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container commentary

10th July 1970, Page 53
10th July 1970
Page 53
Page 53, 10th July 1970 — container commentary
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

by Norman M. Douglas A monthly intelligence report on container topics Overcoming those snags

THE ADVANTAGES of containerization are said to be many for shippers and operators. But what about the haulier who, in the United Kingdom, is mostly responsible for moving the containers to and from ports, railheads or inland depots. What is the score with him?

An inquiry carried out recently among some southern-based operators came up with such widely differing views that it was impossible to conclude whether hauliers thought containers were a good thing for them or not. (Not that it particularly matters since, in the end, road haulage is governed by the cargo owners' wishes.) The inquiry mentioned above is not yet complete, but a preliminary perusal of the proceedings so far brings one important matter to the fore. Hauliers should either go in for the carrying of containers, which entails the use of purpose-built skeletal semi-trailers, etc, or should steer clear from them altogether. Without a doubt, the general consensus of opinion is that there is no "bread" to be gained in carrying the odd box back and forth when no other outward loads are in the offing, or as a return load "filler". For the uninitiated and unwary, there are snags galore in entering what has now become a specialized field of operation.

A return to the tilt

ONE of them centres around the important question of loading or unloading. Despite the preaching of the theorists that containerization enables a haulier to simply draw a trailer carrying a container to the loading /unloading premises, there to be left until loading /unloading is accomplished, it is a fact that, with very few exceptions, the tractive unit remains attached to the trailer throughout the whole loading operation with the driver standing by, until the container is loaded or unloaded.

However, there is more to it than this. Whereas the conventional trailer or even the tilt-topped TIR type can be "attacked" from both sides and the rear and, in some cases, from above via a crane, the normal, standard ISO box container is only accessible through the rear doors.

This is one reason for a return to the once popular tilt-topped, drop-sided container that is spoken about by certain hauliers in the London area.

Whether to specialize

TWO schools of thought exist on specialization: those who opt for complete flexibility and thus operate dual-purpose equipment, and those who say "all or nothing" in favour of the skeletal.

To some extent the haulier going in for container carriage has to face the dilemma of what type of containers will he more often than not have to carry.

Certainly the 20ft box is the most common in use in the United Kingdom—but the prophets are certain that 40-footers, probably 8ft 6in. high, will be the order of the day shortly. Thus the ideal trailer must be capable of carrying all sizes of ISO recommended box and be equipped with tvvistlock devices at intervals along its length to match up with the corner fittings of all ISO standard containers.

Bridging the gap

ALTHOUGH the optimum economic combination is obviously the carriage of two 20ft units on one trailer, at the moment the opportunity for this type of operation is rare, and, more often than not, the haulier is offered one container per trip which is normally positioned over the rear axles of the trailer so that the rear of the container is not flush with the end of the trailer. This, again, creates a loading /unloading problem in some premises. The 10in, or so gap between the floor of the container and the loading bank must be bridged, and the bridging equipment must be strong enough to carry fork-lift trucks.

Carrying the can

HAULIERS seem fairly agreed on one aspect of containerization. Despite all the advantages claimed for them by the enthusiasts, containers do get damaged. Throughout the years, though, drivers have become wise to the ways of the container operators and it is common practice for them to note down all visible signs of damage when they sign for their particular box. "Visible", however, is the operative word. But how does a driver go about checking the roof of the container he is to carry? If damage has taken place, during a voyage, usually the first intimation is when the doors are opened, revealing the rain-or sea-soaked contents. Whose responsibility is this? Can a driver be expected to clamber up the sides of a container in order to irispect its roof?

Perhaps some of our container ports and terminals could learn a trick or two from the Europe Container Terminal at Rotterdam. Here, near the exit gates, ECT has constructed a platform, approximately 10ft above floor level, with a ladder to provide access, and a safety rail. All containers passing out of the port can thus be inspected for roof damage.

The weight pitfall

ANOTHER aspect of containerization that can land a haulier in trouble is the question of overweight containers. While most ports in the UK have weighbridges, they are not always readily available. For instance, a container arriving at Dover cannot be weighed on a Saturday, simply because the weighbridge is closed then!

But even having established that a particular container, when matched to a trailer, will bring the combination, plus the tractive unit, over the allowed-for road weight, what does the haulier, or his driver, do then? Officially he should not take the container. It seems, however, that drivers have developed a routine for overcoming this. They take the load, and, if stopped, state that they are proceeding to the nearest weighbridge to have the vehicle weight checked!


Locations: Rotterdam, London

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