How Long Does it Take to Unload a Shipping Container?

forklift employee removing goods from shipping containers

Once it arrives at a warehouse dock, there are several considerations in the task of removing freight from a shipping container. Shipping container unloading is often performed while the trucker, who has conveyed the containers on a flatbed, waits for the job to be performed. This is called live unloading. Time is of the essence here as the meter is likely running for the driver, the lumpers hired to perform the task, as well as for any ancillary warehouse staff poised to receive and store the goods once they have been unloaded. Of course, safety is a key factor and there are numerous regulations that must be observed by the unloaders as well. 

Speed and efficiency of any shipping container unloading task depend on several factors:

  • The length of the container,
  • What the cargo itself includes,
  • What warehouse equipment must be used to remove the freight,
  • Processing of any damages/losses that may have occurred in transit,
  • and who is performing the task.

For example, for shorter containers, and if the cargo can be removed using forklifts, experienced, professional lumpers can unload freight that had been initially loaded onto pallets in less than an hour per container. For the same size container, carrying loose freight and goods of different sizes and weights, the task can take upwards of four hours to unload an 800-unit container. Freight that is fragile, such as computers, technology equipment, and products made with glass components, are deemed nonstandard cargo and the shipping container unloading task to remove these items can take as long as a day. 

Speaking very broadly, emptying a trailer/container is generally performed within two hours or less. For any task that is a live unload, the shipping carrier will have negotiated with the lumper vendor as to whether there will be a charge for shorter unloading times to cover the driver, or fees incurred based on the driver’s prorated hourly wage. The alternative to live unloading is to have the trucker leave the container/containers/trailer for unloading and to leave at that time with an empty container. This option is called a drop-and-hook and is most often deployed when the cargo is non-standardized as the driver can proceed to their next destination while the shipping container unloading task continues with one less variable to be concerned about. 

To maintain supply chain schedules and hold the line on overhead costs, shipping container unloading is a task that is optimally performed by professionals such as the teams supplied by Labor Loop. Our seasoned teams provide the ideal option for cost-conscious warehouse and logistics professionals tasked with complying with regulations, and meeting tight timelines, while holding the line on operations expenses. 

To learn more about the efficiencies of scale that can be achieved when you partner with Labor Loop for your on-demand, skilled freight unloaders, speak to our representatives today!