What are cargo container movers and why do you need one? In this piece, we answer these burning questions, as well as offering tips on choosing the right company, and preparing your box for the move.

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What are cargo container movers?

A container mover is a service used to transport containers of all kinds. Usually, containers are transported to and from ports and storage locations using trucks. These trucks are designed to transport specific sizes and types of cargo. Container movers supply these trucks, and charge you a fee to move your boxes.

Container movers come to your location, lift your containers, transport them, and place them where you need them to be. If you don’t have your own trucks or the know-how to move containers yourself, you’ll need to call on a container mover.

Curious about the different kinds of trucks used for transporting containers? We’ll dive into this in the next section.

4 types of cargo container movers

Let’s take a look at the most commonly-used container trucks around.

1. Tilt bed truck

A tilt bed truck is popular for moving containers and light cargo. As the name suggests, tilt beds have a flat bed that completely tilts to load and unload cargo. This makes them very convenient, and eliminates the need for a forklift. A tilt bed will reverse into the area you want your box, and slowly slide it down onto the ground.

A tilt bed is usually more expensive than other types of moving trucks, due to its advanced machinery. It can only pick up lighter containers such as 20ft boxes, and even these should not be heavily loaded. Tilt beds are perfect for short journeys – as we said – they can be pretty costly. For longer journeys, it makes more sense to go with a cheaper transport option otherwise you’re going to see the bill racking up!

Tilt bed truck

2. Flatbed truck

A flatbed truck is like a tilt bed truck, without the tilting mechanism. It’s a cheaper solution for moving boxes, as your container will be loaded alongside other cargo. Flatbeds are especially cost-effective if your containers need to travel long distances.

As flatbeds don’t have lifting equipment onboard, you’ll need to hire a forklift if you don’t have one on site. Don’t forget to factor this in when comparing the costs of different moving companies.

Flat bed truck

3. Step-deck truck

A step-deck truck is used to carry taller cargo that exceeds the legal height limit if transported on a flatbed trailer. Using a step-deck means that drivers don’t need a special permit to carry taller cargo.

A step deck has two levels, an upper and lower deck. Many step decks also have ramps to make loading and unloading easier. This type of truck can be used to transport heavier, larger cargo and machinery. Although different parts of the world have different height restrictions, generally speaking, your cargo shouldn’t exceed 14ft / 4.3m in height. If cargo is any taller, the moving truck may have issues passing under bridges.

Step deck truck

4. HIAB truck

A HIAB truck is used to load and unload heavy cargo, as well as transporting containers and cargo. It’s made up of a crane and truck combined, and uses the engine and hydraulics to lift cargo. After loading or unloading, the crane folds neatly away.

HIAB trucks are great if you don’t want to hire lifting equipment at an extra cost, however, take into account that overall, the HIAB is likely to be more expensive than the flat bed and step bed trucks.

HIAB truck

How to choose the right cargo container mover for your needs

Here are some questions to ask yourself when shopping around for a container mover.

What are you transporting?

Make sure you know which type of truck you need for your cargo. If you’re transporting goods in smaller boxes (20ft containers) that aren’t packed full, you should go for the tilt bed truck. If you’ve got over height or heavy cargo, you should go with the HIAB truck or step deck truck.

Do they offer loading services?

Take into account that if you choose the flatbed or step deck trucks, you’re going to need to organize lifting equipment, so keep this extra cost in mind.

It’s best to check if the mover you’re interested in using includes a loading service, or offers it as an added extra. Be sure to get quotes and compare them all before choosing your mover!

What is the distance?

Due to their advanced equipment and expensive operating costs, the tilt bed and HIAB are likely to be more costly per mile/km than the step bed and flat bed options. For long journeys, it makes sense to go for the simpler moving vehicles.

Does the company have cargo tracking?

If you want to make sure your cargo is safe along its journey, it’s good to check if a container moving company has cargo tracking. It may cost a little extra, but it’s worth the peace of mind. Tracking software allows you to check up on your cargo, so you know it’s safe, and if there will be any delays.

You may be thinking: never mind moving the boxes, I need to find them first! If you struggle to locate containers at good prices, and often get let down by suppliers, xChange can help you out.

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Learn more about how to buy a shipping container in this blog post. 

Cargo container movers: What to look out for

You’ve found a mover and you’re ready to go ahead and book them. But wait! There are a few things you should check before diving in and hiring them.

Company registration and licensing: It’s important to make sure the container mover is legitimate. They must have all of the correct licenses and compliances in order to operate legally in the moving industry. If you ask, they should be able to supply you with these licenses. If they don’t, you know something’s up!

Hidden costs: Make sure you ask about ALL the fees included in the service when getting a quote, to make sure there are no hidden fees added into the mix. Ask each company you’re vetting for a full list of costs and extras up front, and compare quotes before making any decisions.

How to prepare for your cargo container move

To prepare your containers for pick up, make sure you have the following things sorted before the movers arrive.

Check your container

Check that your box has the correct hooks to be lifted by a crane or forklift safely. Make sure all hooks are in good condition and attached securely to the container body.

Also check to see that your container floor is even, and that there are no major holes or dents in the body of your box. Any of these issues could lead to your items getting damaged on the journey.

Check out this blog post to learn more about container conditions.

Pack correctly

Make sure you pack goods correctly so that nothing slips or falls inside the container during transportation. You don’t want your goods to get damaged or break along the way.

Always pack cargo so that the weight is evenly distributed throughout the container. Otherwise you run the risk of your box falling off the truck, especially in bad weather.

Seal your container

Make sure your container is sealed with a good quality container seal. This prevents anyone from tampering with your box, fiddling with your cargo, or stealing you goods. To read more about the different kinds of seals available, check out this separate blog post.

Check the weight

Make sure you check the weight of your box, by taking note of the total weight of all items inside, and adding the weight of your empty container together. Movers will want to know how heavy your box is, so that they can offer you the right truck and lifting equipment.

Find the perfect boxes for your cargo on Container xChange

Now that you know all about container movers, it’s time to find out how you can get the boxes you need for your cargo.

So where can you get good quality boxes, from reliable sources at excellent prices? On Container xChange of course!

We’re an online marketplace for buying, selling and leasing shipping containers of all shapes and sizes.

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Our platform is completely transparent, so you know what you’ll be paying up front. The best part? All prices are completely negotiable. We want you to be 100% comfortable with every deal you make.

We work with the biggest names in the industry, and so can you! Once you’re a member, you’ll have immediate access to companies like Kuehne + Nagel, Seaco Global, Conway and more.

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How do you transport a cargo container correctly?

To transport a 20ft container correctly, it should be lifted with a forklift with 6ft / 1.8m forks. A forklift with smaller forks will not be able to hold the weight of the container adequately. Standard warehouse forklifts should not be used to lift cargo containers.

What is the best way to move a cargo container?

The best way to move a cargo container is with a truck. Shipping containers are most commonly transported by road. There are 4 main kinds of trucks used for containers: the flatbed, the tilt-bed, the HIAB, and the step-deck.

Can you move a shipping container by yourself?

You can move a container yourself by hiring a truck to transport it. However, keep in mind that you’ll need the appropriate driver’s license.

How do you move a large storage container?

To move a large storage container, you can use a specialized truck called a HIAB, which has an onboard crane and hydraulic legs to stabilize it. To operate a truck like this, an expert with experience in handling heavy machinery is required.