Celebrating the swap body

The standard freight container for groupage logistics celebrates its 50th birthday this year. Thomas Simon developed the swap body concept in the late sixties, inspired by maritime shipping containers. After some initial reservations, the swap body became a groundbreaking innovation in overland logistics that revolutionized the entire industry.

DACHSER swap body

Regulated and standardized dimensions are the hallmark of shipping containers and have greatly improved the flexibility and efficiency of their handling and associated procedures. It was Thomas Simon—son-in-law of the company’s founder Thomas Dachser and later a member of DACHSER’s management board, mainly responsible for developing technology and international business—who came up with the idea to transfer this model and associated system concept from sea to road in Europe. He drew up plans for a standardized transport container that could be detached from the road unit and “swapped” between vehicles, and ultimately developed it together with the Kögel Trailer company. With fixed dimensions and fold-out legs as its characteristic features, the swap body was born in 1971.

Within just three years, DACHSER converted its entire fleet to the new transport container. Standardization of the swap body system followed in 1980. In 1972, DACHSER had a mere 350 swap bodies in its fleet; by 2020, the company was using around 8,000 of them. What began as a solid idea has now revolutionized the entire world of logistics. And the story of innovation and pioneering spirit lives on. Even though the swap body remains the ultimate benchmark in terms of cargo space efficiency, DACHSER will be converting the whole fleet of semi-trailers in its European Logistics Business Line to what are known as mega trailers, which offer more interior space. “We want to be the first major groupage provider in Europe to use mega trailers instead of standard semi-trailers,” says Alexander Tonn, COO Road Logistics at DACHSER.

Pioneer and leader in innovation

When DACHSER introduced the swap body, it become a pioneer. Today, it’s impossible to imagine life in the logistics industry without swap bodies. “The best innovations are those that succeed across the whole industry—and that’s what’s at the heart of this success story,” says Dr. Andreas Froschmayer, Corporate Director Corporate Strategy & Public Relations at DACHSER. “Innovations have always been the key to long-term success. They help improve process quality, reduce costs, and overcome new market and customer challenges,” Froschmayer adds. At the same time, they come with new requirements and open the door to new business opportunities, customer segments, and services. The invention and deployment of the swap body is a prime example.

And there’s more. The swap body was instrumental in DACHSER’s rise from a regular carrier to an international logistics provider. It called for the company to rethink its processes, corporate culture, and business model. It was no longer a question of freight transport alone but rather of forwarding expertise. With all the advantages it brought for forwarding operations, the swap body became a real boon for the company and ultimately made DACHSER a pacesetter in logistics.

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