How to move a forty foot shipping container.
March 25, 2006 9:21 PM   Subscribe

I need to move a forty foot shipping container 120 yards across a grassy field and turn a corner and another 20 yards.

I have a full size truck. I would prefer to not rent a big piece of equipment if at all possible. Any ideas? If renting equipment is my only option what would I need to rent to move it?
posted by Mhead to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
The bluestones were assumedly partly rolled from Wales to Stonehenge on a path of lined up loose logs... if only you can find enough druids to help you pull, you could be in luck.
posted by glibhamdreck at 9:41 PM on March 25, 2006

You could tow it with your truck - you have to put some kind of rollers under it, like 4 or 5 lengths of telephone pole cut the width of the container.

Lift up the 'forward' end of the container with a floor jack (partially buried?) and put a pole length underneath. After you get a few poles underneath (maybe about 6 - 8 feet apart), youll alternate between driving 6 foot stretches, and getting out and putting the rollers you leave behind back up to the front.
posted by ernie at 9:45 PM on March 25, 2006

If the bottom of the container is flat, and the ground is level, I'd be surprised if the truck (its 4WD, right?) wouldn't just pull it along, like a skidder.
posted by anastasiav at 10:06 PM on March 25, 2006

Lift it up with jacks and center it on a flatbed trailer, lash it on with straps over the top of the container, use a long tow cable from the trailer to the the hitch on your truck, use low gear.
posted by hortense at 10:18 PM on March 25, 2006

There is an army engineer's technique called a "dead man" where a trench is dug ahead of and perpendicular to the desired path, and a log buried there 2 or more feet deep. A cable around the log connects to the cargo, and a block and tackle inches it forward.

Done well, his can pull a surprising amount. Move the log forward and repeat.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:22 PM on March 25, 2006

Best answer: Your average shipping container weighs ~3.5 tonnes (metric or long imperial). Which means you must follow the first rule of rigging: "Thou shall control the load". If you don't think you can handle it don't even start. And you must follow the second rule "Thou shall not place life or limb under the load". Never. And you should never put your hands under anything (like a roller) that is under the load.

I doubt you are going to be able to drag the container where you want it to go, any concavity along the route is going to cause the edge of the container to dig in. Grassy areas are usually pretty soft. You might get away with it if the ground was frozen but I doubt that happens very often in Mississippi.

If I wasn't hours from the nearest town I'd call up the local mobile forklift company and have them come out and move it. They charge by the hour. The actual job will take 10-15 minutes but you need to pay them for travel time each way. Have the foundations in place before you call them. Containers only need to be supported in the corners, I've found a new railroad tie to work well. Alternatively a low bed pulled by a HiAb equpped tractor could do the job in an hour or two.

It's possible to jack the container up and roll it along on top of rollers (like fence posts). I've done it with a 20 footer. Making things difficult is containers are designed to be loaded at the corners; get too much over hang and you'll bend your container.
I had half of a big long explanation typed out here explaining how to do this with JackAlls but as I started typing the 12th warning I reconsidered. I think that if you need to ask this question you should get someone with rigging experience to show you what to do. The opportunity for death or injury is high.

It sounds simple to jack up the container and back a trailer underneath but there are lots of places for it to go wrong. The container has to be supported with cribbing all the way up and all the way down. You've got to control it from tipping over. You have to make sure your cribbing will clear the fenders of the trailer. Using a jack with sufficient lift like a jackall or hi-lift takes practise. If there is any kind of slope at either end the difficulty multiplys. Using rollers you can't support too much weight in the centre or you'll damage the container. The floor isn't steel but wood so you have to do all your supporting along the edges.

On preview: Those rollers are designed for use on concrete. For this reason, the speed of movement must be slower and the surface, on which the caster rolls, must be reasonably smooth. Excessive forces in a horizontal direction can cause failure.
posted by Mitheral at 11:40 PM on March 25, 2006

On second thought a nursery nearby has these rolling platforms that resemble a toy wagon that are used to move heavy potted trees around, perhaps you could use four of these on the corners,
posted by hortense at 12:13 AM on March 26, 2006

Hortense, he'd need wagons rated for one tonne loads. I don't think the nursery will do. If he could raise it and mount it on truck tires he might be able to convert it into a trailer, if it has the structural integrity required for pulling.
posted by Ken McE at 5:29 AM on March 26, 2006

Sell it (buyer has to retrieve it).

Buy another one, with delivery included.
posted by popechunk at 6:56 AM on March 26, 2006

You need to contact Wally Wallington.
posted by whatisish at 5:50 PM on March 26, 2006

Put it up on skids: get some 6"x6" and shape the front end of them into an upward point like a sled runner. Jack the container up, put the skids underneath and attach somehow (depends on if you want to drill holes I guess). Hitch to truck using a logging chain and tow. If the grounds still frozen where you live do it before it thaws!
posted by fshgrl at 11:01 PM on March 26, 2006

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