Swap bodies

What is a swap body ?

A swap body is an transport unit (ITU) used to transport goods by land.

This is a lightweight body able to be transferred from a lorry to a railway wagon and vice versa.

It is not equipped with wheels unlike a trailer; a swap body stands on 4 brackets on the ground.

The characteristics of a swap body

From the outside, look like ISO containers, which are widely used in .

However, they differ from containers in several respects:

  • dimensions: a swap body is longer than a container. With a length of 45 feet (13m 40) similar to that of a trailer, are perfectly adapted to the dimensions of road vehicles. In addition, they provide a greater loading capacity if the goods are on a pallet ;
  • structure: a swap body is a lightweight structure comprising a metal chassis, a frame and a tarpaulin. It is not as heavy as a container and its transport requires less fuel. It is generally not rigid but can be stacked like a container ;
  • handling: due to its non-rigid structure, handling a swap body requires special equipment.

There are several types of depending on the type of goods being transported:

  • with sliding curtains ;
  • with an inclinable shutter ;
  • Refrigerated for the transport of goods at a controlled temperature.

Examples and application

During transhipment, are handled vertically or horizontally.

Vertical handling of swap bodies

This is the most common handling technique for loading . This requires the use of cranes and vertical handling machines equipped with a spreader.

This component equipped with grapple clamps is used to lift the swap body to the level of the lower frame to load it on the trailer or the wagon.

After loading on the trailers, the bodies are locked to the frame using systems similar to those used for containers.

Horizontal handling of swap bodies

Horizontal handling consists of placing a lorry and a railway wagon side by side and sliding the swap body sideways.

This technique is common in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

It is based on the use of lorries with 4 or 5 axles equipped with a hook or a chain, railway wagons with rotating frames and ACTS containers on wheels.

Swap bodies in figures

A swap body measures 45 feet in length, that is to say 13m 40. That is 5 feet longer than a traditional container.

The width of a traditional swap body is 2550 mm, or 2600 mm for a refrigerated swap body.

It can contain 33 pallets each measuring 80x120cm.

Regulatory framework

Data sheets from the International Union of Railways (UIC) for the transhipment of using the railway:

  • UIC 591: Roller units for horizontal transhipment ;
  • UIC 592-4: for grab handling ;
  • UIC 596-6: Coding of ITUs and lines.

Standards applicable to :

  • EN 283: – Testing ;
  • EN 284: of class C ;
  • EN 452: of class A ;
  • EN 1432: – operating conditions ;
  • EN 12 406: Thermal of class C ;
  • EN 12 410: Thermal of class A ;
  • EN 12641-1: – tarpaulins and EN 12641-2: – minimum requirements for curtainsiders ;
  • EN 12 642 – minimum requirements for the body structure ;
  • EN 13 044 Coding, identification and marking of swap bodies ;
  • EN 13 853 C7.45 ;

EN 14 993 A13.71.