What is a Floor Loaded Container?

Allison Champion
3 min read
August 15, 2018
Modified: April 13, 2023


A floor loaded container is a shipping container stacked with freight that has been loaded from the floor up without utilizing a shipping pallet.

In other words, a floor loaded container is a shipping container wherein all of the freight has been stacked onto the floor, instead of on to a wooden pallet.

Just about every article of freight larger than an Amazon package is loaded utilizing a shipping pallet. Shipping pallets enable loading and unloading crews to utilize forklifts and pallet jacks to easily move, load, and organize freight.

However, shipping pallets are heavy. They add weight and volume to the freight which in turn costs more money to ship.

Floor Load vs. Palletized

Most shippers are restricted to either floor loading or pallet loading due to the specific shipping restrictions placed on their freight. A company that ships freight that consists of glass components would not be advised to floor load their shipping containers due to the likelihood of it breaking.

A more durable freight class such as used tires, however, requires no such precaution and can be floor loaded from floor to ceiling in nearly any shipping container.

Floor loading is less common, and more difficult than other loading methods. Freight that is floor loaded must be carefully sorted and loaded on to the container by hand.

Shippers are advised to consult the National Motor Freight Classification to confirm their shipments freight class and to determine whether floor loading is an option for their shipment.

Otherwise, a shipper runs the risk of securing a carrier that is not adequately equipped to carry a floor loaded shipment.

In fact, most shippers, and many carriers refuse to ship, carry or load floor loaded freight due to the added layer of liability that comes with a shipment that consists of multiple floor loaded items and components.

Types of Floor Loaded Freight

Most of the freight that is shipped today is palletized because palletizing adds a layer of protection and accountability to the freight.

Freight that includes multiple small items can be secured to one pallet and shipped as one shipment, instead of numerous items that must be sorted and accounted for by hand.

However, there are a number of different types of freight that are typically floor loaded due to their manufacture, perceived durability, and individual shipping requirements.

  • Tires
  • Parcels
  • Rolled Carpets
  • Metal Coils
  • Industrial Rolls of Paper
  • Logs
  • Concrete Pipe Section

Intermodal and sea shipment containers that arrive from overseas are often floor loaded as well, especially containers from China.

How to Properly Floor Load a Container

Because the individual freight items of a floor loaded shipment are not bound together on a pallet, they are more susceptible to load shifts and potential damage.

Floor loaded shipments require load bars and straps to be strategically placed throughout the load to prevent it from shifting. Floor loaded shipments may also require added heat, cold and weather insulation due to the lack of protection.

Most importantly a floor loaded shipment has to be properly distributed throughout the container to prevent a load shift and excessive fees associated with an overweight container.

Companies like Amazon, who frequently utilize floor loaded containers also utilize “Vehicle Sizing Software” which enables their Shipment Coordinators to “build” evenly distributed, profitable floor loaded shipments that utilize every available inch of the container, and rake in the most possible revenue per floor loaded shipment.

Some shippers have a choice when it comes to floor loading freight; they can choose to save money and sacrifice efficiency by floor loading, or they can increase efficiency by pallet loading their freight, at a higher shipping cost.

How a shipper decides to load their freight will ultimately be determined by the type of freight they ship, their shipping budget and how efficiently they can load and unload a floor loaded container.

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Written By:

flowspace author Allison Champion

Allison Champion

Allison Champion leads marketing communication at Flowspace, where she works to develop content that addresses the unique challenges facing modern brands in omnichannel eCommerce. She has more than a decade of experience in content development and marketing.

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