How to move 20 foot, 40 foot Shipping Container
Containers are great. They hold so much stuff and keep it all safe and dry. They are portable, so it is only natural that you’d want to move your full container. But it isn’t always as easy as that. Distance and size matter, but there are solutions to moving your container.
Please note: Super Cubes does not move other people's containers. Below are simply helpful hints for moving your container yourself.
Distance matters. Are you moving the container across your site, across town or across the country. Depending on the answer to this question, you may need different equipment to help out. Obviously, the shorter the distance, the more options you have. Cranes and forklifts can move a full container for an onsite move. If your container is going across town, there are trucks that can move 20’ containers. If you are moving across the country, things get a little trickier. Keep reading.
Size matters. Both the size of the container and the weight of the contents will make a big difference. 20' containers are routinely used for moving people. They weigh 5,000 pounds when they are empty and putting a 3-bedroom home in one will add an additional 5,000 – 7,000 pounds. There are various kinds of trucks that can pick up full 20's. However, these trucks generally are in high demand, so it can be expensive to use them for moving across the country.
40' containers are a different matter. They weigh close to 10,000 pounds empty, which is getting to the upper end of what tilt-bed trucks can handle for picking up and setting down containers. For that reason, most ground-level trucking companies will not move full 40' containers.
Long-distance, heavy moves are possible. They just have a few extra steps. If you are moving your containers a long distance or they are too heavy to be moved by tilt-bed trucks, there are a few other options.
Hire a crane. If you hire a crane, you can have your container picked up at the starting point and then have a crane at the destination to lift the container off the truck. You can then move the container by flatbed or chassis. Cranes can be expensive, so this is not always the cheapest option, but does allow you to load your container at your leisure.
Load the container while it is on the truck. If you are shipping the container overseas, this is the most common solution. The truck brings your container to you, you load it up while it stays on the truck and then it continues to the destination. There you either have to have a crane lift it off, or empty it quickly and then have the container brought to another location that can lift it off and deliver your container to you on the ground empty. This second option is not always available. While this is generally cheaper than renting cranes on both ends of the process, it does require that you be ready to quickly load and unload the container while it is dock height.
Wait for the container until your destination. If you don’t own the container already, but you want to have one at your destination, consider buying the container at the destination. Move your goods with a moving company and have your container waiting at the destination. You can have the movers move your goods directly into your container. This option generally gives you the fewest headaches. However, some people really like the idea of loading once and being done. That is not an option with this route.
Swing loaders. If you happen to be in an area with a swing loader, some of those trucks have a lift mechanism on the bed of the truck. Depending on the type of side loader, some can move full containers to a certain weight. They are not readily available everywhere in the US, but we do know of them in Chicago.
Containers are great, but they do come with some logistical challenges. Hopefully this information will help you plan your move. Super Cubes does not move full containers, however, we are happy to be a resource if you run into technical questions while booking your own container move.