- TRAC Intermodal is waiting nearly three times as long for truckers to return chassis as it did before the pandemic, James Segata, vice president of strategy, said in an interview.
- The company has grown its Oakland chassis fleet by about 2% YoY as it faces persistently low supply at the TraPac port terminal and around the country following record imports and Trump-era tariffs, COO Val Noel said.
- Far more chassis will be required if return times don’t improve. “You're going to need at least double the amount of fleet you have if you're going to have consistent tripling of the street dwell time,” Segata said.
Reasons for not returning chassis on time can be outside a trucker’s control, such as when they are waiting to load or unload at warehouses or outside port terminals. And Oakland isn't alone in its struggles with chassis availability — or truckers taking two or three times longer than typical to return them.
"It's a phenomenon that we are seeing across all markets," Segata said. "Some are obviously a little worse than others."
But the recent supply crunch has prompted TRAC to focus on refurbishing, upgrading and repairing unused chassis to raise its fleet utilization rate to as close to 100% as possible.
TRAC, which has about 180,000 chassis across the country, has invested more than $1 billion in its fleet over the past decade, Segata said. In March, the company touted an investment in domestic manufacturing, inking deals with LB Steel to build chassis frames and Integrated Industries to blast, paint and install components at a facility in Dixmoor, Illinois.
“While we would like to be able to feel good about the fact that we put so many more chassis into the marketplace through our refurb and upgrade programs and the limited new builds we've added,” Noel said, “they're getting consumed on the street three times longer than what they historically have been.”
It hasn’t helped that American chassis manufacturers have been slow to ramp up to fill the need.
“We haven't been able to introduce as much new capacity into the marketplace as we would like,” Noel said.
Low chassis availability has been challenging supply chains on both U.S. coasts. Constraints prompted the closure of the TraPac chassis pit at the Port of Oakland in the past month, and led Southeastern ports and ocean carriers to recommend that the South Atlantic Chassis Pool be centralized under a single company.
“We really haven't caught our breath now for almost two years,” Noel said. “It's unprecedented.”
TraPac’s Oakland chassis pit has reopened, but the terminal operator is requiring truckers to bring their own chassis amid ongoing low supply.