FreightWaves Flashback 1960: “Walk-Through” Containers Give Maximum Flexibility

The many industries that make up the world of freight have undergone tremendous change over the past several decades. Each Friday, FreightWaves explores the archives of American Shipper’s nearly 70-year-old collection of shipping and maritime publications to showcase interesting freight stories of long ago.

The following is an excerpt from the August 1960 edition of the Florida Journal of Commerce.

An order for 110 special chassis to carry the exclusively designed cargo containers for the Erie & St. Lawrence Containerships has been placed with Highway Trailer Company.

Highway Trailer, supplying the complete 885 cargo container complement for the new coastal shipping system between New York and Jacksonville, is manufacturing the chassis at its Hazleton, Pennsylvania, plant. Delivery will be made in August when the “Floridian,” the first vessel built in the United States expressly for hauling containerized cargo, begins operations.

The chassis order calls for tandem and single axle units, some 35-feet, others 17-feet. The cargo-containers include 760 dry freight and 75 refrigerated units (17x8x8 feet); and 50 dry freight units (8.5x8x8 feet).

A. Vance Howe, vice president in charge of eastern sales for Highway, said his company is the single source for both the containers and chassis for the revolutionary shipping operation. This, he pointed out, is “further evidence of Highway’s role as a forerunner in design, production and sales in the growing containerization field.”

Howe said that during the past year, Highway had received container orders from major shipping companies for nearly $6,000,000.

“We are proud to have our name associated with this new and revolutionary major containerization operation,” Howe noted, “especially since this particular order for both containers and chassis calls for many special features.”

Walk-through units

The first successful design for a “walkthrough” feature, perfected by Highway engineers exclusively for Erie & St. Lawrence, permits pairs of 8.5-feet or 17-feet containers to be transported on a single 17- or 35-foot chassis, with one driver moving the combined shipment. In all other over-the-road containerized shipments now in operation, 17-foot cargo containers require individual chassis, or a loading and unloading procedure which would make the operation impractical.

The walk-through feature makes possible handling cargo within both containers without removing either from the chassis. The front and rear-end doors swing inward as well as outward, thereby permitting access to the second container. Simply by opening the loaded container doors into the empty container with which it is paired on the chassis, the cargo moves freely through the empty container onto the loading dock. This procedure can also be reversed.

Without this feature, it would be necessary to remove the rear container from the chassis in order to get to the cargo in the second container. This would require expensive handling equipment at all terminals for loading or unloading containers from chassis.

The high tensile steel chassis, exclusively designed to accommodate the special containers, have corner tie-down locking devices to conform with the lower corner castings of the containers. Positioning devices have been included in the chassis design to guide the containers into their secure positions during loading.

Highway Trailer Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Highway Trailer Industries, Inc., manufactures a complete line of semi- and four-wheel truck trailers, including dry freight trailers, refrigerated trailers, insulated trailers, livestock trailers, platform trailers, rack trailers, furniture vans and fluid carriers. It also manufactures steel and aluminum cargo containers used for the movement of all types of dry freight by truck, rail, ship or airplane.

Highway is a producer of public utility equipment. The line includes telephone and power line construction equipment, and maintenance truck bodies, telephone installation truck bodies, pole and cable reel trailers, earth boring machines, winches and power take-offs.

The company has plants in Edgerton and Stoughton, Wisconsin; Hazleton, Pennsylvania; and Newark, New Jersey.