Skip to main content
Get a quote
8155 Bison blog 1920x700 Side Loader Container Lifting Solutions
Lifting Alternatives

What Are Side Loaders Costing Your Business?

They Could Be Costing You More Than You Think.

Bison Group

5 Oct 4 Minutes



With almost 50 years of service behind them, side loaders are a tried and tested way to lift and haul shipping containers. They are especially common in Australia and New Zealand, where importers and exporters rely on them to handle containers at sites without a loading dock.

We did some research on the costs of using side loaders in New Zealand in 2017 (???) and here are some cost comparisons rounded in US dollars. Please note that cost can defer from location to location and from country to country, but the following findings are worth considering. We strongly encourage you to check your provider invoices and rates and make your own calculations. You might find out that investing in a relatively low cost Bison Container Lift system is a smart way forward.

PAYLOAD LIMITS: Side loader vs Regular Trailer

Side loaders are limited by the payload they can legally haul on the road. While side loaders can lift the heaviest containers, the weight of the two cranes on the chassis offsets the weight you can carry inside the container. Here's a basic comparison between a side loader and a regular trailer.

COST DIFFERENTIAL: Side loader vs Regular Trailer

For lighter container loads, this isn’t usually a problem. The side loader can lift and legally haul the container on the road. The problem is you pay a premium of around $1.30 per km ($2 per mile) for the side loader service, compared with cartage by a regular truck and skeletal trailer.


For heavy containers, the common work-around is to double up the side-loader with a truck and skeletal trailer. The side loader does this the lift, and the “skelie” carts the box. In these cases, the side-loader effectively serves as a mobile crane.

While this work-around solves the problem for your operations team, your bean counters won’t like it as you’re paying for two trucks, two trailers and two drivers to handle a single container.

Just how much it costs you, when you “double up” a side loader and a skelie, depends on three key factors:

  • The volume of containers you’re moving.

  • The distances the side loader and skelie have to travel - between your site, the Port and the trucking company’s depot.

  • The proximity of other container shippers to your location.

To clarify this last point, if you’re in an industrial area near other shippers, you might get savings by contracting side loaders that work in your area as they'll do less miles to service your site. If on the other hand you are operating in an isolated area, you may be forced to pay the full rate for a side loader and a skelie to travel to and from your site.


So, if you tick one or more of the boxes down the right side of this table, then chances are side loaders form a big part of your transport costs.



Weight of your ContainersLight


Number of ContainersLow


Distances Travelled



Your LocationIndustrial


To avoid these costs, you might consider investing in your own, on-site container lift solution, such as a heavy forklift, reach stacker or straddle carrier. These machines give you independence and equip you to move containers around your site. But they're also costly to buy, expensive to maintain and they often need a hardstand concrete surface to run on.

The good news is that a new range of shipping container lift solutions by Bison has hit the market that avoid those issues and offer you serious cost saving opportunities, not to mention more independence and control over your container logistics.