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Container Transportation and Cargo Containers: A Few Facts

000008With the continued growth in international trade and resurgence of rail due to the rising cost of diesel fuel and its impact on long-haul trucking, there are some basic facts you should know about inter modal container transportation and cargo containers.

  • International cargo containers and domestic cargo containers look similar and are constructed similarly, but differ in one key aspect – size.  International cargo containers are sized to fit on ocean-going container ships and are either 20 or 40 feet in length and 8 feet wide. Domestic cargo containers are typically 48 or 53 feet in length and 8 feet 6 inches wide. Domestic cargo containers are more commonly used on U.S. railroads and for transport over-the-road by trucks when mounted on chassis. Cargo imported into the U.S. in either 20 ft. or 40 ft. international shipping containers is often transloaded into 48 ft. or 53 ft. domestic shipping containers so that it can be moved more efficiently to inland destinations via rail, or rail and truck.
  • While railroad’s bread and butter is hauling intermodal containers 1,500 miles or more, rail can be cost competitive with long-haul over-the-road trucking for distances as low as 750 miles when the price of diesel fuel is at or near $3.95 per gallon. However, this is assuming that the containers’ pick-up and delivery points are within 250 miles of a rail hub so that trucks can handle the container drayage to and from the rail hubs. Container transportation or drayage is a key link with trucks connecting pick up points and delivery points to rail hubs, barge terminals and/or terminals at deep water ports.
  • Due to difficulties in securing heavy industrial commodities like piping, steel coil and aluminum inside intermodal containers, these types of goods are considered flat-deck freight, and railroads have refused to accept these materials for intermodal transport. If not secured adequately such heavy items could break loose during transit and cause significant damage to rail equipment as well as other cargo. As a result the market for moving flat-deck freight has been dominated by specialized flatbed trucks, even for the longest cross country hauls. However, intermodal equipment is coming into use that can now carry flat-deck freight and can even be double stacked using railroad wellcars, then transferred to a chassis for drayage or container transportation by truck to its final destination.
  • In addition to using cargo containers for transportation of goods, some businesses and individuals rent or purchase cargo containers for portable, onsite storage. A 20 ft. international cargo container will fit in the same area as a standard parking space. Many find this to be a cheaper, more convenient alternative to renting a storage unit in a mini storage warehouse facility.

For additional information on container transportation, you may also want to read one of our earlier blog posts from May 2012 titled “Container Transportation: The Pros and The Cons“.

FW Trucking is a professionally managed, privately held trucking company based in the St. Louis metropolitan area in Sauget, Illinois. FW Trucking offers hazardous material transportation, container transportation, regional over-the-road trucking throughout the Midwest and freight shuttle service. The firm’s primary service areas include: St. Louis, Indianapolis and the following seven states: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas.

For more information about FW Trucking’s container transportation services and other capabilities, visit the About Us and Services pages of the FW Trucking web site.