• Intermodal; trailer and container sizes

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by QB 52.32
Cowford wrote:QB, as I understand it... they are designed to fit within the 53' length requirement to fit in intermodal wells. As such, the reefer unit takes up ~3ft of linear space, which reduces pallet capacity by two (or four if double-stacked) vs. a temp-controlled trailer which has an external unit. From what I've heard, they also having higher comparative tare weights, when combined with the chassis. The favorable rail cost (COFC vs TOFC) works to its advantage in discrete service lanes, but when added to a carrier's "go anywhere" reefer fleet, the complications of segregation may offset any rail cost advantage.
Thanks, Cowford. Yeah, with ~7% reduction in lading and greater tare weight that could work against using the boxes over-the-road to give greater flexibility for "go anywhere" operation, I can see the challenge. And, of course, any kind of Rube Goldberg approach with detachable reefer units with on-train refrigeration units aint gonna cut it in the real world of railroading. Would there be any stack cars currently in the fleet that could accomodate 57' in any upper position? A possibility for the next generation of stack car?
  by David Benton
i would suspect in Japan , as here , and most of the rest of the world , the 40 ft iso box is the limit . i doubt there would be any internal container traffic , so a iso box would be what was carried , from factory to the port .
  by jslader
From what I have read, the main limiting factor of sizes in the international container is that the roads and infrastructure in other countries, particularly in European countries, are limited in size due to European cities being older and of a more constricting design. Larger equipment like 53ft trailers wouldn't be able to serve in as many cities as here in the US. For this reason double-stack trains are not found in European countries as well; I've read they can barely fit COFC traffic, and the cost to enlarge/enhance clearances is prohibitive. Interestingly, I remember when 53ft trailers first began to spread in use many cities in the US would not allow them to be used due to concerns with clearances in making turns. I remember here in Philly that was a concern, and I remember New York City had a very lengthy ban on their use due to the tight clearances in that city; I do not recall if that ban was ever lifted and am not in New York enough to have noticed. It is for this reason that 53ft trailers and containers have "53FT" placed on them, usually on the front corner posts and/or the rear door, so that cities with these bans in place can readily identify them and avoid a too-long trailer getting stuck somewhere trying to make a tight turn in a city.

I've read China is introducing double-stack service, in fact there is a youtube video showing China well cars in service, albeit in a filleted train; they look very similar to our well cars. And India is in the process of developing double-stack container ON FLATCAR service, and under wires no less!
  by David Benton
In Europe they have the swap body , which i believe is longer than 40 ft . its similiar to a container but cannot be stacked . i'm not sure if it can be lifted when fill , i presume so .
In NZ , they developed a 23 ft container as a way of maximising wagon space used , ( 2* 20 ft containers on a standard container would have a 6ft gap between them , doors facing the gap , allowing them to be loaded on the wagon . the new containers have side loading doors ) . i presume they did this instead of a 46 ft conatiner to minimise the weight on forklifts / loading areas etc . They mainly carry milk powder .
  by Cowford
Interesting article in the WSJ today on the subject of carrying capacity across modes...

There is an arms race of sorts in the shipping industry—and it is prompting a backlash. Efforts are under way to supersize trucks, trains, and cargo ships as freight haulers look to move more goods in fewer trips.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 20166.html
  by QB 52.32
Looks like a bill to allow states the right to increase interstate highway truck weight limits from 80,000 lbs to 96k lbs. has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. I believe it is similar to one introduced in the House last year and is being sponsored by 4 senators from states with a high concentration of lumber/paper industry. The proponents are justifying the increase on economic, environmental and safety grounds.
  by wis bang
David Benton wrote:In Europe they have the swap body , which i believe is longer than 40 ft . its similiar to a container but cannot be stacked . i'm not sure if it can be lifted when fill , i presume so .
Swap Bodies are used to allow one chassis do different jobs. They have a lift/winch system like a roll on container except the different bodies do different things. Many are lifted for unloading same way roll on container are lifted to be dumped out if needed.

A company can operate one power unit with multiple vocational 'bodies' Fuel tanker today, dry bulk transporter tomorrow, sludge vacuum the day after, dump truck next week, instead of having each mounted on it's own chassis as is common in the US. Still need the same number of parking spaces but only have to pay for one license plate, only need to maintain one set of tires, etc.

Having the lift and winch system adds extra weight to the chassis & each component and cuts down on the ultimate payload. This works in European cities w/ limited space and weight restrictions but runs against common US thinking seeking maximum capacity and production though fuel cost has driven contractors to adopt the mini excavators, etc. leaving the larger equipment for larger sites and using smaller fuel efficient units on smaller jobsites and saving fuel on the load in and out too...
  by Cowford
CR England just formally announced their new intermodal reefer container service. Here is a link to the site:


it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
  by David Benton
I see they mention lightweight drayage vechicles . is there any road tax advantage to this in the USA ?
Here in New Zealand , the road user charges go up quite steeply with the weight of the vechicle . hence there are lightweight drayage vechicles in use to move empty containers from port to port , etc .
These trucks are basically just an older tractor unit , pulling a skeleton frame that can take a 40 ft container .
Because of there lightweight and age , these things are devils aunder breaking on a wet road etc . Ive seen one come around a corner at open road speed , a car pulled out in front of him , he hit the brakes and started going sideways . the driver did really well to get it under control , and i gathered it was a regular occurance to him .
  by Cowford
David Benton wrote:I see they mention lightweight drayage vechicles . is there any road tax advantage to this in the USA ?
David, this is a commercial issue rather than a tax advantage. Generally speaking, the interstate road gross weight limitation on a three-axle tractor and two-axle 53' semi-trailer combination is 80,000 lbs. The combined container/chassis weight is disadvantaged relative to the intermodal/over-the-road reefer trailer. (Reefer trailer tare is ~16,000 lbs; the reefer container tare is ~13,500 lbs + a 7,500 lb chassis... 21,000 lbs, or a 5,000 lb tare disadvantage.) Using a light-weight three-axle "day cab" (tractor without a sleeper compartment) instead of a traditional sleeper cab cuts down tare weight thousands of pounds, significantly narrowing the gap. (Sleeper cabs aren't needed as the drayage runs between destination and intermodal terminal are short-distance.)

The other capacity issue relates to cube. The container has to fit in a 53' well, so the interior length is about 2' shorter than a 53' reefer trailer.