Forty-five-foot containers can continue circulating
Brussels, Belgium – Member States may still allow the circulation of forty-five-foot containers in national road transport. A 1996 Council Directive, laying down the rules for weights and dimensions in road transport, contains a ten year transition period that has so far allowed the carriage of forty-five-foot containers. The transition period will terminate at the end of this year, which has left stakeholders worried that this could lead to a total ban of forty-five foot containers from road transport. However, this will not be the case, in particular for the road legs of intermodal transport operations.
“The rules on the dimensions of vehicles and loading units should match the needs of advanced logistics and sustainable mobility in Europe. Member States can still allow forty-five foot containers to circulate in their territory after the end of this year. This will represent an important impetus for intermodality, because forty-five foot containers are carried by rail, short sea shipping or inland waterway transport over longer distances while road transport takes care of the first and final road legs”, declared European Commission Vice-President in charge of transport, Mr. Jacques Barrot.
Forty-five foot containers can continue circulating in national transport operations as "indivisible loads" provided that the Member States concerned put in place the necessary administrative arrangements. They may also continue circulating within national territories, under the "modular concept" provided that the Member States concerned inform the Commission of the measures taken.
The global fleet of forty-five foot containers is approximately 400.000 TEU while the total global fleet of containers represents approximately 20 million TEU. Forty-five foot containers are to some extent used in the EU. European short-sea operators also own a small fleet of pallet-wide forty-five foot containers.
 Council Directive 96/53/EC of 25 July 1996 laying down for certain road vehicles circulating within the Community the maximum authorized dimensions in national and international traffic and the maximum authorized weights in international traffic, OJ L 235, 17.9.1996, p. 59, as amended by Directive 2002/7/EC, OJ L 067, 9.3.2002, p. 47.
 An ‘indivisible load’ means a load that cannot, for the purpose of carriage by road, be divided into two or more loads without undue expense or risk of damage and which owing to its dimensions or mass cannot be carried by a motor vehicle, trailer, road train or articulated vehicle complying with this Directive in all respects.
 The ‘modular concept’ means the use of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers which comply with the dimensions laid down in Annex I to the Directive to be used in such combinations that at least the loading length authorised in the relevant Member State can be achieved (e.g. 18,75 metres).
 TEU = Twenty foot equivalent unit (equivalent to a 20’ foot container).