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Development of new intermodal loading units and dedicated adaptors for the trimodal transport of bulk materials in Europe

This project targets the development of new intermodal loading units (container plus adapter) including devices such as the ISO bulk container, roll-off container, capable adaptors and mobile fixtures suitable for the trimodal transport of bulk and packaged goods on road, railway and inland waterways.

Tags: Multimodal


Road transportation is facing rapidly increasing congestion. On the contrary, the available capacity on railways and inland waterways are being underutilised. A redistribution of the carriage of goods is urgently needed. Up until now the most important obstacles have been the incompatible interfaces between the various carriers and the diversity of loading devices being used in the EU.

In this context, the lack of harmonisation and standardisation of loading units is a great barrier against utilising the development potential of the intermodality.

By applying new loading units, the logistic chain can be set up without changing the loading unit within the complete door-to-door transport process. Trans-shipping does not require crane technology anymore so the costs will be reduced substantially. In compliance with the ISO container dimensions, the new characteristics of the loading units will lead to a harmonisation of the handling.

The development, design and testing of the new intermodal loading units and their later introduction into the market will strongly contribute to the policy objectives of the European transport.

New developments and a growing complexity in trans-shipping technologies, which are aimed at cost reduction, do not allow for the universal use of the existing ISO and roll-off containers in the transport chains of combined traffic systems anymore.


The main objective of the project is the development of new technical solutions for intermodal loading units including containers, dedicated adaptors and mobile internal fixtures in order to shift the main transportation route for goods from the road onto rail and inland waterways in a sustainable way.

By the development and integration of tailored adaptors for the necessary lifting and shifting operations, the loading units will lead to an optimum for intermodal transportability and compatibility to existing systems, i.e. hook-lifting or spreader technology and/or the horizontal trans-shipping via devices such as MOBILER, ACTS, etc.

The technical activities will be focused on the development and design of large ISO containers and ISO compatible roll-off containers with the dimensions of 2 550 x 2 900 x 7 450 mm. These dimensions comply with the recommended directive of the European Commission for intermodal loading units.

Within the project, technical solutions for the transport of selected gases and liquids are also developed.

Furthermore, it is intended to equip the containers with optional exchangeable fixtures and movable walls in such a way that they can accommodate bulk goods as well as packaged goods.

Considering these requirements and specifications, two types of loading units will be designed and tested within the project in agreement with the recommendations of the EC.

Door-to-door transport chain
Door-to-door transport chain
2006, ZAFT

Description of work

The following technical solutions will be developed and designed:

  • intermodal loading units for the formation of a multi handling process at intermodal transport conditions with the necessary characteristics of the interoperability for the trimodal traffic carriers
  • appropriate modular adaptor systems for the efficient adaptation of the loading units to the main intermodal transportation and loading demands for bulk and packaged goods
  • container modules for gases and liquids
  • adapter systems for the transport on trimodal traffic carriers
  • fixing modules for the receptacle connection with the trimodal adapter system.

The design of the new loading unit prototypes will include the following sub-tasks:

  • ISO-compatible bulk material/packaged goods container
  • ISO-compatible roll-off container
  • frame systems and the required mobile built-in equipment
  • adaptation of the frame systems to the types of goods, norms and other legal regulations (e.g. EN, ISO, UIC, UIT, TSI and GOST) and to the means of transportation.

In addition, suitable measuring and testing techniques have to be developed and constructed:

  • discharging tests for selected groups of bulk goods and municipal waste
  • examination of the goods (or loading units) with respect to the design of the inner walls and the transfer equipment system will be xecuted.


  1. The logistic chain can be set up without changing the loading unit throughout the complete door-to-door transport process.
  2. The trans-shipping procedures are possible with different handling technologies and the costs will be reduced substantially.
  3. The uniformity of the special internal features, such as the position and design of fittings as well as the compliance with the container dimensions, will contribute to the harmonisation of the loading units.
  4. In the field of municipal waste, the specific roll-off container will be adapted to allow the application of spreader technology as well as stacking. The application spectrum of these containers will be extended considerably as they can be handled with classical SPREADER as well as HOOK-LIFT technology.
  5. New, significantly changing requirements of today’s logistics are emerging. The ISO container for mineral bulk goods will probably be used as a self-discharging unit when carried on a railway wagon. This ISO container can be handled with SPREADER, MOBILER, ACTS and HOOK-LIFT technology.
New loading units and the installation of efficient transport chains may avoid unnecessary changes at transport facilities. Transport, handling and trans-shipping can be reduced by the goods being transported directly to the consumer without any interim storage.