For freight carriers, being able to interchange the body that sits on a skel means not being limited to the one configuration.
Having the ability to swap out the function of a common piece of trailer equipment can also drive major utilisation improvements; an important consideration for businesses looking to expand their customer base.
Road transport operators, who aim to add value to supply chains, may not have considered intermodal containers as a way to manage their fleets with greater efficiency.
Just as customers, contracts and volumes are always changing, intermodal containers provide additional flexibility through hire or purchase options, thus removing the need to commit to a specific trailer type.
In this regard, SCF containers can be used as an alternative to standard trailer fleet, or as required.
SCF, who counts leading Australian road and rail users among its major customers, offers a faster way to transition into customer diversification for fleets that, in the age of COVID, can’t afford to have too many eggs in the one basket.
Through its range of containers and skel trailers, available for hire via its national depot network, the company enables customers to capitalise on using the same skel for multiple container types.
Depending on the freight task, the skel provides the option to interchange between a range of container configurations, such as dry goods, refrigerated, palletised, Tautliner or tanks for bulk liquids.
As a structurally robust piece of equipment, containers more than meet the strength indicators required of road transport operators. According to Nick Schwartz, the General Manager of Intermodal Equipment at SCF, the reinforcement in the frame of the container allows for more damage protection to be added into each unit.
“We understand how operators load their equipment, and that it can have a pretty hard life,” he says. “The containers are designed accordingly and reinforced in the areas that experience the most wear.”
Superior structural integrity allows SCF to simply add more insulation to the box. This facilitates a better result for refrigerated goods carriers and their customers, as heat leakage into the container is minimised.
Being extra robust also ensures the container remains more durable over time.
SCF’s latest model of refrigerated container features an aluminium design.
Lighter in weight, yet maintaining structural integrity, these containers are built with a vertical load bar system, airflow floors and provide multi-temperature configuration.
“The aluminium design allows us to take significant weight out of the container whilst maintaining the thermal capacity,” Nick says. “The lower tare weight provides our customer with an increased payload and therefore earning capacity.”
SCF offers a range of container types and sizes. Smaller containers are suited to heavier, denser freight, whereas cubic measured freight often requires a larger container.
Flat rack models meet the requirements of irregular freight types that don’t easily fit into a standard piece of equipment.
Container types include end door containers, or units with an open side range, which include a Tautliner model for traditional curtainsider applications.
Refrigerated containers range between 20 and 48 foot in length and have diesel machinery with a fuel tank onboard so that the unit can operate independently.
SCF’s tank fleet features pneumatic tanks and ISO liquid tanks, as well as a line of specialised tank containers.
SCF continues to advance the functionality of its proven container types to improve usability. One of these innovations is the Vertical Load Bar system that has been introduced to the end door container.
The load bars work on a sliding vertical track in the side walls of the containers, which create a mezzanine level when there is a requirement for double stacked palletised freight, thereby preventing damage to the pallets below.
The load bars can be lowered into place when double stacking pallets or pushed to the roof and out of the way of forklift traffic for single stack freight. During peak times, when additional capacity is needed within a fleet, it provides road transport companies another crucial option.
“Instead of a skel sitting idle in the yard, it can be configured with a transport container and used for a PUD task,” says Nick.
“It provides the flexibility to sideload pallets from a customer one day in a Tautliner, and the next be used as an end door container for dock freight. Next week, it might be moving refrigerated freight. Instead of owning numerous trailer types, it’s one skel with multiple containers that can be quickly interchanged as needed and therefore keeps the skel working.”
Challenges in the supply chain network this year, driven by longer turnaround times, have seen sudden, relentless surges for some road operators.
In these circumstances, SCF have been able to provide its customers with the ability to ramp up capacity quickly, to cater to spikes in freight.
“As a national business, with a national depot network, we do carry a large volume of container stock to support our customer base, which means we can provide equipment on very short notice,” Nick says. “It’s been critical through these times for our customers to have that access to fleet to meet surging freight demand.”
The ability to move the equipment in different ways adds a level of future proofing, according to Nick.
“It does unlock new opportunities in providing the operators with access to other modes of transport, such as rail or coastal shipping,” he says.
“In addition to supplying a trailer equivalent, there is an opportunity to unlock new earning potential by offering customers new services and savings, such as rail transport. This future proofing of fleet is especially important with the construction of the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland rail project, which operators will be able to utilise to maintain and grow their business.”