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How Do You Unload Your Container Home? - SimpleTerra

How Do You Unload Your Container Home?

So you've just ordered a shipping container or a pre-built container home. You're excited! You can't wait to start decorating and moving in and making it your own. Your site is cleared and prepped and the container is on its way. You've got...hold up....

How do you get the container to your site, and how do you unload your container home?

When your container arrives to port, it can be loaded onto either a tilt-tray/tilt semi, a side-loader, or a HIAB.  There are pros and cons for each truck, with some requiring additional machinery to help with unloading your materials.

The Tilt Tray/Tilt Semi

The Tilt Tray/Tilt Semi is the most popular delivery option.  The rear of the truck is capable of being tilted to ground level and the cargo is drawn on to the bed of the truck using a winch. The tilt tray is ideal for 6m (20ft) or tilt semi for 12m (40ft) containers delivered to many locations. The container is loaded on the truck, so that the container doors are in the correct position once delivered. The location must have ample space since the truck must reverse to the delivery point where the tray of the truck tilts to the ground and the container slides off the back. 

Pros: Your container is slid to the ground right where you want it.

Cons: Generally, more expensive than other methods. While these trucks can pick up a lightly loaded 20’ container, few companies have tilt-semi trucks that can pick up loaded 40’ containers.  Both need a lot of area or space in front of where you need your container.

Important information

  • Width Clearance Containers are only 8 feet wide externally. Allow 3 meters (9.8 feet) minimum for the truck's cabin and mirrors etc. 
  • Height Clearance – Tilt Trays generally require 4.3 meters (14.1 feet) height to gain access to a site. When the truck tilts the container to off load it requires 6.5 m (21.3 feet) in height.  
  • Length Clearance Once the Container slides off the rear of the truck, the truck needs clear room to exit the site safely. Clear space in most cases is about 40-45 feet  for 20’ containers, and 60-66 feet for 40’ containers. 
  • Lay down area – The area or pad for your container needs to be level and dry. If the container is not level the container doors will be very difficult to operate. 
  • Container footings It is important to have air flow under the container to avoid moisture and condensation build up. Footings are not necessarily required If you are able to provide a raised, hard stand, dry area for the container to be delivered onto. If this isn’t possible, we strongly recommend the use of footings to keep the container raised off the ground.  The best footings are treated hard wood timber (for example, railway sleepers from your local nursery will do the trick). You can also use concrete blocks or car tires. 
  • Ground conditions Trucks are heavy, trucks with containers on the back are even heavier. It is critical the driver is provided with dry, firm, level access in and out of your site. Sealed or hardstand (compacted) roads would be best.  

The Side Loader

Important information

  • Width Clearance – A side loader will need at least 3m access to enter through gates etc.  

  • Height Clearance – A shipping container sits approximately 4.2 m high on the back of the truck so you need to keep this is mind for power lines and branches etc. However, the lift arms will need at least 6.5 m in height while unloading the container.  

  • Length Clearance – A side loader is approximately 14 meters long. Once the container has been off loaded from the truck, the driver will need room to exit the site, usually 3-4 m.  

  • Lay down area – The pad or area for your container needs to be level and dry. If the container is not level the container doors will be very difficult to operate.  

  • Container footings – It is important to have air flow under the container to avoid moisture and condensation build up. Footings are not necessarily required If you are able to provide a raised, hard stand, dry area for the container to be delivered onto. If this isn’t possible, we strongly recommend the use of footings to keep the container raised off the ground. The best footings are treated hard wood timber (example - railway sleepers from your local nursery will do the trick), you can also use concrete blocks or car tires.  

  • Ground conditions – Trucks are heavy, trucks with containers on the back are even heavier. It is critical the driver is provided with dry, firm level access in and out of your site. Sealed or hardstand (compacted) roads would be best. 

The Side Loader is useful where there is limited space either in front of or behind the truck.  The side loader truck is fitted with a loading system operating to one side for handling containers.  It picks up the container at each end from the truck’s chassis and lowers it onto the site directly next to the truck’s chassis. 

Pros:  Easy and safe way to deliver your 40’ container.  This method is ideal for delivery of containers that need to fit into constricted spaces. 

Cons: It is important to consider which way the container should be loaded onto the truck as it can only be unloaded from the right hand (driver’s) side. 

The HIAB Truck

The HIAB Truck are fitted with a crane either on the front or rear of the truck. They are adaptable vehicles, able to deliver your cargo to difficult access areas where other modes of transport, such as the tilt tray or side loader can’t.

The HIAB delivery allows for containers to be delivered over obstructions such as fences.

Pros: HIAB trucks can accommodate all shipping containers including 10’, 20’ and 40’ containers.  They can deliver containers where other modes cannot and over obstructions.

Important information

  • Width Clearance – A Hiab will require approximately 3 m of access through gates and fences for access to site and then will need an additional 3.5-4 m for stabilizer legs to set down for unloading. 

  • Height Clearance – A shipping container sits approximately 4.2 m high on the back of the truck so you need to keep this is mind for power lines and branches etc. When unloading, you will need an overhead height of 10 m to accommodate the crane. 

  • Length Clearance – A 20’ Hiab will require 10 m in length to unload with a 40’ Hiab requiring 15 m for drop off. 

  • Lay down area – The area or pad for your container needs to be level and dry. If the container is not level the container doors will be very difficult to operate. 

  • Container footings – It is important to have air flow under the container to avoid moisture and condensation build up. Footings are not necessarily required If you are able to provide a raised, hard stand, dry area for the container to be delivered onto. If this isn’t possible, we strongly recommend the use of footings to keep the container raised off the ground. The best footings are treated hard wood timber (example - railway sleepers from your local nursery will do the trick), you can also use concrete blocks or car tires. 

  • Ground conditions – Trucks are heavy, trucks with containers on the back are even heavier. It is critical the driver is provided with dry, firm level access in and out of your site. Sealed or hardstand (compacted) roads would be best.

Flat-Bed Delivery versus Chassis Delivery

Flat-Bed Trucks can hold either one 40’ container or up to two 20’ containers. A forklift or crane is used at the beginning when loading the container onto the truck and again when taking it off at the site.

Pros: Flat-bed delivery is a low-cost alternative, not only because it can travel long distances but because your container will be loaded onto a truck with other cargo.

Cons: You need other equipment to load and unload your container.  You must make sure that it is available.

Container Chassis has a metal frame with wheels which is pulled by a trailer.  Special fork-lifts are used to load and unload containers.

Pros: This is a low-cost way to move a container. The tractor or trailer disconnects easily from the chassis, which gives added flexibility if you need some time to load or unload. (*In some cases, chassis are the only delivery means acceptable to ports or rail lines.)

Cons: If you don’t have any means of lifting the container off the chassis, you must load or unload the container while it stays on the chassis.  When a container is on a chassis, it is dock height, so when lifting a 40’ steel container on a chassis it requires a crane.

It’s always important to find out the different modes of transportation available and get various price quotes so that you can make the best decision in meeting your needs.

For our purposes, SimpleTerra uses a High Cube Storage Container to ship your container home and all needed materials.  The High cube container is 9’6” high, 8 feet wide, with a door height of 8.5 feet which varies from the standard shipping container, that is typically 8’6” high, 8 feet wide, with a door height of 7.5 feet.  This allows us to place your container home in a protective environment for safe delivery to you!

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