anti-lock braking systems, disc wheels and, in some areas, GPS tracking, and automatic tire inflation systems. While the daily lease rate for the new chassis is slightly higher than that of the older chassis, the total daily operating cost is significantly lower when you factor in the greatly reduced daily maintenance and repair costs compared to older chassis. The estimated annual maintenance and repair costs for a newer chassis is just $255 compared to $1,600 for a refurbished and $2,000 for an older chassis. Newer chassis fleets are often more diverse as they include 20- and 40-ft marine models, 33- and 40-ft tri-axles, 40- and 45-ft extendable length, 20- and 40-ft combo spread-axle or tri-axle configurations, and 53-ft domestic units. These specialty chassis are in greater demand because they provide the flexibility to haul a range of containers, which is critical in today’s tightened capacity.

Doug Hoehn, EVP Marine Chassis, Milestone Equipment Holdings
Doug Hoehn, EVP Marine Chassis, Milestone Equipment Holdings

Here are a few things to keep in mind when leasing new chassis:

Don’t settle: Find equipment that will last. You are going to pay more for good, quality chassis on the front end but it will – without a doubt – save you money in the long-run.

Have an eye for detail: Be sure the chassis you are considering possesses all the features that are most beneficial to your company and your drivers – from parts, to technology, to the finish.

Refurbished is NOT new: In an attempt to get more life out of their aging chassis, some companies repaint their old equipment and change out a few components to make them seem shiny and new when, in reality, the chassis is still running on old frames and axles.

Keep safety top-of-mind: Chassis do not stay new forever and just because they still look fresh does not mean they are safe. Your employees’ safety should be of the utmost importance and getting old chassis off the road can help keep them – and other drivers – safe.

Newer chassis also helps improve driver retention as being able to pull out of the rail yard, port or depot with a good-order chassis provides them with the security of knowing they have safe wheels as well as a significant time savings. Driving with a new chassis says that your company is investing in the company driver’s future. This also keeps drivers in trucks and trucks on the road, ultimately bringing in more money for the carrier instead of paying out money for breakdowns.

Although you may spend more money upfront when leasing or renting new chassis, this modern equipment will save your company money in the long-term from less maintenance costs and fewer breakdowns. You will also receive all the benefits of the latest technology to keep hazardous chassis off the road, which helps your drivers and everyone else on the road stay safe.

Flexible Leasing Options for Continually Evolving Needs

Carriers need flexible, affordable leasing options to accommodate the ever-changing needs of its customers. They want to be able to quickly increase or decrease its number of leased chassis and move between short and long-term leases on these chassis, while retaining competitive rates to cost-effectively meet customer requirements during this demand surge. However, some chassis providers were unable to accommodate carriers on the leasing options and rates it desired for its customers.

For low-cost daily chassis rentals, look for an online reservation system for pick up the same day in most cases or the next day at the latest. Search for offers of affordable short- and long-term leases that can be converted back-and-forth between these options as needed while keeping the same attractive rates. A key component is finding a provider with an extensive national network near all major ports and rail hubs to be able to quickly move chassis to serve carriers’ facilities anywhere in the country.

Exceptional Service Delivers Results

To keep up with this unprecedented need, potential customers often require price quotes from carriers within 24 hours. With leased chassis, carriers must first obtain lease rates from chassis providers to prepare and submit these price quotes. Unfortunately, some chassis providers have a multi-layer process that could take three or four days to produce a rate quote, a delay that cost carriers potential business. Carriers should seek a lessor with extensive experience in the industry, and a team of industry experts authorized to make individual pricing decisions as part of its commitment to delivering exceptional customer service. This allows carriers to request a rate quote from their sales representative and receive the quote back quickly which, in turn, enabled them to prepare and provide a price quote to their potential customers well before the 24-hour deadline.

By choosing newer chassis with modern safety features available with flexible, cost-effective leasing options and nationwide network, and delivered with exceptional personal service, carriers will be able to lower their total operating costs while meeting their customers’ needs.

Editor’s Note: Doug Hoehn is the Executive Vice President of Marine Chassis for Milestone. In that position he leads the Milestone’s commercial team for the marine chassis segment of the business.