The chassis…such a straightforward piece of equipment…a frame, tires, brakes, lights. But, do not let its simpleness fool you. Its uncomplicated design belies its complicated nature.

A decade ago, the ocean carriers dictated the chassis that could be paired with their containers. Then divestment began, and the ocean carriers sold their chassis to the big three chassis providers, Flexi-Van, TRAC and DCLI.

Divestment was painful in the beginning. But, eventually, a new normal was established. Motor carriers invested in chassis, and unless the ocean carrier was paying the dray, the motor carrier had chassis choice. Freedom reigned.

And then…amidst a global supply chain meltdown we experienced something entirely new, and yet old at the same time. A chassis provider instructed the terminal operators in Oakland to restrict access to their chassis to only those ocean carriers with whom they have a contractual relationship. But, wait, are not motor carriers customers of the chassis providers too? What happened to chassis divestment? What happened to chassis choice?

The result of this rule was, and continues to be, a slowdown in the fluidity of containers. Containers are sitting on dock accruing demurrage charges awaiting the “right” chassis. Exporters are unable to get empties to load because the “right” chassis is not available. Drivers are circling the yard and waiting in the chassis pits for hours in hopes the “right” chassis comes along. Meanwhile, perfectly good chassis are sitting there, but they are just not the “right” ones.

How frustrating is that? We have taken a giant step backwards, and its impact is felt far and wide.

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