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Picking up a Shipping Container at a Container Yard

17.01.2016 - Posted by Updated On 17.01.2016    

When you buy a shipping container, many times the delivery will either be included in the price, or added as an additional cost. One opportunity to save a little money is picking up the container yourself, either on your own trailer, or renting/borrowing one. If you decide to pick the shipping container up yourself you'll need to keep a few things in mind.

First, a 20' container weighs just under 5,000lbs and you'll need a truck that has enough power to not only pull that much weight, but also negotiate hills and corners without struggling.

Second, the container yard will be able to load the container onto your trailer, but do you have a way to get it off? The trailer will either need to be a tilt bed, or you'll need a forklift or crane on site at the delivery location to pick the container off the trailer. If you have a tilt bed trailer and have never unloaded a container before, watch this video on unloading a shipping container.

Picking Up Your Container

So you've confirmed that your truck and trailer are able to move 5,000 lbs, and you have a way to get the container off the trailer at the location where it will be kept, now we can get started with the details.

The first thing that you'll need, and that should be provided to you by the seller, is the release code. The release code is generated by the seller and provided to both you, the buyer, and the depot or container yard. The release code is a simple number that confirms that you are in fact the buyer of the container and which container you have bought. Before you get to the depot it's well advised to call ahead and make sure that the container is readily accessible. Think of the container yard as a parking lot, and the yard manager the valet. If he's aware that you're coming he can have your container ready for you, and if not it may be parked in and you'll need to wait for them to dig it out.

Before the container is loaded onto your trailer let the lift operator know which way you'd like the doors to be facing. This is especially important if you're using a tilt bed trailer and will be pulling out from under the container on site. If the doors are facing the wrong way they could be blocked by a wall or tree when unloaded.

The loading process goes quickly as the lift operator does this all day and it's his job to keep the yard moving quickly. Commercial truckers are normally on tight deadlines and need to be in and out of the yard quickly.

Once the container is loaded onto your trailer you'll need to secure it to the trailer using tie downs. Before you start this process ask the lift operator if there is a convenient place to do this work, as busy yards might be upset if you're blocking traffic for any period of time. It's best practice to use at least two tie downs on a 20' container, and four on a 40' container.

Once the container is loaded and tied down you're on your way. Keep in mind the extra height of the container and make sure you have enough clearance for the entire journey. is an online marketplace for buying and selling intermodal shipping containers. Our sellers provide new and used shipping containers throughout the United States and around the world. To learn more about any of the active containers for sale please contact the seller directly through the listing page. If you have a general question about shipping containers feel free to contact our staff and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction.

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