Container transport – what kind of vehicles can be used by the carriers [REVIEW].

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Container transport requires specialist means of transport, as well as technical handling equipment. Most terminals are adapted to handle all types of containers. Neither their length (20, 30, 40, or even 45 feet) nor their height is a limitation (apart from standard containers also high cube units are common). The same is true for most of the container fleet.

Chassis and semi-trailers for container transport are one of the smaller market sectors. Every year, only a few hundred new vehicles of this type find buyers in Poland. Popular container semi-trailers are available in a fixed version and with extendable back and/or front, so that they can carry containers of any size (20, 30 and 40 feet, and in some cases also 45 feet). On some of them two 20-foot containers can be transported at the same time, placed one after the other.

As a reminder, the standard 20-foot container weighs about 2.3 tons and has more than 28 tons of capacity (cubic capacity over 33 m3). The internal length is 5.9 m. In the case of a 40 foot container, the parameters mentioned above are as follows: 3.75 t; 26.7 t; 67.7 m3 and 12 m. Among other types of containers, the so-called reefers which ensure temperature control are also very popular. They are usually used as cold stores. There are also extended containers, up to 45 feet long, as well as open and hardtop containers.

There are many new developments, e.g. HTSYP 20-foot containers with a capacity of up to 43 m3. (Hard Top – rigid top, bulk cargo). It is a 20 feet High Cube container with a rigid snap-in steel or tarpaulin roof, which can be easily removed from the ground level. It is used mainly to transport bulk cargo, but the flat floor ensures the possibility of transporting also retail or palletized cargo (14 euro pallets can be placed on one level of the container). The main innovation of the container is the possibility of unloading the goods through the rear door flap.

Container transport – overview of semi-trailers and chassis

Since January this year, after four years of absence, S.CF semi-trailers have once again been included in the Schmitz Cargobull product portfolio. Gooseneck chassis are available for the transport of containers from 20′ to 45′ long: S.CF24G-45’ Euro, S.CF24G-40’LX and S.CF24G- 45 Euro Light. The first one is a universal semi-trailer equipped with a rear and front extension. The chassis is fitted with locking mechanisms of MultiLock and KlappLock type.

S.CF24G-40’LX is a solution for carriers specializing in the transport of 20’ and 40’ containers. The 40′ chassis has a rigid front beam. This makes it possible to lock 40 foot containers with and without a tunnel in the same position. S.CF24G- 45’ Euro Light is the lightest option for transport operations with 40’ and 45’ EC containers. The chassis can be equipped with adapters for 40’ containers without a tunnel. An important feature of S.CF Gooseneck semi-trailers is the height of the frame throat (130 mm). This means that even when transporting HC containers with a coupling height of 1.1 m, the total height does not exceed 4 m. The container is positioned flush with the rear beam and can be docked directly onto the loading ramp. Steel buffers are placed at the ramp height across the entire width of the rear beam of the semi-trailer, protecting it from damage during the loading and unloading operations. 

Wielton has refreshed its range of container semi-trailers by extending the Container Master Super Light family. Semi-trailer NS3P20SL is dedicated for transport of 20’ containers in two position configurations. The first one, in which the container is mounted on the back or front of the semi-trailer, is an option to work with a two- or three-axle tractor. It is equipped with a steel platform in the rear part of the frame and two pairs of arms enabling the container to be mounted in one of the two positions. The second configuration, in which the container is mounted only at the back of the trailer, is designed for use in conjunction with a two-axle tractor. In this position of the container, the semi-trailer does not have a steel platform and an additional pair of arms, so its kerb weight is reduced by 230 kg. 

The Krone designers also put their trust in versatility when designing the BoxLiner semi-trailers. They are equipped with fastenings for containers from 20’ to 40’, and with the use of the extension element the semi-trailer ‘handles’ also 45’ containers. BoxLiner is also available in a two-axle version (only for 20’ containers) and is designed for a maximum axle load of 18-20 t. BoxLiner semi-trailers can be flat or stepped. They are relatively light (the weight of the lightest version is just over 3 t). The semi-trailer can also carry swap beds with a length of 13.6 m.

Fliegl also offers a variety of semi-trailers. The Gooseneck TYPE 2 container chassis (with front and rear extension) offers the possibility of transporting the following containers: 1×45’ High Cube (front and rear frame extension), 1×40’ High Cube (rear frame extension), 2×20’ ISO (rear frame extension), 1×30’ ISO (rear frame extension), 1×20’ ISO (frame retracted). The manufacturer notes the relatively low weight, 4.75 t (GVW 37 t; load capacity 32.25 t). Fliegl Gooseneck semi-trailers are fitted as standard with Quick Lock, an automatic container securing system. 

The CIMC Vehicles SC03_45’R container chassis with rear extension offers similar functionalities and is adapted to transport the following containers: 45’ HiCube, 45’ ISO, 40’ HiCube, 40’ ISO, 30’, 20’ or 2×20’. The frame is made of steel, the base is a welded longitudinal structure with transverse reinforcing profiles and container locks. The third axle is lifted pneumatically. The lift to ramp (pneumatic) control valve has a return to travel height function. The floor is made of steel, screwed in the rear part (enabling unloading of the centrally positioned 20’ container). Some available versions are: SC03 40’R and SC03 45’R – rear extension; SC03 45’FR rear and front extension and SC03 45FLW – light semi-trailer (3.9 t) with front extension.

Port is a range of flexible container chassis from Kögel. Both rigid versions and versions with pneumatic extensions are available.  A pneumatic cylinder is built into the extension to protect it and avoid it from being damaged. Extension is supported on springs and roller bearings to damp impacts during loading. Payload is up to 30 tonnes when container is loaded centrally in 20′ position. A new addition is the lightweight Port 45 Triplex chassis with front, centre and rear extension. It weighs approximately 4.45 t and can handle a total load of 41 t. The elliptical perforations are designed to provide optimal stress distribution. The fifth wheel load is 14 t.

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The manufacturer points out  the ease and convenience of use. The chassis features a newly developed one-piece front extension with four-roller bearing. For a longer lifespan, the centre extension on the Port 45 Triplex features a low-maintenance guide on special plastic sliders and two extension rollers. The rear extension is designed along the same lines. This can be quickly set to one of seven possible positions using a hand crank. 

Kässbohrer offers trailers of the SHG series for the transport of almost all types of sea containers and swap bodies. The SHG.L45 Light can be configured from approx. 3.8 t of tare weight. The multifunctional SHG.AVMH, on the other hand, thanks to the innovative design of the central frame, allows the length of the chassis to be shortened and transport very heavy 20′ containers on the rear part, while maintaining the appropriate tractor axle load of the vehicle. After extending the frame, the trailer can take all other types of containers and swap bodies.

Another container chassis is SHF.T, designed for the transportation of specialist tank containers and dangerous goods regulated by ADR. The range is complemented by standard semi-trailers adapted to transport sea containers from 20’ ISO to 45’ HC and swap bodies. For very heavy containers, Kässbohrer also offers lightweight low-floor chassis, which can be equipped with container locks, and thanks to the use of 12-tonne axles, the GVW of these chassis can reach up to 60 t.

Handling equipment

Containers must be handled as efficiently as possible. As a standard, terminals are equipped with reach stackers. Among the popular products are Hyster solutions, e.g. RS 46-41LS CH. Various reach stacker configurations allow stacking of containers with up to 5 levels and 3 rows. The maximum load capacity is 46 t. The machine is equipped with a stabilizer, thanks to which it can lift up to 41 t from the second row of containers, and up to 30 t from a wagon standing on the second track (almost twice as much as in the case of conventional equipment of this type).

Linde offers 357 series machines for stacking containers weighing up to 45 t in the first row and 35 t in the second row. Another features are e.g. microprocessor-based measurement of the load weight and regulation of the angle of arm inclination and its extension length.

Kalmar also offers some interesting products. Among them is the DRF 450-60 S5, with a nominal weight of over 67 t. The maximum range is 6.3 m, the lifting height exceeds 15 m and the turning radius is 8 m.

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Telescopic cranes for container transport e.g. mounted on truck chassis or tracks, are also of interest to terminal operators. They can move from one place to another on their own, and preparing them for work does not require complicated procedures.

Photo: Krone