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West Coast and California Logistics Blog

Overweight Container Logistics at the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach

Thu, Feb 21, 2019 @ 07:00 AM / by Jerry Critchfield

Shipping containers across the ocean to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is a big job with a big impact on your company’s supply chain.  It can also come with a big price tag, especially when you’re dealing with overweight containers.  This price tag can be greatly reduced, however, by partnering with a third-party logistics provider (3PL) that specializes in overweight container logistics. 

Shipping overweight containers into the ports

overweight container logisticsIn looking at just the ocean part of the shipment, overweight containers make a lot of sense.  It’s much more cost effective to ship – and pay for – only one container packed to the gills than to pay for two containers.  Shipping overweight, then, is a relatively common practice, especially among companies with heavier products (e.g., tile and stone, hardware, machinery, and beverages).

It’s when the container hits the port that problems can arise.  If you’re not careful, the cost of transporting your containers off port can dwarf the savings you just enjoyed over the ocean.   

Overweight container logistics from port to destination

Once your containers arrive at the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach, you have three main options for distribution. 

Option #1: you can ship overweight to your destination.  It is here that your ocean cost savings can quickly evaporate.  The method seems straightforward enough: a drayage provider receives your container and transports it to your destination.  With overweight containers, however, it’s not quite that simple. 

Note the chart below.  You’ll see that, based on the container size and weight, you will potentially need a tri-axle chassis, a 4-axle (or “drop axle”) tractor and permits.  This results in a few potential headaches. 

For one, tri-axle chassis are about 4x more expensive than standard chassis, and chassis pools sometimes run out of them. Four-axle tractors, on the other hand, are not common, can’t be rented, and are significantly more expensive than three-axle units.  You’ll need to work with an asset-based provider that already has this equipment.  As for permits, well, that’s often the biggest headache of the three. 

Legal cargo weight limits for containers

Container Size Chassis Type Estimated Cargo Weight Guidelines*
20' Standard steamship chassis 0 - 39,000 pounds
(0 - 17,690 kilograms)

Tri-axle slider chassis and 3-axle tractor

39,001 - 44,000 pounds
(17,691 - 20,411 kilograms)
20' Tri-axle slider chassis with 4-axle tractor (on the overweight corridor, with permits) 44,001 - 58,000 pounds
(20,411 - 26,308 kilograms)
40' x 8'6 Standard steamship chassis 0 - 46,500 pounds
(0 - 21,092 kilograms)
40' x 8'6 Tri-axle slider chassis with 4-axle tractor (on the overweight corridor, with permits) 46,501 - 58,000 pounds
(21,092 - 25,424 kilograms)

*Cargo weight many not exceed maximum container capacity weight

Just outside of the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach is the overweight corridorIt is a roughly 4-square-mile grid of local roads in which overweight containers can be freely moved by trucks that have the proper permits.  There are three permits needed to operate within the corridor: one from the city of Los Angeles, one from the city of Long Beach, and one from the county of Los Angeles.  Trucking companies can purchase each of these permits – for each of their trucks – on an annual basis. 

If your destination is within the overweight corridor, those permits are the only ones you’ll need.  It is when you move your overweight container beyond the corridor that the permits (and costs) can really add up.  Each of the trucks hauling your containers will need ‘individual movement permits’ for each locale that the container will travel through. 

So, let’s say that your overweight container is traveling from the Port of Long Beach to a warehouse in Fontana in the Inland Empire, 60 miles east of L.A.  In addition to the three overweight corridor permits, each truck will need overweight permits for the city of Fontana, the county of San Bernardino, and likely other locales along the way.  So, at a minimum, you’re looking at 5 permits per truck; likely more.   In addition to your drayage and chassis costs, that’s an extra $800 per truck (approximately) in permits alone.

Read the Weber eBrochure, How to Reduce Overall  Import Costs with Overweight Ocean Containers


Option #2: Partner with a 3PL within the overweight corridor.  Partnering with a 3PL enables you to simplify your overweight container logistics operation in several ways. 

First, you can partner with a 3PL that can perform both drayage and warehousing services within the corridor.  This removes non-corridor permits from the equation as your 3PL receives your containers, and simply warehouses them within the corridor.  If the 3PL is asset-based, that’s even better as you won’t have to worry about chassis availability. 

Another option – and the most common one for overweight containers – is transloading and/or deconsolidation.  With this approach, your 3PL provider receives your containers and transports them to its warehouse.  If that warehouse is not your product’s final destination, the 3PL will unload enough pallets from each container (typically 2 to 4) so that the container is no longer considered overweight and no additional permits are required.  The 3PL will then transport the now street-legal containers. 

Once all containers have headed out to their destinations, the leftover pallets can be combined into full truckloads on standard trailers and follow the containers to the destination.  This weight reduction method typically saves companies 40% in total transportation costs for Asia-to-U.S. overweight containers.

Additionally, whether overweight or not, 3PLs can help companies reduce unnecessary costs related to dual transactions at the ports.  Several terminals at the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach require dual transactions.  This means that when you come in to pick up a container, you need to bring an empty one with you.  Companies who have an odd number of containers end up holding on to an empty container until their next incoming one arrives. Substantial per-diem and demurrage charges can result.  As 3PLs in the region have multiple customers with containers coming into and out of the ports, this is a problem they can help you avoid altogether. 

Option #3: Rent your own warehouse within the overweight corridor.  While this is technically an option, it’s not a good one for most companies.  Space in the corridor is hard to come by, and if you’re lucky enough to find it, you’re going to pay about 45% more than you would in the Inland Empire and other more cost-effective locations in California.

Turn to Weber for overweight container logistics

With warehousing, transloading, deconsolidation, and asset-based drayage operations located within the overweight corridor, Weber Logistics has the infrastructure and expertise to optimize your overweight container shipments.  And, when your goods need to be distributed beyond the corridor, Weber’s integrated approach includes asset-based transportation as well – allowing us to handle every aspect of your shipments from port to final delivery.  To learn more about our integrated capabilities, contact Weber Logistics today

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Topics: Southern California Ports, West Coast Distribution, Port Logistics, Third Party Logistics, west coast warehouses, Transload, Inland Empire Warehouse, overweight

Written by Jerry Critchfield

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