Intermodal Container Weights Limits

If you are planning on getting an intermodal shipping container to transport your cargo around the world, it is important that you understand their weight limits. When it comes to the various modes of transport that you might be using, they may each have their own rules and regulations surrounding the weight limit.

In addition to this, each country has its own laws regarding weight limits, which must also be adhered to.

Intermodal shipping containers are a cost-effective and secure method of moving cargo around the world. They have been designed so that they are flexible and can be moved from one mode of transport to another quickly, and without the need for unpacking it. This means that they not only need to be regulated, but they also need to be suitable for use on all of the different modes of transport.

And weight is a big issue for some of them…

Intermodal Shipping Container Weights

There are several restrictions that are placed on the weight of a shipping container. When you are looking at transporting goods, there are several things that you should consider, including:

  • The modes of transport that you are planning on using
  • The maximum load weight of the shipping container itself
  • Any local laws
  • The distribution of its cargo
  • The type of cargo
  • Shipping company rules

Intermodal shipping containers are usually available for shipping in four sizes – the 20ft standard, 20ft high cube, the 40ft standard, and the 40ft high cube. When you are thinking about the shipping container weights, you will need to remember that it is:


  • The 20ft standard weighs 2.2-2.4 tons when it is empty
  • The 20ft high cube weighs 2.4 tons when it is empty
  • The 40ft standard weighs 4 tons when it is empty
  • The 40ft high cube weighs 4 tons when it is empty

Modes of Transport

The legal weight limits for different modes of transport depend on the country that you are in.

In the UK, however:

The weight limit for the road is 44,000kg (43.30 tons) including the truck, trailer, container, petrol and cargo.

The weight limit for rail depends on the kind of train that you are using. This is organised through a rail freight company, and they will be able to tell you what options you have.

The weight limit for shipping by sea also depends on the shipping company’s specifications.

Maximum Intermodal Container Weights

There are maximum weights that are allowed for intermodal shipping containers, regardless of the method of transport that is going to be used.

  • A 20ft and 40ft standard shipping container has a maximum weight allowance of 28 tons – giving you a maximum cargo weight of about 25.6 tons
  • A 40ft high cube shipping container has a maximum weight allowance of about 30 tons – giving you a cargo weight of about 26 tons.

These weights are all approximate, as different shipping container manufacturers make shipping containers that weigh slightly differently.

If you are planning on transporting your cargo using an intermodal shipping container, it is important that you check at every stage of the planned journey what the maximum weight allowance is. If you are overweight, you might incur extra costs and delays that are unnecessary.

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