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Intermodal Unit Weight Limits

If you are planning on getting an intermodal 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 maximum loads.

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

Intermodal shipping units 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 its contents. 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 heaviness is a big issue for some of them…

Intermodal Freight Weights

There are several restrictions that are placed on the maximum load of your unit. 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 tonnage of the shipping container itself
  • Any local laws
  • The distribution of its cargo
  • The type of cargo
  • transport company rules

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


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

Modes of Transport

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

In the UK, however:

The maximum load limit for the road is 44,000kg (43.30 tons) including the truck, trailer, vessel, 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 company’s specifications.

Maximum Intermodal Container Weights

There are maximum weights that are allowed for the portable unit, regardless of the method of transport that is going to be used.

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

These are all approximate, as weights can vary depending on the manufacturer.

If you are planning on transporting your cargo, 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 aren’t unnecessary and that could overwise have been avoided.

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