Physical capacity and regulations limit loading in containers

One of the most important rail flows in Mexico is that of containers, due to its intermodal relevance, however, unlike other loads, the tons that a container can carry are limited both by physical capacity and by foreign trade regulations.

According to the document “Containerized rail cargo: geographical characteristics and statistics 2018” of the Mexican Institute of Transportation (IMT), and with data from the Railway Transport Regulatory Agency (ARTF), the average tons / car reported for the Railway Mexican System  (SFM) in 2018, was 58.41, which is a value that a container hardly supports.

In the Mexican market, 20-foot containers are used, which are used less than those of 40 and 53 feet, since the former vary between 200 and 250 per month, while the latter between 600 and 800 per month.

Depending on the design, a 40-foot container can hold between 26 and 28 tons of cargo, while a 20-foot container can generally hold up to 29 tons.

Similarly, it was identified that there were 793,006 cars as containers, where 8.2% are directly recorded as empty, but derived from the statistical analysis it was agreed that the cases in which the ton-car ratio was less than 9 would be considered as empty.

This situation was applied to the data provided by Kansas City Southern de México (KCSM), which does not directly report emptying, but has 36.7% of its cars in this condition. Thus, the percentage of containers considered empty in 2018 rises to 30.9 percent.

Regarding the origin-destination relationship of empty containers in foreign trade, it is specified that Lázaro Cárdenas-Cuautitlán is the largest route linked to industrial activity, while in the intermodal freight exchange to Manzanillo-Pantaco.

Read full article (Spanish).