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How to Move a Shipping Container?


how to move shipping containers


Lifting and moving a shipping container means you must consider important factors including safety, efficiency, space, costs, and logistical ease.

Storage containers are used for storing and transporting cargo. If you want to know what the right way to move a shipping container is, or which truck is best for transporting a large shipping container easily, check out the information below. We’ll cover all the key points you need to know.

You will find answers to commonly-asked questions around transporting shipping containers, including:

  • How to move shipping containers
  • DIY movement of shipping containers - the tools you need
  • Using forklifts and cranes for freight movement and stacking
  • How to find the right company for shipping container movement outsourcing
  • Container home delivery solutions and services

8 Things to consider when moving a shipping container

Moving a shipping container requires you to look at all the following aspects:

  • Weight (container weight and load weight)
  • Dimensions and space required
  • Shipping container delivery options
  • Maneuver clearance
  • Overhead obstructions
  • Insurance cover
  • Distance to the destination
  • Logistical costs
  • Outsourcing

Top methods to move your shipping container

Listed below are the most preferred or widely-used options when you have to move a shipping container:

By truck

Road transportation is perhaps the most widely-used form of container transport in the United States. Here’s a look at some of the most popular types of trucks and trailers used for the movement of shipping containers:

  • Rollback or tilt-bed truck – Rollback trucks, also referred to as flatbed tow trucks, are a popular option for when the containers aren’t too heavy. Their unique tilt-bed design allows you to use the incline for sliding the container onto the ground. If you want to transport the container below 200 miles and unload without additional equipment, you should use a tilt-bed truck.
  • Step-deck truck – A step-deck truck also has a flat platform on which your container can be kept. The only difference here is that its platform is lower to the ground. This enables you to carry relatively taller, high-cube containers. Again, you need a forklift or crane in order to shift your container off the truck bed.

By train

Trains are the preferred mode of transportation if the loading point and final destination are both located near rail lines. Unlike road transport, where you can arrange for the end-to-end movement of your cargo, you will need to make separate provisions for transporting the shipping container to and from the rail stations. Using any one of the aforementioned trucks to do so can make your job easier.  

By boat

Sea shipping would be your best bet if you are planning to move your cargo container across longer distances or even overseas. There are several rules and regulations that you need to follow in the case of shipping a container. Like in the case of train transport, you will need to make arrangements to get your cargo container to the loading dock and off the destination docks.


You can outsource the entire logistics management and operational process to an expert who can offer end-to-end solutions. Typically, such companies are well-equipped to advise you on the best container movement options and do the work for you.

Outsourcing the entire process can save you precious time, costs, and worries. There may be varying rules and laws on container movement depending on where you are based and where (and how) you intend to ship it. An end-to-end solution provider can take the burden off your shoulders and handle all the important aspects of the shipping container delivery process.

You can easily choose to get the container delivered to your office site, company warehouse, or manufacturing site.

How much does it cost to move a shipping container?

The key cost determinants for moving a 20-foot or 40-foot shipping container may depend on various factors, including:

  • The size of your container (40 foot/20 foot)
  • The total number of containers being moved
  • Container transport methods (truck, train, or ship)
  • Distance and site location
  • Container transportation costs
  • Container stacking and siting costs

Depending on your specific requirements and the vendors you partner with, the cost will vary based on the above pointers.

Need help? Contact one of our logistics experts to understand the cost for your shipping container movement and container delivery needs.

Popular shipping container handling tools and equipment

Typically, the most common equipment types used for moving shipping containers (loading and unloading) are:

  • Forklift – Forklifts are multi-purpose equipment that enables the easy lifting and moving of shipping containers over short distances. While the variety of forklifts in the market (and on most warehousing or manufacturing facilities) means you can use them for your needs, it must be ensured that you check the specific model and how much weight the forklift can handle.

In case of uneven freight weight distribution, it could lead to forklift accidents or damage to your shipping containers.

  • Crane – Fixed gantry cranes and mobile truck cranes are effective equipment for picking up, carrying, and stacking or unloading a long or heavy storage container. While the fixed crane versions are generally used in ports, the mobile options offer more flexibility and are more cost-effective. The former is useful for heavy loads, while a crane on wheels offers flexibility but cannot handle heavy containers.

Is shipping container insurance needed for delivery?

Yes, unless you like taking incredible risks. Natural disasters, cargo theft, sinking, derailment, road accidents, damage to the cargo (or container), fire, shipping containers falling overboard, and collisions are just a few examples of the kind of risks container movement poses.

Prices may vary from insurer to insurer, so it is best to shop around for the best available policy quote for your specific needs (unless you wish to go for an “all-risk” insurance policy). Make sure you thoroughly check what is and isn’t included in your shipping container delivery policy and make sure you clarify which party is to bear the responsibility for insurance.   

Who can move a shipping container?

You may come across DIY videos and blogs encouraging you to consider transporting a container on your own. While this certainly is an option, it requires a whole lot of consideration, planning, and expertise. It is also recommended that you check with your local authorities what the laws are surrounding this, since the rules may change from one place to another.

If you intend to bring a 20-foot or 40-foot shipping container home, you will need to consider all the above factors. The best way to go about it is using the services of an experienced company that can help you have it delivered to your office site - rent or purchase, lift, load, transport, unload, and stack - and take care of the entire container shipping delivery process.

Let the experts do the work for you - not only is this a more time- and cost-effective option, but also a safer one.


At Mobile Modular Portable Storage, we understand the hassle involved in the movement of a shipping container. Renting a storage container is a good alternative to buying one, especially if your needs are short-term. However, if you are looking for long-term solutions, you can always consider buying new containers. We offer delivery on new or old shipping containers for rent or purchase.

Hundreds of businesses rely on us for their shipping container delivery and movement needs because we deliver excellence at every step of the process and have many years of experience in building and delivering containers. Our fleet of trucks and trailers ensures that your shipping container is delivered to you in quick time - within 1 business day (in most cases).

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