ASTM D4169-23: Testing Shipping Containers

ASTM D4169-23: Standard Practice for Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems provides a uniform basis of evaluating the ability of shipping units to withstand their distribution environment.

History of Shipping Containers

Shipping and transport were long used throughout human history as part of distant exchanges. However, modern shipping was conceived in 1955 when Malcom P. McLean, a trucking entrepreneur from North Carolina, bought a steamship company with the idea of transporting entire truck trailers with their cargo still inside. His later realized it would be simpler to have a container that could be lifted directly from a vehicle and into a ship, establishing the system of “intermodalism.”

Intermodalism means that the same cargo, within the same container, could be transported with minimum interruption using a variety of transport modes. These containers were to be moved seamlessly between ships, trucks, and trains, simplifying the logistics of the shipping process.

Railroad lineup of colorful ASTM D4169-23 performance-tested shipping containers under sunset.

With the enhanced shipping capabilities born from the establishment of this industry standard, products and materials could spread throughout the planet in ways that had been too difficult prior. In the 21st Century, thanks largely to the Internet, nearly any attainable item can be delivered directly to your home. This has become not an extravagant comfort but a norm, one that many came to depend upon throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, throughout 2020, the first year of the pandemic, there were 131 billion parcels shipped worldwide.

About ASTM D4169-23

By assuring the performance of shipping units, ASTM D4169-23 helps to support the globalized web of individuals, companies, and nations that comprise our society.

ASTM D4169-23 covers a laboratory testing method that exposes the shipping units to a sequence of anticipated hazards for their journey. The test specimen to be used should consist of complete shipping containers that are representative of the container system as a whole. This includes the actual cargo contents, but dummy test loads are acceptable under certain conditions.

The standard addresses a wide range of concerns through its different testing procedures. Some of these are applicable to almost any shipping container being used, while others are more specific to a particular usage. For example, the hazard of rail switching, which is tested through longitudinal shock, would not apply to shipping containers that are not transported using railways.

Other hazards that ASTM D4169-23 prepares for include handling, warehouse stacking, vehicle stacking, stacked vibration, vehicle vibration, loose load vibration, environmental hazard, low-pressure hazard, and concentrated impact. The appropriate procedures for these are detailed in the standard.

ASTM D4169-23: Standard Practice for Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems is available on the ANSI Webstore.

Levels of Package Testing

The above video demonstrates the truck profile test under Assurance Level I (High Level), Level II (Medium Level), and Level III (Low Level). Please note that the information detailed in this and the other videos in this blog post was derived from past versions of ASTM D4169 and created by various users of the standard. Those who want to make use of the most current and accurate testing requirements should consult the ASTM D4169-23 document.

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2 thoughts on “ASTM D4169-23: Testing Shipping Containers
  1. From an overall perspective, we as onlookers would definitely view the storage containers to be hazard-free probably due to the durability of the material that they are made of. However, external factors could affect the way they work and it is indeed necessary for the laboratory testing to be held before officially using them.

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