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Illustration: Allie Carl, Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's supply chain crisis is a series of intersecting bottlenecks, including insufficient labor and warehouse space, all driven by surging U.S. consumer behavior. But one piece has gotten short-shift on the attention meter: Chassis, the steel frames on which trucks carry shipping containers.

Driving the news: Apollo Global Management is seeking a buyer for Direct ChassisLink, the largest U.S. intermodal chassis provider, as first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by Axios.

Why it matters: Direct ChassisLink has an enormous amount of market power right now.

  • Part of this is the supply chain crisis, which has caused thousands of chassis to sit idle, beneath containers waiting to be emptied.
  • Part of it relates to massive U.S. tariffs on China-made chassis, begun under Trump and increased under Biden. Much of that manufacturing has moved to other Asian countries like Vietnam and Taiwan, plus some stateside, but the disruption took a toll. In short, existing supply is more valuable when prices of new supply goes up.
  • Sources familiar with the Charlotte-based company argue that it hasn't raised prices commensurate with freight shippers or warehouse operators, and that it plans to add between 10,000 and 15,000 new chassis over the next 12 months. But don't be surprised if the next owner seeks higher prices for the next long-term contracts it signs, both with new and returning customers (in part to offset big new CapEx requirements).

History: Direct ChassisLink has been something of a private equity hot potato over the past decade. Littlejohn & Co. carved it out of Danish shipping giant Maersk in 2012, and then sold it to EQT in 2016. Apollo took majority control three years later for $2.5 billion, with EQT retaining around a 20% stake.

The bottom line: Chassis are a vital part of America's supply chain, and the most influential chassis player could soon have a new owner.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Dec 22, 2021 - Economy & Business

Maersk buys pan-Asian warehouse operator for $3.6 billion

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world's largest container shipper by volume, agreed to buy pan-Asian warehouse operator LF Logistics for around $3.6 billion in cash. The sellers are Hong Kong-based logistics firm Li & Fung and Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek.

Why it matters: This reflects not only how Maersk has reaped billions in profit from the global supply chain crisis, but also how it's using some of that surplus to bulk up on landbound logistics for when shipping fees ease.

America can't quit polarizing politicians

Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New data finds that the nation's most polarizing politicians are often the ones that garner the most attention online.

Why it matters: Online engagement helps politicians build a bigger national profile and more fundraising power, incentivizing them be more outrageous, more polarizing and more divisive.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
39 mins ago - Science

It's time to take reproduction in space seriously

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Before humans can settle off-Earth, scientists need to figure out how — or even whether — people can reproduce in space.

Why it matters: Powerful figures in the space industry like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have dreams of a future where millions of people live in space, which would naturally require a self-sustaining population of humans somewhere other than Earth.