An introduction to the Mobicon container straddle carrier

An introduction to the Mobicon container straddle carrier

Tom Schults here, the CEO of Mobicon Systems, and the designer of the Mobicon Container Straddle Carrier.

Future news: In future you will find more articles and interesting facts about container straddle carriers and their use in the logistics industry and also news about new developments in our company, and in the container handling industry in general.

Mini Straddle Carrier: Sometimes our product is called a “Mini” or small Straddle Carrier, as compared with the larger container Straddle Carriers that are used in ports and large container freight stations. My aim is to inform readers about the use of these small straddle carriers.

Different ways to pack/unpack a container

How are containers packed or unpacked?

  1. Leave the container on the trailer and use a loading ramp or a loading dock. The disadvantages are that the trailer, and sometimes the Prime Mover/Truck has to wait for the container to be packet, whereby costs can be considerable. Loading ramps and docks can also be dangerous, especially in wet weather.
  2. Take the container off the delivering vehicle and pack it while it is on the ground. This can be done using a Side loader, container forklift truck, a reach stacker or a straddle carrier.

The advantages of placing the container on the ground

It makes a lot of sense to pack a container on the ground, instead of being parked on a trailer. It is safer, and the transport vehicle does not have to wait until the container is packed.

An important consideration is also, by taking the container off the delivering vehicle, there is a separation of “transport and operation”. This has many advantages. It often happens, that the operations are dictated by the arrival time of the container. Even if it does not suit the operations, people have to unpack the container when it arrives to avoid incurring waiting costs for the delivering vehicle and over-time costs of workers. If the container can be unloaded off the vehicle, operations can unpack or pack the container when it suits them, instead of when it suits the transport company.

How can containers be unloaded and placed on the ground

There are three ways to unload a container in a yard.

  1. Use side loaders (or also named swing lifters).
  2. Use a container forklift.
  3. Use a reach stacker.
  4. Use a straddle carrier.

Side loaders or swing lifters

These are trailers with a crane at the front and the rear, and are able to “swing” a container off their (formatting needs change)trailer bed, and also load them again. The official name is “Self Loading Trailer” or SLT. These side loaders are a useful tool if a company uses only a few containers per week. When the numbers of containers increase, many find that the cost of having containers delivered by a side loader becomes prohibitive compared to using a straddle carrier. The side loaders are also limiting in the weight of the container that can be carried, as the weight of the cranes and the heavier, reinforced chassis increase the tare weight of the trailer considerably. There is also a disadvantage for the client that once a container is dropped off by a swing lifter, it cannot be moved anymore, and packing and unpacking the container may take longer because of the distance between where the goods are stored and the location of the container .The side loader uses stabilising arms to avoid the trailer from tipping over. Unfortunately, there have been incidents and accidents where the stabilisers were put on soft ground, causing the trailer to tip over.

Container forklift or reach stacker

Photo courtesy of

Large container forklifts and reach stackers are suitable in large container transfer stations and in ports, where large volumes of containers are processed. In smaller yards they have too many disadvantages. Typically these machines when loaded have axle weights of 70 Tonnes or more, and not many yards are suitable for these axle loadings. You will also often find that landlords of industrial buildings will not allow their tenants to use container forklifts or reach stackers, or will charge for yard repairs if the tenant damages it using such container handlers. Also, the use of these large machines is not advised where small forklifts and trucks and people work in the same area. The cost to operate these of container forklifts and reach stackers is also quite high, and they are only economical when large numbers of containers are handled.

Straddle carriers

Mini Container Straddle Carriers are increasing in popularity. More and more companies discover them as a tool to improve the efficiency of their goods flow. In my view, the “mini” straddle carrier is quite different in its use than reach stackers, container forklifts and other large and heavy container handlers. The larger container forklifts and reach stackers are pure container handlers, and are used by companies that handle containers. Mini Straddle carrier users can be: importers, exporters, manufacturers, processors and third party logistics providers. I call them the “end users in the container chain”. These companies do not handle containers; they handle goods, and these goods need to go into or come out of a container. Therefore, it is important that they can take containers off trucks and trailers, and place them where they want them, to efficiently fill (or empty) the container.

Why use container straddle carriers?

It is important to know what challenges a company has when packing or unpacking containers.

Firstly, almost all users have premises where the yard surface is not suitable for a heavy container forklift or reach stacker. One of our clients who owned their premises, used to have a budget of $50,000 per year to do repairs to their yard, caused by a 35T container forklift. After buying a Mobicon straddle carrier, they operated in their yard for 11 years without spending one dollar on yard repairs. The Mobicon excels in this respect, as the wheel weights are much lower than any other container handler in the world.

Secondly, the mini straddle carriers have lower operating costs than large container forklifts and reach stackers. For example, a typical forklift has a 300 HP engine, while a Mobicon works very well with a 65 HP engine. Fuel, repairs and maintenance and tyre costs are all considerably lower using a straddle carrier.

Thirdly, and compared to a side-loader, using a straddle carrier, a container can be stored until it has to be used to pack the goods. Then the straddle carrier can take the container to the most convenient place to fill or empty it.

Please give me your comments, it will help to better understand container handling in small volumes.

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