Self-loading trailers FAQs

STEELBRO is a leader in the global market for Sidelifters, or self-loading trailer vehicles. Sidelifters are also known as Sideloaders, Swinglift, Swingthru and Self-loading container trailer. A Sidelifter is a purpose built semi-trailer, on which, a specially designed set of cranes are mounted, to lift and transport ISO shipping containers of various types, sizes and weights, up to 45’ and 40 tonnes. Sidelifter cranes can also be mounted on a truck deck for handling 20’containers. Most self-loading trailers can transfer containers to other trailers and trucks. Many are also engineered to ‘double stack’ i.e stack containers two high on the ground. STEELBRO have over 133 years of manufacturing success. Based in Christchurch, New Zealand, we have produced innovative and imaginative solutions for the transport industry since 1878. The company has evolved into one of the world’s most well respected, and long-lived, heavy transport engineering enterprises. STEELBRO has forged an international reputation for its design innovation and excellent workmanship.


Customers using self-loading trailers include rail forwarders, trucking fleet operators and logistics companies. All our customers are realising the practical and economic advantages of Sidelifter technology. Sidelifters deliver a range of options. Operators have the ability to pick up and drop off fully loaded containers, without the need to wait for other machinery to arrive or become available. This eliminates the cost associated with leaving trailers on-site and increases the opportunities for the possible number of pickups and drop offs in each cycle. Containers can also be placed anywhere the Sidelifter unit can access. This eliminates the need for expensive ground preparation such as that required when using a reachstacker. The Sidelifter can work in conjunction with companion vehicles, improving standard container trailer utilisation and reducing total fleet sizes. Suitably specified Sidelifters can transfer containers on or off rail wagons. Sidelifters can transfer a container from a trailer to rail. It will also double-stack containers in adjoining depots and can shuttle containers to and from nearby exporters and importers; handling all operations without the need for reachstackers or other equipment. This is particularly useful in remote areas or situations where there is little infrastructure or other areas that can benefit most from inter-modal containerisation.


STEELBRO began exporting self-loading trailers and other transportation equipment to Australia in 1979, expanding to the Pacific and Caribbean Islands and further afield shortly after. The STEELBRO Sidelifter is now one of the world’s best-selling self-loading trailer systems, exported to over 100 countries. STEELBRO products are now also sold in several International markets: Europe, Africa, Middle East, South East Asia, and North and South America as well as Australasia.


The worldwide growth in container transportation is ongoing. This growth is putting strain on traditional cargo hubs and road transport networks in many developed countries – particularly in Europe and North America, where congestion and associated environmental concerns are ever-increasing. The Sidelifter has been identified as an important intermodal solution for moving containers off the road and onto short-haul rail systems. The international trend towards door-to-door containerised shipments of bulk cargoes such as grains and fruit and the need to avoid cross-pollination of crop diseases is increasing the potential opportunities for Sidelifter applications. Increasingly shipping lines and domestic market container service providers are seeing the benefits of giving their small and medium sized customers the opportunity of door delivered, “on the ground” solutions. Rail network operators are seeing that by strategically adding self-loading trailers to their systems, they can provide a thorough handling, cost-effective capability, to compete with the overburdened highways. The growing focus on Occupational health and Safety in the workplace has also highlighted a need for controlled workplace safety. STEELBRO has developed a load monitoring system SMARTlift, as a platform for operators to work within safer parameters thus minimising the risk of workplace incidence.