Loading units in CT




In Combined Transport (CT), loading units (LU) represent the object of transshipment while protecting the goods to be transported. The most common and widely known type of loading units are containers, as these can be transported across all modes in CT, i.e. road, rail and barge. A vehicle itself can also be a loading unit, which will be the focus of this chapter. In the course of various innovations of transport modes, different forms of LU as well as corresponding specific handling systems have been developed and adapted to the to the individual requirements of LU. Due to bulk freight transport, particularly as a consequence of international / intercontinental maritime transport, standardization with respect to the size and feature of LU has prevailed. As a consequence of said standardization, loading units ensure:

  • economically viable and easy handling
  • more efficient utilization of space
  • easier storage
  • better options for gathering information, statistics and accounting

However, the advantages outlined above only apply if transport, handling and storage operations are generally recognized and internationally standardized.


Overview loading units

Within global cargo flows, several LU systems have been developed that support various types of transport and handling. These systems are characterised by maritime and continental LU, which, due to their respective use, each have different technical properties, possible applications and variations.

Examples of maritime and continental LU as well as their respective advantages and disadvantages are given below.


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Space-saving storage
Worldwide practice
Difficult loading and unloading
(parking only possible on the ground)
Lack of compatibility with Euro pallets
European dimension requirements
Compatible with European pallets
Practice Europe-wide and in continental
non-European countries (e.g. China)
Limited stackability
Intercontinental transport from overseas partly
not feasible (e.g. semi-trailer)


vgl. Arnold et al. (2008), Handbuch der Logistik
vgl. Posset et al. (2014), Intermodaler Verkehr Europa