Current State of Standardization and Future Standardization Needs for Intermodal Loading Units in Europe; UTI-Norm
The future European loading unit will fit into the current European transport codes as follows: Road transport The proposed European loading unit is recommended in two sizes, one size designed for European road trains as a twin unit, one to be carried on the rigid truck and the other on the trailer, and the other size designed for transport by European articulated road vehicle carried on the semi-trailer. The unit is proposed with a height making full use of current design in road vehicles and the European legislation allowing an overall road vehicle height of 4000 mm. The proposal takes care of the possibility to achieve a light weight construction to avoid tare penalties compared to conventional road vehicles. Furthermore, the proposal aims at a loading unit that can be built rather cheap. Rail transport The proposed unit takes care of the current loading length of railcars, making best use of the loading patterns offered with the majority of the current European railcar fleet. The loading unit is proposed with an outside height that can be accommodated in most important European rail corridors when carried on standard platform height railcars, and in many other corridors, that offer reduced gauge on railcars, with special design for lower platform height, such railcars being state of the art. Inland waterway transport The European loading unit is designed to be stacked at least four high in inland waterway transport making full use of the loading patterns of the most important European inland waterway, the Rhine river and its coastal canal connections. By merits of stacking, the loading unit offers greatly improved transport economics in inland waterway. The loading unit includes some difficulties in transport within the Central European canal network, because its width impedes full loading of inland waterway barges that are designed to pass through the locks in this system. Further considerations are needed in this area. Short Sea Transport Once a stackable loading unit is offered, modern Roll on/Roll off ships can switch from one layer transfer and transport to double stack transfer and transport on board of the ship. This development will considerably improve the economics of loading and discharge, and the volume accommodation patterns on board ship. Roll on/Roll off ships are so flexible in their loading unit accommodation that the proposed sizes of the future loading unit do not create any difficulty. Cellular ships operated in short sea transport create more difficulties to adapt to the sizes of the future loading unit, because these ships are mainly built to accommodate ISO containers with other width and length. While the width problem can be overcome rather easily (and today short sea cellular ships are already operated that can carry either ISO containers or pallet wide containers, the adaptation of the cell guides to the different length of the future unit might create difficulties - not in technical design as adjustable cell guides are state of the art -, but daily in operation because these ships might have to carry a changing mix of ISO containers and European loading units. No experience has been gained yet about the feasibility of cell adjustment in the short period when the ship stays in a port terminal. Another problem will come up if stacks of more than two layers are incurred in short sea operation. Normally, such ships are built for stacks of three layers on deck, and of six layers under deck. The design of a large European loading unit with full six high stackability ability in sea transport will need to a difficult construction, leading to a rather heavy and costly unit that might no longer be competitive in road and rail mode. Further considerations are needed in this field, once first experience has been gained about concrete conditions of operation of such units. In general, European short sea shipping will benefit from a move to standardized units that might replace the great variety of different sizes and shapes that are today used in this trade. Standardized units will contribute to more efficiency and more safety in this operation. The study team has, finally, suggested a series of recommendation toward future European standardization, policy and research in the field of intermodal transport, based on its findings and on the results of a discussion with European experts in a workshop that has been organized in the course of the study efforts.