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FlexiVan grows chassis fleet with AIM merger

FlexiVan Leasing said the merger with AIM was an easy process because both companies believe in open choice and trucker-friendly chassis policies. Photo credit: Ari Ashe/JOC.com.

FlexiVan Leasing has upgraded its chassis fleet with the addition of 12,500 units through a merger with American Intermodal Management (AIM), bringing the combined fleet size to 137,500 marine units across the United States.

Under the deal, terms of which were not disclosed, FlexiVan will receive an injection of relatively new chassis with the latest safety features, such as radial tires, automatic braking systems, and LED brake lights, the companies said in a joint statement. Additionally, AIM’s chassis, which were effectively unwelcome under box rules, will now be capable of handling ocean containers under a door delivery, which also benefits cargo owners and truckers looking for reliable equipment.

“The combination of AIM and FlexiVan will provide strong financial support to continue the upgrade of FlexiVan’s fleet, support significant investment in new assets, and fund ongoing development of innovative IT systems, all of which will allow us to deliver an industry leading customer experience,” Charles G. Wellins, president of FlexiVan, said in a statement.

Ronald D. Widdows, executive chairman of AIM, will become CEO of the merged companies operating under the FlexiVan name. It’s unclear what position Wellins or current AIM CEO Nathaniel Seeds will have in the combined company, although FlexiVan said executive appointments will be announced soon.

FlexiVan will remain third-largest US chassis fleet

Despite the additional units, FlexiVan’s fleet remains the third largest in the US behind TRAC Intermodal and Direct ChassisLink (DCLI), although the deal narrows the gap. TRAC is the largest provider with 180,000 units, while DCLI owns, leases, and manages more than 153,000 marine chassis in the US. 

The merger provides relief to beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) upset over chassis shortages and chronically broken or unsafe equipment. Given that AIM was founded in 2016, FlexiVan will be acquiring new chassis without having to order them from China International Marine Containers (CIMC) and paying a tariff. And bringing the AIM chassis into the FlexiVan network eliminates the restrictive box rules that kept AIM from reaching large BCOs. 

Box rules allow BCOs to use any chassis in a cooperative pool, while the vendor of the ocean carrier would collect the revenue. For example, Maersk containers could go on TRAC chassis in a cooperative pool, but DCLI would invoice and collect the revenue. A CMA CGM box could go on a DCLI chassis, but TRAC would collect the cash. 

AIM couldn’t crack into the game because it was unable to establish a formal agreement with any ocean carrier. So, although the company was not prohibited from joining a cooperative pool, it would have been unable to collect any revenue on door deliveries. AIM could lease to shippers using merchant haulage and shippers looking for their equipment. FlexiVan, though, has existing agreements with Ocean Network Express and OOCL, and contributes to all the major US cooperative pools under box rules.

AIM emphasizes the use of technology to provide cargo owners and truckers with visibility into the location of their container and chassis. Each AIM chassis is equipped with a GPS sensor, an accelerometer that can transmit distance, speed and direction, and a load sensor that notes and communicates when a container is mounted and dismounted. 

Contact Ari Ashe at ari.ashe@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @arijashe.