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“The ILU-Code, a standardized identifier for intermodal loading units in Europe, is an important voluntary initiative supporting the competitiveness of Combined Transport. It is a very good example of paperless solution for stakeholders of these transport-chains.”

Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport


One uniform type of owner codification of loading units is now applied: the worldwide BIC-Code for freight containers and the new, compatible ILU-Code for European loading units. 

UIRR and BIC allocate the owner-key only. The marking on every loading unit appears as follows:

Allocation by UIRR
Registration number
Free allocation by owner
Check digit
Given calculation procedure
ABCA 001234 2
  • This enables the simplification of the electronic data processing and operations of the transport chain. The code adapted to electronic data processing reduces the number of data capture errors as 95% of the possible typing errors are immediately spotted using the check digit. Correction costs for data errors are consequently considerably reduced.

  • The EN 13044 standard distinguishes the owner identification from the operational marking required for the rail operation. Therefore, the latter “codification” may be directly carried out by the manufacturer. The yellow codification plate describes the characteristics of the intermodal loading unit such as geometric dimensions and the strength which are retained properties of the ILU in case of a change of ownership. Thereby, in case of a sale, a new codification is not needed anymore.

  • Thus, all swap-bodies and semi-trailers, even if purchased to be used in pure road transport only, will be usable in rail transport. Logistics companies and road hauliers will only have to – as this is already the case for containers – equip their loading units with an owner-key consisting of four letters followed by six digits, with which they can codify their ILUs according to own criteria, followed by a check digit.

  • All the actors of the transport chain, as well as third party, for example customs authorities, emergency services, etc. can at any time identify the owner of a loading unit given that the owner code is published¹. This is an important aspect for checks at the external borders of the EU and also within to satisfy reinforced security and safety requirements in the future. For smoother, more efficient operations in ports and terminals, customs authorities can check the identity of the containers directly through BIC. This procedure could be in the future extended to all Combined Transport terminals, whereby swap-bodies and semi-trailers equipped with an ILU-Code could then be transhipped with priority.

  • The BIC-/ILU-Code, written in larger characters, are OCR²-readable. The systems which are already installed in the ports can thus also be installed at continental terminals and contribute to enhancing their efficiency.

¹ http://www.bic-code.org and as from 01.07.2011 http://www.ilu-code.eu
² OCR: Optical Character Recognition.

ILU-Code, the European identifier of intermodal loading units

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