Intermodal freight weights: What carriers need to know
Are you interested in moving intermodal freight and expanding your owner operator business? Download the free DrayNow app from the App Store or Google Play store, or click the button below.
In order to use the DrayNow app to haul power only loads, a carrier needs a tandem axle tractor. What separates a tandem and single axle tractor is that tandems have an extra set of axles, therefore distributing weight more effectively across the tractor and chassis.
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the maximum gross weight for a truck is 80,000 pounds. This standard for weight is distributed across the tractor, chassis, and drayage container, with 12,000 pounds for the steer axle and 34,000 pounds for the tandem axles. Why is it important to have this weight distributed? It’s all about protecting infrastructure, and having several tons of freight distributed across a 53’ container is less taxing on our roads than a smaller container with the same weight.
Because of this, it’s recommended that intermodal containers hold no more than 42,500 pounds of freight. However, we all know that not every tractor, container, or chassis weigh the same. These standards are put in place to prevent a truck from being overweight. Between differences in tractor size, chassis weights, container weights, and the amount of fuel in the truck, there needs to be a cushion between how much freight could theoretically be loaded, and how much freight should be loaded to prevent a gross weight greater than 80,000 pounds.
On the DrayNow app, the weight of each load is listed right on the home screen of the intermodal load board before the load is even requested. It’s important for an intermodal trucking carrier to know how much their own personal equipment weighs (the tractor) so that they can know whether that load’s weight would work for their operation. What if a driver doesn’t know the weight of their tractor? There are weigh stations all over the country that they can bring their truck and get weighed.
On the DrayNow app, the weight of each load is listed right on the home screen before the load is even requested.
Let’s say that a carrier has a sleeper cab, and the weight of the load is hovering around the 42,500-pound mark. The gross weight may end up exceeding the 80,000-pound regulation due to the weight of the cab. Though they may have been able to pick up loads this heavy for an over-the-road run, keep in mind that the combined weight of an intermodal container and chassis can be 3,000-4,000 pounds heavier than a dry van and trailer.
What happens when the weight of the truck is below 80,000 pounds, but the freight in the container isn’t distributed properly, causing the rear or middle axles to be disproportionate? A carrier could slide the tandems to distribute weight, but it’s worth noting that state guidelines require that the kingpin (front end of the chassis) can be no further than 40-43’ away from the center tandem or rear axle, depending on the state. In California, the rear axle must be set in place no further than 40’ from the kingpin. This applies for containers headed to California as well, so make sure to check the BOL for the final destination and adjust the tandems accordingly.
It may seem like a lot of intricate information, but as long as you know that the maximum weight distribution is 12,000-34,000-34,000 and the state guidelines for the tandem-kingpin distance, then as a carrier, you have done what you can to make sure the load is in compliance and easy to execute for everyone involved.
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