There are a variety of different types of trucks available to transport import sea-freight containers each with different capabilities and functions. Which type to choose will depend on the gross (loaded) weight of your container, space available on site, equipment available on site and budget. In this article we’ll go through the different types of trucks available in Australia and the features of each. This information is provided to just inform you of the various options and you do not need to concern yourself about which vehicle or trailer to choose. AussieFreight’s friendly experts will always make the most appropriate choice having worked with you to ascertain your needs and limitations.

Important notes for Full Container Load (FCL) Transport:

      • Only drivers who hold an MSIC and Terminal Access card are allowed into the port areas to collect and deliver full containers
      • Not all vehicles/trailers can fit into city or tight residential areas
      • In Australia you must obtain a permit from local council in order to place a container on a road or footpath. (This includes driveways that intersect with footpaths)
standard trailer

Standard/Skeletal Trailer

Skeletal and Standard Trailers are used to transport sea-freight shipping containers without having any special equipment on board for loading/unloading the containers. The doors to the shipping container are located at the read and the container can loaded/unloaded while still on the trailer. Standard Trailer services are typically the cheapest available for Full Container Load (FCL) deliveries and can carry larger weights than other trailer types. Often with this type of trailer you will have the option of a live load/unload, where the driver waits on site whilst container is loaded or unloaded, or a drop trailer service where the driver will disconnect the trailer from the truck and leave it onsite to be loaded or unloaded over a period of time.

Rigid Truck

A Rigid Container Truck is similar to a standard trailer above, however the tray which the container sits on is part of the truck and not a separate trailer. As a Rigid Truck is much shorter than a trailer they are often used for deliveries/collections in areas too tight for a trailer truck to fit into. Due to their length however, a Rigid Truck can only be used for 20FT sea-freight shipping containers and will usually have a lower weight capacity than a trailer. A Rigid Truck also must be a live load/unload service as the driver cannot disconnect the tray from the truck like a standard trailer.

rigid truck

Sideloader Truck

Sideloaders, Sidelifters or Swing-lifters are specialized trailers used to lift and transport containers. A Sideloader has 2 hoists to lift a container from the truck and place it on the ground onto the driver’s side. Due to their easy unloading/loading capability, sideloaders are popular where a container needs to be at ground level and/or where the containers need to be left for a while for loading/unloading. Sideloaders Trailers can be used for both 40ft and 20ft containers as the hoists can be moved inwards or outwards to fit the container. 20FT Rigid Sideloaders are also available in some areas although they are not as common as the 40FT trailers.

A Sideloader has legs that extend onto the ground to stabilize the truck when lifting a container. For this reason they have a very heavy lifting capacity however are not recommended to be used in grassy or muddy areas where the ground is too soft to support the weight on the legs. Sideloaders require approximately 6.5m clear space above the ground to safely lift the containers and 6m width to accommodate the truck and the container.

Tilt-tray Truck

Tilt Trays are trucks which have a winch and tray which can be tilted at the front to slide containers on or off the tray. They are also commonly used as a type of tow truck to carry vehicles. Unlike Sideloaders, Tilt trays most commonly have 20FT rigid trays which means they are better suited for collecting/delivering shipping containers in residential areas. There are also trailer options commonly referred to as super tilt trays for heavy duty and 40FT containers but they are not as common as the 20FT Rigids. Tilt Trays typically do not have a large weight capacity when compared with sideloaders or standard trailers and are not recommended for heavy containers.

Loader Crane

Loader Cranes, commonly referred to by the brand name ‘Hiab’, are trucks which have a crane fitted either behind the cab or at the rear of the truck which allows them to pick up a container and place it on the ground. Thanks to the one crane design, Hiabs can place a container to either side of a truck, and can typically extend further than Sideloaders. Hiabs can be used for both 20FT and 40FT containers however having only 1 crane means that Hiabs typically do not have a heavy lifting capacity and require additional strapping, and are therefore not commonly used for packed containers in Australia. These trucks have outrigger legs which need to be extended either side of the truck for stability when loading or unloading.

Drop Deck Trailer

A Drop Deck Trailer is a special type of trailer similar to a Skeletal or Standard Trailer, except it has a much lower height. Commonly used for large pieces of equipment, buildings and Open Top or Flat Rack Containers, Drop Deck Trailers can transport heavy and large items that would be too tall to move on a standard height trailer.

drop deck