Loading and unloading containers can be a time-consuming, labour-intensive and hazardous process.

Traditional container loading practices using a forklift truck to transfer loads are fraught with the risk of harm coming to the forklift driver while manoeuvring the vehicle in and out of the container, as well as damage to the products, container and vehicle. 

We have over 60+ years experience of lightening loads around the world and over this time our world-leading engineers have developed 2 industry-favourite solutions to revolutionise your container loading and container lifting processes, ensuring efficient and safe operations. 

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types of container solutions

Container Loading Systems

Container Lifting System

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what are container loading systems?

A container loading system is a system designed to help you load cargo into a container or unload it from the container more easily.

We offer a manual loading system that’s specially designed to load sea containers and box ones. The system is similar to our skate and track system but has added hydraulics. The skates run down a steel track placed temporarily on the container floor and the platform one. A hydraulic pump elevates the track, which raises the skate and, in turn, lifts the load clear of the platform. You can then roll the load easily into the container or out of it.

Using our container loading system, which can handle up to 27 tonnes, you can load pallets from 1.2 metres up to 13.2 into your container. You can move these heavy loads quickly without needing an open-top container or a side-loading one, containers which can both be expensive.

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container lifting systems

Not only do we provide container loading systems, but we also offer a hydraulic lifting system, which we call ‘MDS’ and is specially designed to help you lift sea containers or box ones from the chassis to the ground, and vice versa. This lightweight system can cope with up to 35 tonnes and level the container with the loading platform.

The modular design of the system makes the operation simple. You’ll only need one person to conduct the lift onto the trailer or off it. The system consists of four electro-hydraulic jacks that attach to each corner of the container and then onto the container castings. You use a 1-tonne forklift truck to attach the jacks, and the jacks themselves are powered by a 440 v 3-phase power supply. The easy connection of the jacks to each other makes this an extremely safe way to load your container onto your trailer.

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standard container types

When it comes to transporting goods, logistics operators can do so in several different types of containers. Below is a rundown of the various options at their disposal.

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general containers

General purpose containers, also known as ‘dry containers’ are the most common type of container. Logistics operators use them to load most types of cargo. They’re weatherproof, fully enclosed and have rigid sidewalls, floor and roof. These containers may also feature certain adaptations such as flexitanks or liner bags to ship liquid cargo or dry cargo in bulk.

Flat Rack Container

flat rack containers

Flat rack containers are simple containers on which the sides are collapsible so the operator can fold them down to produce a flat rack. Despite being collapsible, these walls are sturdy and stable enough to enable load securing. Operators can load them with oversized cargo, such as heavy machinery, vehicles on tracks, large reels and construction materials.

Open Top Container

open top containers

Open-top containers have removable, convertible roofs, and work well for loads that are over height and are cumbersome to load through doors. Tall machinery and heavy/bulky finished products that require a crane or rolling bridge to handle and load are two types of loads for which open-top containers are useful. Open-top containers feature lashing rings installed on the upper rails, lower rails and side posts to secure cargo. Often these containers are available in sizes of 20 feet and 40 feet.

Double Door Container

double-door containers

Double-door containers are extremely helpful because they feature doors at both ends of the container so operators can load them quickly. They create even wider room for steel, iron and similar goods. Each set of doors will feature the same locking assembling and tight seals to protect the cargo from the elements. You’ll often see double-door containers referred to in the industry as ‘tunnel containers’.

High Cube Container

high cube containers

The structure of a high cube container is similar to that of a general container, only these containers are around a foot taller than general purpose ones. Operators use them when they require more volume. You’ll generally find high cube containers available in sizes of 40 feet, or sometimes even 45 feet. A lot of high cube containers feature a recess at the front end so the operator can centre the container on a gooseneck chassis. This allows the trailer transporting the high cube container to do so because the container lies lower and can be taller.

Open Side Container

open-side containers

These containers are also like general purpose containers, only the doors can open completely on the side as well. Loading and unloading are much easier because of the wider room and access. You’ll often find open-side containers available in sizes of 20 feet and 40 feet. They provide a suitable amount of room for goods you can’t fit through regular doors.

ISO Reefer Container

iso reefer containers

Operators use ISO reefer containers to ship temperature-sensitive, perishable goods such as meats, fruit and vegetables. To keep the temperature regulated, they depend upon external power. ISO reefer containers often come in sizes of 20 feet and 40 feet. Weathering steel, which contains alloy elements that offer corrosion resistance and make it stronger than lower carbon steel grades, and which is often known as ‘COR-TEN steel’ is commonly used for these containers.

Insulated Containers

insulated containers

Just like an ISO reefer container, an insulated or thermal container has regulated temperature control, only these containers are designed to withstand a higher temperature. The container’s mechanical compressor heats or cools the air within the container. Insulated containers are ideal for transporting products such as food, pharmaceuticals, blood, organs, biological materials and chemicals over long distances.

Half Height Containers

half-height containers

Is your cargo heavy and dense? Half-height containers are designed for this and are excellent for transporting coal and stones, which makes them ideal for use in the mining industry. The low centre of gravity of half-height containers allows them to cope with heavier loads than taller containers and makes them robust and versatile enough to handle rough industrial environments. Half-height containers are also easy to load and unload.

ISO Tank Containers

iso tank containers

Tankers, as tank containers are more commonly known, are designed for transporting and protecting liquid materials for a long time. These containers must be 80% full to prevent dangerous surging of the materials while the container is in transit; however, at the same time, they must not be more than 95% full, so that they leave room for thermal expansion. ISO tank containers are made of steel and other anti-corrosive materials.

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swap body containers

Logistics operators can use swap body containers on road and rail. These containers are exchangeable and have a convertible top, so they’re suitable for shipping most types of goods. You’ll see this type of container in use a lot in Europe. Note that swap body containers are only for land transportation due to their lack of upper corner fittings and the fact they’re not stackable.

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why ship in containers?  

Containerisation is one of the biggest ever innovations to have taken place in the logistics industry. Although sources differ on when the invention of the first container took place, one thing no one can dispute is how far containers have come. Container design has become extremely efficient.

Like many other things, containers have their advantages and disadvantages. Below is a look at some of the pros and cons they offer, starting with the pros.


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Containers can hold a large variety of goods from food grains and products to machinery and more. Cargo that doesn’t fit into standard six-sided shipping containers (out of gauge cargo) can be transported on flatbeds or platform containers. When cargo is of an abnormal shape or size, you’ll often see the term ‘out of gauge cargo’ used.

Meanwhile, reefers can carry temperature-sensitive cargo, and operators can use flexitank containers to transport non-hazardous liquid cargo for transportation. Wine, latex and edible oils are all examples of this type of cargo.

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easy to manage

Managing a full container load (FCL) is easier to manage than handling other ways to transport goods such as less-than-container loads (LCLs). Shipping containers are non-divisible units. Each container has a unique identification number so it’s easy to track and manage. Various agents in the shipping process, including the shipper, recipient, ports, customs authorities and more use this number to verify the cargo.

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safety and security

Containers are safe and secure. They’re walled on each side, except on the end where the double doors are situated. Each double door has lock rods. The operators use the rods to seal the container and lock it so the container is safe and tamper-proof.

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Although usage will determine how long a container lasts, a good container will serve you between 10 and 25 years. If a container is no longer used for shipping, it’s not all over for the container. The container can still serve as a storage item.

When a warehouse or distributor has reached its full storage capacity, containers can provide temporary storage. The business can also place them in any convenient location in the warehouse yard. The storage a container offers is flexible and temporary as necessary.

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economies of scale

It’s much cheaper to transport loads by container than as loose goods or an LCL. Transportation in containers has had a major impact in terms of lowering the price of goods, too.

Economies of scale are a considerable factor. This is the general advantage companies enjoy as a result of producing in bulk or dealing in it.

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ISO-certified containers possess standard sizes and dimensions. This means any standard transport or piece of material handling equipment (MHE) can handle them. Using, storing and transporting the containers is more straightforward, as a result.

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disadvantages of containers

Unfortunately, working with containers isn’t always as plain sailing as you might like it to be.

Here are a few disadvantages of containers:

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Containers can hold a lot, but that same capacity is a double-edged sword because they take up a lot of space, regardless of whether they’re empty or have cargo in them. Terminals must ensure they have enough stacking space to accommodate the containers that go in and out of them.

To guarantee minimum port turnaround times for cargo ships, the latest container handling equipment and other necessary infrastructure must all be in place. The container terminal must consider all of this. Offering a favourable location isn’t enough.

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Dockside gantry cranes can cost millions. Leading ports and terminals will be able to afford these costs and upgrade their equipment in line with advances in technology; ports and terminals in developing countries may struggle to, however.

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Receipt and processing of information must be reliable to manage cargo in containers well. Implementing good terminal management software will make this possible. It doesn’t pay to cut costs on this. Doing so could spell disaster, and it likely will.

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When containers arrive with cargo, the company unloads them and moves them to the designated stack for empty containers. Operators must be able to keep their containers available where there’s demand. It means they must shift their containers in a timely fashion to the desired locations.

Companies spend a lot of money repositioning their containers. Whether they’re full or empty, containers take up the same amount of space in storage and during shipment. If operators don’t move empty containers to locations where they can be used, they’ll create an imbalance between supply and demand that generates a shortage of containers for shipping operations.

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five tips for a better container loading plan

Containers are big and bulky and take some planning to load and transport. Below are a few tips on how you can improve your loading planning.

1. implement load planning software

The days of load planners using nothing but graph paper, a pencil and their brain to plan container loading are long gone, or at least they should be. A computer can take care of the necessary calculations much faster.

Fitting cargo into a container is challenging, but the right software can work wonders. When the operator has to build a load, the planner enters information about the cargo into the system, such as the dimensions, weight, number of pieces and any special conditions. The software then quickly forms a pallet loading plan that fits all the cargo into the container, showing the operator where to place each piece and other important instructions. Often, the software will produce several plans so the operator can choose the one most suitable for your needs.

2. measure the items in the load carefully

To form a good load plan, however, you have to feed the right data into your planning system. Getting the data wrong could see you fail to make the most of the space in the container, or items in the load could become damaged during transit. Measure and weigh each item in the load accurately.

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3. be strategic in your container selection

The size of the container can have a significant impact on your costs. It can cost a lot more to transport a 40 feet container on the railways than a 20 foot one. Sometimes, choosing a heavyweight 20-foot container is more cost effective than using a lightweight 40 foot one as well.

High cube containers can help. An extra foot of height might not make much difference if you’re shipping a dense load, due to the weight limit and the possibility the load reaches the limit before you can capitalise on the additional space; if however, you’re shipping a less dense load, the high cube container will allow you to ship taller pallets and take advantage of the space.

4. get creative with packaging

The software may deal with the more scientific part of container load planning, but an experienced planner will know how to get creative and exploit the space in the container.

Modifying the packaging can create extra space in the container. If you make the pallets a few inches narrower, would that free up some room for extra pallets? Can you design cases slightly taller so each one holds more product?

5. make cargo more compact

Machinery and other large items might call for a flat rack or open top container, which can cost more than a standard container. If you transport this over the road, you could have to treat it as oversized cargo, which will then carry additional costs. Disassembling the load or reconfiguring it could help you to avoid the extra costs.

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container loading: internal stacking calculation

Measurement of a container’s capacity is rated according to its cubic measurement and the maximum weight of the cargo it can hold.

The internal capacity of a container is measured in cubic metres in the UK and is calculated by multiplying the internal size of the container. That means the inside length, width and height. It’s important to measure the goods you’re loading correctly so you can maximise the amount of cargo you ship in the container and prevent a shortage of space.

measuring the freight

To calculate the cubic measurement of the freight, multiply the length, breadth and height of each item that you’ll be loading.

Multiply the cubic metres total by the number of items that size which must go in the container. Check the end cubic metre total against the cubic metre capacity of the container.

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Contact us today for a consultation session with a member of our Systems team.

During the consultation, a Joloda Hydraroll Group Systems Expert will speak with you about your business' current logistics operations, plans and goals. 

We have over 60+ years of experience providing cutting-edge technological solutions to the logistics industry and have helped countless companies around the world lighten their load.  

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our manual loading solutions brochure

If you’re looking for the right manual loading solution for your business and warehouse, download a copy of our free Manual Loading Solutions leaflet. 

From benefits to best practice, discover how to lighten the load with one of our Rollertrack Loading Systems, Powered Cargo Rollers Systems, Container Loading Systems and Container Lifting Systems and many more...

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container utilisation vs. ease of internal stacking

It’s important to remember the invention of containers came about as a way to reduce costs and shipping time. This wasn’t only to minimise the direct costs of the operation, but also the indirect ones, including the costs associated with damage to items during shipping. Containers achieved the objective, lowering costs and shortening loading times.

Before the days of containers, businesses were wrestling with drums, cases, boxes, barrels, crates, cans, reels and more. They had to waste excessive amounts of time handling all these items that were different sizes and differently weighted.

If you have a container, you no longer need to grapple as much with this; however, to maximise container utilisation, you may have to increase the amount of manual work, complexity and, as a result, the execution time. Whereas for operators of ships and in ports, it’s about shifting as many tonnes as possible per hour, the simplicity of internal stacking makes a major difference for the people handling the containers. If you’re planning to implement a scheme that will use a higher percentage of the volume, consult them first.

In the wake of COVID-19, effective container utilisation has become even more essential. No business wants to pay the high costs of shipping only to ship half-empty containers. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses that rely on containers to keep their supply chains up and running don’t realise how much space they’re wasting in their containers.

When it comes to improving your container utilisation, there are several avenues you can explore:

  1. Products and the way your business packages them for shipping
  2. Size of shipping containers and the type you use
  3. Manufacturing, ordering and shipping processes
  4. Container load configurations
Loaded Container

1. packaging for shipping

When you’re trying to improve container utilisations and are evaluating your packaging options, you should always ask if you can alter your packing dimensions.

Carton dimensions can make a massive difference to the capacity to double stack pallets in a container and the limitation of single stacking. This can create a lot of wasted space in the upper part of a container.

If your container loads often consist of single-stacked pallets, reducing the height of cartons could create scope for double stacking them and not just occupying container floor space, but also the upper space of your container.

2. container sizes

Sometimes, the lack of efficient container utilisation is because of the type of container the business is using rather than the way the operator is loading it. A lot of businesses pay too little attention to appropriate container sizing when they book international ocean shipments. Instead, they leave these decisions up to their freight forwarders.

Optimising the combination of the container and the load can yield considerable savings by increasing the amount of space used in the container. Perhaps you’re using 40-foot containers and not able to double stack all your pallets, in which case a high cube container could be better because it’s taller and would allow you to fill all your container space. The cost might also be only a little more than a standard 40-foot unit, so sometimes it will be cheaper to hire 20-foot boxes instead of hiring 40-foot ones but only filling them partially.

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3. changing the way goods are manufactured, ordered or shipped

As well as considering how the shape and size of packaging affect how it uses up container space, you should also think about minimising the amount of airspace inside your packaging.

This means thinking about the different elements of your manufacturing process and how you might revise them. One example would be to switch from manufacturing finished pieces of furniture to producing unassembled units or partially assembled ones you can pack more tightly into a container.

Flat packing lends itself tremendously well to container shipping. If you sell fully finished items of furniture, you might wish to ship the items in flat packs to their destination and build them, instead of building them first and shipping them from their point of origin.

4. load configuration

It’s a good idea to check whether you can alter how you configure loads.

Are you palletising them? If so, did you know it’s easier to configure unpalletised cargo than palletised ones? Note that you might have to palletise loads further into the shipping process for them to continue on their journey; at the destination port or terminal, for instance. If this is the case, you might also have to provide instructions for destuffing and palletisation.

You may also need special equipment for palletisation and destuffing. Fortunately, shipping internationally without pallets won’t incur the same amount of time and costs that the inspection, certification and fumigation of loads incur when pallets are present. Depending on the type of products you wish to ship and the volume of which you plan to do so, comparing the cost of palletising the goods versus the cost of not palletising them could help you increase your container utilisation and save you time and money.

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how are shipping containers loaded?

Unfortunately, shipping container accidents are common, and lots of shipping containers get lost at sea. This inflicts financial losses on the business and is also dangerous for human life and sea life. Incorrect loading is often the cause of these incidents.

Loading a container consists of four main steps:

1) Checking the condition of the container

2) Considering the load distribution

3) Securing the cargo in place

4) Conducting a final check

You should always load the container properly and double-check that the cargo is secure before the ship or another vehicle begins its journey with the container.

Below is a look at the process for loading shipping containers:

1. checking the condition of your container

Before you load your container, you should conduct a thorough check of its condition. The first thing to look for is whether the container has a valid container safety convention (CSC) plate. If it doesn’t, send the container back to the supplier. Otherwise, move on to the next stage of the check.

Check the interior and exterior of the container, looking for various things:

  • Does the panelling have any holes or tears in it?
  • Is the container clean and dry inside?
  • Is the floor space clear — such as free from protruding screws and nails — and undamaged?

You should also verify the container’s official payload and confirm whether it meets your requirements.

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2. considering the load distribution

Creating your loading plan is the next step.

It’s essential to distribute the weight of the cargo evenly across the container floor. Never place more than 60% of the payload within half of the length. Before lifting things and putting them into place, think carefully about where exactly they must go.

Consider the weight, size and density of each item. You should place heavy cargo and liquids at the bottom, and lighter loads and dry products on the top. Separate accordingly any cargo that could cause damage (for instance, if it has sharp edges).

3. Securing the cargo in place

You must pack the cargo as tightly as possible into the container to stop it from moving.

Work from the bottom of the container to the top in tiers. Try to fill all the space. If items don’t fit, fill the gaps with empty boxes or blankets, or secure the item down.

During transit, the cargo will experience compressive forces continuously, due to the pitching and rolling of the vessel over heavy seas. This will put your securing devices under some real strain, so it’s important to choose your load securing equipment carefully and ensure it’s adequate to cope with the strain. Blocking, bracing, dunnage and strapping, and load securing by direct lashing or friction lashing, are all options to consider.

4. conducting a final check

Once you’ve loaded your container, do a final check to make sure you’ve stowed the items away correctly. Have you placed the heavy items at the bottom? Have you filled all the space? Have you secured the items correctly? If not, make the necessary adjustments and, if you’re happy with the load, close the doors and lock them with a strong shackle padlock.

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why switch to a joloda hydraroll container loading system?

When it comes to automatic loading systems, Joloda Hydraroll is a name that you can trust. We are an established name in the truck and container loading and unloading business. For over 60+ years, we have provided market-leading solutions to businesses to simplify their loading and unloading requirements. 

Our container loading system is capable of loading multiple loads onto one container in one shot, saving your business valuable time and resources.

You can learn more about implementing our Container Loading System into your logistics operations today by reading our article: Why Switch To A Joloda Hydraroll Container Loading System?

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how are shipping containers loaded onto a trailer?

There are lots of different ways to load a container onto a trailer. Equipment ports will use include gantry cranes, top loaders, reach stackers and more; not all this equipment is always available, however, and some ports don’t have loading bays. The question then remains: how do you load a container onto a trailer?

The process consists of four main steps:

1. Position the container in a designated area

2. Load the trailer with the necessary loading equipment

3. Secure the container with twist locks

4. Conduct a thorough safety check.

Below is a look at these in more detail.

1. Positioning the container in a designated area

First, you must find a suitable area to begin loading. Ideally, this area should be close to the container that you’re loading onto the trailer, whether the trailer is empty or laden.

Then have the prime mover and the trailer placed in the area selected. Have a safety inspector present to facilitate the process and make sure the driver is using their mirrors and blinkers when backing into position.

Once into position, the prime mover should be set into parking gear. The trailer should also be using its parking brake and should be attached to the mover at all times. Just like when you’re in a loading bay, you should use wheel chocks for extra safety.

Enlist someone to check the mover, the trailer and the surrounding area for any obstructions. Personnel should be wearing hard hats, safety vests, shoes and other protective clothing.

2. loading the container onto the trailer

There are several different ways to load the container onto the trailer. Here are some of the main ones:

Forklift Truck

Forklift truck

Forklifts are versatile, cost-effective and often used to lift heavy loads across short distances; however, diesel forklifts can lift containers.

The forklift driver should locate the forklift pockets on the shipping container to insert the forks. The forklift shouldn’t encounter any issues lifting the container as long as its rated capacity can accommodate the weight of the laden container.

It’s best to use fork extensions to lengthen the forklift truck’s reach. You should also check the distribution of the load is even before loading the container onto the trailer.

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Container jacks

These pieces of equipment lift the container vertically through hydraulic pressure. They’re designed specially to lift containers. They work best in small yards in which space is at a premium.

The container should be on level ground before you set up container jacks. A jack goes on each container corner. It might take a few minutes before the jacks have lifted the container off the ground. You position the trailer as necessary when the container has ground clearance. Then you just lower the container onto the trailer.



Sideloaders are trailers equipped with two lifted cranes. You’ll also see them referred to as ‘side shifters’. They can load containers from off the ground or back onto it.

To begin loading, the prime mover should park the side loader next to the container, which will either be empty or laden. Having parked the trailer, the driver should engage the stabilising legs and hook the attachments into each of the corner castings.

The hydraulic cranes will then lift the container onto the trailer. You should ensure that the surrounding area is clear and that you’re operating the side loader at a comfortable pace during this process.

Truck Crane

Truck cranes

Truck cranes operate similarly to side loaders, only they have one crane, close to the truck head. You’ll also see them more on flatbed trucks, rather than on container trailers.

Once you’ve positioned the truck crane next to the container, you can deploy the outriggers to prevent the truck from tipping over. You then lash the container from each corner casting it toward the top of the container with a hook.

The crane grabs the hook to load the container onto the trailer. Remember to check the internal weight distribution of the container before you start the process.

Reach Stacker

Reach stacker

A reach stacker uses a telescopic arm to lift the container. These vehicles are designed to lift containers and can stack them approximately 2 to 4 containers high and 2 deep. You’ll often encounter reach stackers in facilities that operate a container yard, where stacking empty containers are common. If you’re going to operate a reach stacker, always make sure the prime mover and the trailer are parked securely.

Top Loader

Top loader

Top loaders are like reach stackers but don’t have a telescopic arm. Due to this limitation, a reach stacker can only deal with a container a row at a time; however, these vehicles have a higher stacking range of about 5 to 6 containers.

You’ll mainly encounter top loaders in the container yard of a port, although they’re not as common because of their depth limitations. You should take similar safety precautions as when using a reach stacker and make sure you’ve loaded the container safely onto the trailer.

Tilt Bed Trailer

Tilt bed trailer

Tilt bed trailers possess a special feature that allows them to raise the section nearest to the truck head and lower the section at the back. The container can then slide onto the trailer and off it.

To load a container onto a tilt bed trailer, you must raise the container at one end so the tilt bed can position below the front section of the container. The truck then reverses and slides the container onto the tilt bed before it assumes a horizontal position.

Operating a tilt bed truck can damage the contents of a container. This makes it more advisable to use a tilt bed trailer for empty containers only.

3. securing the container with twist locks

After you’ve loaded your container onto the trailer, you must secure it in place so it doesn’t become dislodged during transit. General purpose shipping containers have up to eight corner castings: four at the one bottom, with one on each corner, and four at the top with one on each corner. These castings allow operators to secure the container in place easily with twist locks.

When loading a container onto a trailer, you see the corner castings resting on the twist locks on each end of the trailer. Rotate the twist lock handle 90 degrees to lock the container in place. This will keep the container locked down at each corner and connect it securely to the trailer, which is vital for safe transportation.

4. conducting a thorough safety check

Once you’ve loaded the container onto the trailer, it’s essential to check you’ve carried this out safely and that it’s locked in and ready for transportation. Below are a couple of lists of the most important things to check before the container begins its journey.

Checking the container

You should check the undercarriage, walls, doors, ceiling and twist locks of the container. During loading, you may damage parts of the container or dislodge them, so you should check these elements of the container.

Here are some of the checks you should make:

  • Undercarriage: check for dents and holes.
  • Doors: check the locks and locking mechanism. Make sure there are no loose bolts. Check the hinges are functioning.
  • Walls: Look for structural damage.
  • Ceiling: Look for structural damage.
  • Twist locks: Check all the twist locks are engaged.

Checking prime movers and trailers

When checking prime movers and trailers, the same principles apply. You should check no damage has occurred during loading. Check the following:

  • the brakes;
  • the lights (prime mover and trailer);
  • the fire extinguishers;
  • the tyre pressure (prime mover and trailer).

Loading containers and then transferring them to a ship or truck trailer must be conducted safely. If you’d like to find out more about how our loading and lifting products can support your operations, contact us. We’ll be happy to advise you on our systems.

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Contact us today for a consultation session with a member of our Systems team.

During the consultation, a Joloda Hydraroll Group Systems Expert will speak with you about your business' current logistics operations, plans and goals. 

We have over 60+ years of experience providing cutting-edge technological solutions to the logistics industry and have helped countless companies around the world lighten their load.  

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