The availability and positioning of chassis has been a sticking point that has compromised the fluidity of cargo flows to and from seaports and intermodal terminals for several years.

A number of solutions, including proprietary and port-wide chassis pools, have been introduced, that seek to increase the availability of chassis. At ports like Charleston, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Wilmington, N.C., and at intermodal hubs in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, Huntsville, Kansas City, and St. Louis, Consolidated Chassis Management (CCM) operates what it considers to be the state of the art: an interoperable gray chassis pool.

As a non-asset based company, CCM’s focus is to assure that users have chassis whenever and wherever they need them. “We offer expertise and technology,” said Mike Wilson, the company’s CEO. Wilson is a former executive at the ocean carrier Hamburg-Sűd and other members of CCM’s leadership boast backgrounds in railroads, equipment leasing, and IT.

Mike Wilson, CEO of CCM
Mike Wilson, CEO of CCM

“Our model is a utility-style pool,” Wilson explained. “Shippers and carriers contribute chassis to the pool and pick up and drop off the equipment wherever they need to. They’re not wasting time hunting for the right chassis or moving chassis around. We look at the fleet as a whole and optimize use of the equipment and for flow and fluidity.” CCM currently has 100,000 chassis under management.

In other chassis pools and fleets, users are locked into contracts and don’t have access to other providers. CCM’s alternative provides shippers with numerous options at lower prices, Wilson said. Rail ramp operators can choose any chassis on the facility to discharge a container, saving time and money. That means faster loading and discharging of trains, quicker railcar movements in and out of the ramp, and the ability to cut the number of chassis required at any given facility.

At seaports, said Wilson, “ocean carriers enjoy a wide range of chassis suppliers to choose from, and that promotes flexibility, competition, greater supply, and lower costs.”

Motor carriers can use a chassis on multiple container moves without having to unhook, saving time and money and promoting safety and efficiency. That translates into adding truck capacity to a tight supply picture.

CCM’s technology includes several apps that allow users to track the movement of chassis. “We also use data for analytics to improve the maintenance and repair cycle and to optimize business processes,” said Wilson.

The next generation of technology, currently being tested, uses telematics and sensors to report on the condition of assets so that equipment managers can get ahead of the repair cycle. Those technologies still require some tweaking, said Wilson, before they are more widely deployed.

CCM’s lesson for the industry as a whole, said Wilson, is that “there is an opportunity for all players in the market to find solutions that aid the supply chain as a whole.” “It’s important to broaden the perspective to see what works for the greater supply chain,” he added. “A more efficient supply chain creates more opportunities for everyone.”