Container forklift picks up the container from the top 2 corners

Container forklift picks up the container from the top 2 corners

I was recently talking to a customer about moving around 20' containers and different ways to do that.  He was asking how we do it, what kind of equipment we use and what options he would have to move them around himself.  It is a great question because the 20's are perfect for moving around and being more flexible than the 40's, particularly on construction sites or other places where you need temporary, secure storage.  20' containers are flexible and durable, so they can be moved in a variety of ways. 

In the container yards and depots, container forklifts are the most common way to move them around, like pictured above.  The forklift picks up the container by the 2 corner castings on the top of the container that the forklift can reach when picking it up from the side.  These forklifts can also extend the arms out to pick up a 40' container as well.

If you are having your container delivered to you, an easy way to have it moved to the right spot is by having it delivered on a tiltbed truck.  The truck backs into the spot where the container will go, the back of the trailer tips down.  There is a winch that lowers the first end of the container off the truck.  Then the driver pulls the truck forward and uses the winch to finish setting it on the ground.  However, to do this, we need enough room for the truck to maneuver.

Here are two one-trip 20' containers loaded on a tiltbed truck, all ready to be delivered.

Here are two one-trip 20' containers loaded on a tiltbed truck, all ready to be delivered.

20' containers with forklift pockets. 

20' containers with forklift pockets. 

The container floor is made up of steel cross-members with a wood floor over it.  The underside of the flooring is coated to make it moisture and bug resistant.

The container floor is made up of steel cross-members with a wood floor over it.  The underside of the flooring is coated to make it moisture and bug resistant.

More standard style forklift can do the job.  However, a few modifications are in order to make that go smoothly. 

  1. 20' containers come with forklift pockets.  However they measure 69" from the inside of one pocket to the inside of the other pocket.  This is noticeably wider than what most standard forklifts can handle. 
  2. If your forklift can't spread out that much, the other option is fork extensions.  If you have forks (with or without extensions) that are at least 8' long, then you can pick up the container from underneath it. If your forks are less than 8' long, the forks will come up through the floor of the container, and that would not be good.
Top corner casting

Top corner casting

There are plenty of other types of equipment that can move a 20' container:  backhoes, cranes, tractors, or really anything else that can move 5,000 pounds.  Containers have corner castings on all 8 corners of the container.  You can chain to those castings by running the chain through the holes on either side of the casting and/or the hole on the top of the castings on the top of the container or the bottom of the bottom castings.  From there, you can lift or drag the container around from there, depending on the capabilities of your equipment.

If you want to stack your container, you can use any of the different types of equipment listed above.  Standard 20' containers are 8'6" high, so you will need to have equipment  that can lift that high.  When you are placing them on top of each other, stack them corner to corner.  The corner posts of the container and the floor are where all the strength is.  The walls and roof are not as strong.  Also, the corner castings drop a little lower than the rest of the floor and a little higher than the rest of the roof.  When you stack containers corner post to corner post, you can see a space between the containers. It is a good way to know you have them lined up right.

No matter how you move and/or stack your containers, please make sure you check out that the equipment you are using is rated to handle the weight of the container.  That includes chains.  Also, be very careful that no one is in a location where they can be hurt by the container if your calculations are not 100% correct.  5,000 pounds of steel is very heavy.

Bottom corner casting (with some ice)

Bottom corner casting (with some ice)

One-trip 20's stacked up.  Notice the space between the containers since they are stacked corner post to corner post.

One-trip 20's stacked up.  Notice the space between the containers since they are stacked corner post to corner post.