How Do You Ship Heavy Machinery?

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How Do You Ship Heavy Machinery?
How Do You Ship Heavy Machinery?

How Do You Ship Heavy Equipment? What You Should Expect

If you’re shipping heavy construction equipment, farm, or industrial machinery for the first time, you may not be sure what you can expect from the process. How do you even ship heavy machinery? How much will it cost? What is the process like? 

In this guide from A-1 Auto Transport, we’ll discuss the basics of how heavy machinery shipping works, and answer some other common questions about the process. Let’s get started.          

How Do You Ship Heavy Machinery? 

For domestic shipments, heavy machinery is typically towed or transported using a semi-truck that pulls a specialized flatbed, such as a lowboy or a step-deck flatbed. International shipments are usually sent using a combination of truck, rail, and ocean-going freight. 

Let’s take a look at these basic shipment methods now, and explain the basics.

  • Towing – Towing is usually only used to transport heavy machinery a short distance, such as within the same city or county. It’s impractical for longer trips, since it’s usually not possible to bring your heavy equipment on high-speed roads and highways.
  • Flatbed hauling – This is how the vast majority of heavy machinery is shipped in the United States. A semi truck with a flatbed will come to your location, and your equipment will be loaded onto it. The hauling capacity is about 80,000 lbs for these trucks, but some trucks can handle larger oversize loads.
  • Rail shipment – Rail shipment may be cheaper than flatbed hauling, in some cases. It’s often used along with ocean freight for shipping heavy machinery internationally. 
  • RoRo – For international shipments of heavy machinery that is self-propelled (such as a tractor or bulldozer), Roll On, Roll Off (RoRO) shipping is used. The vehicle is driven onto a specialized cargo ship, then it’s driven off of the ship once it reaches its destination. 
  • Flat rack shipping – A flat rack is similar to a flatbed, and is usually used for non-operable heavy machinery. Your equipment is loaded onto the flat rack, then loaded onto a cargo vessel for international shipment. The typical capacity for a flat rack is 88,000 lbs.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship My Heavy Machinery? 

For domestic shipments of heavy machinery, the typical cost is somewhere between $2 and $5 per mile. International shipping is much harder to estimate, so you will usually need to request a quote directly from the shipping provider. The size of your shipment, distance traveled, required arrival date, and other factors can all affect the cost of shipping heavy machinery. 

Let’s take a bit of a deeper look at these factors now, to help you learn a bit more about how much it may cost to ship your heavy equipment

Total shipment distance – Domestic shipments of heavy machinery are almost always charged at a per-mile rate, with a lower per-mile rate for longer shipments and a higher per-mile rate for short distances. Therefore, total shipment distance has a significant effect on pricing.

International shipping is a bit harder to calculate, but the same basic rules apply. The longer the distance, the more you’ll pay to ship your machinery internationally using ocean-going freight.

  • Size, weight, and dimensions of machinery – The overall size and weight of your heavy machinery are very important when determining the cost of shipping your machinery. Heavier, bulkier loads will be more expensive than smaller, lighter shipments.

    In some cases, your shipment may even qualify as an “oversize load,” requiring special permits and other safety precautions during its shipment. The cost of shipping oversize equipment is quite a bit higher, compared to a standard shipment of heavy machinery.
  • Domestic vs. international shipping – It will cost less to ship heavy machinery domestically using a truck, compared to international shipping using a combination of trucking, rail, and ocean-going freight. 

    This is because the complexity of a domestic, truck-based shipment is much lower – there is no need to transfer equipment to a new mode of transportation or deal with international customs, for example. 
  • Disassembly and reassembly – Some large pieces of equipment will need to be partially disassembled to be transported to their destination, and then reassembled on-site. This will usually need to be done by your team of workers, but can sometimes be done by a shipping provider. Either way, this will cost you additional time and labor, which leads to a more expensive shipping project.

Will My Heavy Machinery Be Insured During The Shipping Process?

Federal law requires heavy haulers to carry at least $100,000 in insurance for your goods, and most companies have up to $1 million in insurance, so you will likely be covered for domestic shipments. For ocean-going freight and international shipments, however, you may need to purchase an additional policy.

This is because your goods are not fully insured on most cargo ships – but are insured at a rate of about $2.00 per kilogram. If your heavy machinery is damaged or destroyed, you may not be able to get full compensation.
However, it’s possible to get ocean freight shipping insurance for your shipment. We highly recommend doing this. While it’s unlikely that your heavy machinery will be damaged, stolen, or lost at sea, it’s likely worth hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of dollars. It’s worth protecting. 

You can discuss your insurance options with your freight carrier, or you can reach out to an ocean freight insurance company for a quote on your own. Either way, we highly recommend making sure your heavy machinery is protected before you ship it internationally.


How Do I Choose A Freight Carrier For My Heavy Machinery?

We recommend looking for a company with a lot of expertise in your field, reading online reviews and getting referrals to past customers, and asking for quotes from several different freight carriers.

  • Look for depth of expertise – It’s a good idea to work with a carrier that has experience in your field – such as moving farm equipment and agricultural machinery. This will ensure a more smooth shipping process. 
  • Read online reviews and ask to talk to past customers – Online reviews, if available, are a good way to learn the basics about a freight carrier. You can also contact them directly to ask for references and information from past customers, which will give you more insights into what they have to offer.
  • Get multiple quotes – You can reach out to multiple companies with details about your shipment to get a quote and estimate – this ensures you won’t be overpaying for service.

Find A Heavy Haul Freight Carrier For Heavy Machinery Shipping Today! 

At A-1 Auto Transport, we have the best network of heavy haul freight carriers in the country – and we’re always here to help you get the shipping services you need. Whether you need to ship your heavy machinery domestically or internationally, our transport partners are here to help.

Ready to get started? Want to get a quote for shipping your heavy machinery? Contact us online or give us a call at (800) 452-2880 to speak to an agent and get an estimate right away.

Joe Webster
Written By:Joe Webster
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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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