By Keith Norbury

The concept of 60-foot shipping containers recently underwent tests at a Canadian Pacific Railway terminal in Ontario with an eye to launching them into service later this year. CP conducted the testing on behalf of Canadian Tire Corporation, which expects the longer containers to “revolutionize the movement of goods,” according to Neil McKenna, Canadian Tire’s Vice-President of Transportation.

The new container will allow for 13 per cent more payload, which will reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. McKenna said in an email response to questions from Canadian Sailings about the program. “Innovations like this could lead to improved productivity for Canadian Pacific,” said Mathieu Faure, CP’s Vice-President of Intermodal, also via email.

The testing involved strapping 3.5-foot blocks of Styrofoam to each end of a 53-foot container to mock up the dimensions of a 60-foot container. That process helps determine if the containers are suitable for intermodal rail. The containers would be transportable by either truck or rail.

Exactly when the containers will go into service hasn’t been made public. A Canadian Tire spokesperson said that the company wasn’t prepared to share any more information at this time. The company confirmed, however, that it plans to run one of the new containers on each of the following four routes: Toronto-Vancouver; Toronto-Calgary; Toronto-Halifax; and intra-Ontario lanes. Testing took place at Canadian Pacific’s terminal in Vaughan, Ont.

U.S.-based American Intermodal Container Manufacturing Inc. is manufacturing the containers while Max-Atlas Equipment International Inc. of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., has developed the containers’ chassis. Before it can put the 60-foot containers into service, Canadian Tire has to receive approval from provincial transportation ministries to operate in those jurisdictions, Mr. McKenna said. The American Association of Railroads also has to determine “that this intermodal unit meets all the specifications required to safely integrate into the existing Intermodal rail networks,” Mr. McKenna added.

Port drayage won’t be any concern because the 60-foot containers won’t be used on vessels — at least not yet. “Ultimately we may use these units for short sea service to Newfoundland and Vancouver Island and we are working with the marine providers in these markets to see what (if any) changes need to occur for this to become operational for marine purposes,” Mr. McKenna said. At present Canadian Tire only drays 40-foot containers for transloading, in which the goods are transferred to longer containers. “Our fleet stays within Canada so ocean lines do not have to make any modifications” to handle the 60-foot containers, he added.

Mr. McKenna expects trucking companies to embrace the 60-foot containers because they will improve productivity and have an environmentally friendly impact. “CP is supporting innovation and has been very open and responsive to the container,” Mr. Faure said.

Joe Lynch, team leader of Vehicle and Dimensions for Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, described the 60-foot container program as “a pretty good initiative” for Canadian Tire. “They’re looking to reduce their global greenhouse gases, their carbon footprint and all those kind of things,” Mr. Lynch said. “And they are one of the leaders in multimodal.” However, he wasn’t at liberty to reveal too many details of the 60-foot container initiative, although he did say that it was part of a larger program that also includes Walmart’s 60-foot, six-inch specialized drop-deck trailers. In both cases, the overall length of the truck and trailer is within the 23-metre limit (or 75.5 feet) standard across Canada, he noted. “We were the first to move forward with this as a pilot and obviously carriers are interested in doing this in other provinces,” Mr. Lynch said.