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 they’re relied on by importers and exporters to handle containers at sites that don’t have a loading dock.
The limitations of side loaders are few, however the payload they can legally haul on the road is one. 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.
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, turns on three key factors:
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’re 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.
LOWER COST HIGHER COST
Weight of your Containers Light Heavy
Number of Containers Low High
Distances Travelled Short Long
Your Location Industrial Isolated
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 container lift solutions 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. Here's a great example.
Apple exporter T&G Global ships over 800 x 40' reefers per year from one of its New Zealand coolstores. Loading up to 20 containers per day during peak season, T&G needed a safe, efficient and reliable container handling system to transfer containers into position for loading. Following successful trials, T&G ordered 2 x C-Lift A32s. To improve container turnaround times, the A32s will be fixed to the ground, rather than mobile units.
BISON C-Lifts mean T&G is in full control of its export operation. It is no longer reliant on availability of side loaders from local haulage firms. And lower transport costs mean the C-Lifts will deliver a positive return on investment in less than 2 seasons.