How much does it cost to transport machinery? Guide and price calculator

When companies need transport machinery, they usually look for an indication of how much it will cost in advance before the first contact with a potential service provider. Our machinery transport price calculator and reliable statistics show you how you can estimate the cost of your relocation project.

Calculating the cost of transporting machinery: Factors and options

What do the statistics say? Cheap transport projects for a compact machine cost around 200 euros. Complex transport jobs, on the other hand, can run into the millions–the most expensive cost 38.6 million euros. The statistical mean cost for the transport of compact machinery with a light-to-moderate disassembly and reassembly workload is around 1,900 euros. These figures are based on a calculation performed by the industrial installation company SCHOLPP, which analyzed the cost of around 18,000 transport jobs over the last 15 years.

In addition to factors such as the quality of product preparation, the size of the machine, weight, complexity and sensitivity also play an important role in the costs. In turn, most of the ancillary costs are related to the constraints on each project, such as official requirements, structural analyses, the condition of the transport route, the load-bearing capacity of the floor, door openings and height differences that have to be overcome—sometimes even under cleanroom conditions—are other cost factors that need to be clarified in discussion with the industrial installation service provider.

Our checklist will help you to prepare for your machinery-transport project effectively so that you can reduce your costs to a minimum and get acquainted with the factors that determine costs. Click here to find out more.

Tip: Loading and transport are often the easiest steps. Having a reliable service provider will help avoid waiting times for the machinery-transport team prevent the truck-mounted crane and the loading team from being idle.

Cost factors: Route and complexity

The route your machine takes naturally has an impact on the price. Is the machine staying within the works or is it going to a distant continent? The transport method you use will also have a significant influence on the price. For example, chartering an Antonov AN 225 to fly a machine with a gross weight of 230 metric tons to Asia can quickly cost you 300,000 euros including up-front and follow-up costs. On the other hand, a classic one-way sea transport to Asia in a container is available for less than 3,000 euros. You can also send the machine on its way in a custom-made wooden crate, carefully fitted out with special anti-corrosion film and desiccants.

The captain and crew will then take responsibility for securing the crate. But there is one thing that can never be predicted with absolute certainty: nature. Heavy seas, for example, could cause the goods to break free–a risk that you should definitely insure against. After all, heavy seas legally count as force majeure, for which a carrier can be held severely liable if your machine sinks without replacement.

On the rails

Transport by rail is often an option, particularly for moving goods to Asia. The ability to move heavy loads with generous clearances is one major advantage of rail transport. These clearances are the maximum dimensions defined by individual countries in order to be able to drive safely through their tunnels, bridges and narrow passages. The machine also has to be well prepared for this. Loads sometimes need to be rerouted– this involves individual additional risks that a professional partner can foresee.

A detailed map of the Trans-Asian Railway Network can be found on the website of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), a United Nations organization. Click here for more information.

Transporting machinery by air

Even though transport by air is the most recent addition to the list of shipping options, no other comparable mode of transport has achieved higher growth rates in terms of transport services in recent years. Goods frequently have to be delivered as quickly as possible with the tightest of deadlines, in which case higher freight costs are acceptable.

Most goods are transported in the cargo hold of normal passenger aircraft. Production systems, on the other hand, are usually transported using special cargo or transport aircraft. These planes are pretty impressive, especially to the layperson. Technological advances and the construction of increasingly large and powerful aircraft is making it possible to transport increasingly heavy loads. The largest cargo aircraft built to date is the Antonov An-225 “Mrija”. Only one of these giants has been completed and put into service. It was originally designed to transport the Russian space shuttle Buran. It holds a number of records, including for the heaviest single cargo item ever transported (a 187-metric-ton generator for a gas-fired power plant) and the largest certified maximum take-off weight of any aircraft ever built, at around 640 metric tons.

The airship, which was supposed to be revived in the late ’90s of the last century, unfortunately never got off the ground. It would have been able to carry up to 450 metric tons, with lifting and transporting combined into a single process. Real-life physics was the downfall of this plan. The manufacturer had already simulated how loads would be exchanged using the CargoLifter with an animation. Click here for the video.

Even helicopters can be used to transport machinery. They can handle up to 5 metric tons without issue–anything heavier and you’re looking at a special case. Former Russian military helicopters that had previously operated in former Warsaw-Pact countries kept their transport licenses when those nations joined the European Union, and can now be chartered to transport loads of up to 22 metric tons. But beware: The air propelled downwards by the rotor at high speed can create electrical voltages in wire cables. Make sure that the loading crew is kept safe! Click below for a video of this heavyweight in action:

Machinery transport by ship

Inland waterways are often ignored as an option for transporting particularly large and heavy machinery. The load capacity is almost unlimited, and there is also plenty of room for maneuver. Unfortunately, this only rarely gets machinery all the way to its final destination. Industrial sites tend to be clustered in estates nowadays, unlike in the past when many facilities would be by rivers and canals, sometimes with their own quays. That’s why loads that start on the water usually end up on trucks. The authorities also have a fair amount of influence when it comes to heavy loads. Inland waterways have to be used for some routes in order to relieve road traffic and protect bridges. An overview of Germany’s waterway network, the largest in Europe, is available on the website of Bundesverband Öffentlicher Binnenhäfen e.V. at the following link:

Submarines, rockets and catapults aren’t really suitable for transporting machinery, so let’s return to some more conventional modes of transport.

Machinery transport by truck

The truck remains the most frequently used mode of transport for transporting machinery. If you choose this option, the price will ultimately depend on the quality of the prep work. For example, can the dimensions and weight be reduced by removing attachments so that all of the parts can fit on a standard 13.60-meter semi-trailer? And would a simple throw tarpaulin provided by the shipping company be sufficient for protection? That’s one way to keep costs down.

The most commonly used truck is the 13.60-meter semi-trailer–a true all-rounder of truck transport. Thanks to its somewhat higher loading area, it can handle machinery weighing up to about 25 metric tons, provided the height does not exceed 2.70 meters. This usually provides enough space for 34 Euro-pallets. You should factor in around 1.75 euros per kilometer for the outward and return journeys. Loading and unloading should not take more than 30 minutes; if it does, you may incur additional costs.

Don’t forget about the cost of packaging. Less sensitive machines can be left uncovered. Alternatively, you can place the protection directly on the machine or its sensitive components. Prices will vary–do you need a simple throw tarp, like one you can expect any specialist shipping company to provide, or do you need a custom-made wooden crate elaborately treated with desiccants and pesticides?

If the cost of disassembly and reassembly is too high, then it might be worth considering more specialist vehicles. The Megajumbo, for example, combines the advantages of a low bed system with good load distribution and an excellent enclosure. These vehicles use high-strength steels, special axles, low-profile tires and a movable sliding-tarpaulin construction to provide room for loads almost 3 meters in height.

Autonomous vehicles and machinery dollies with different drive principles and lifting options are another possibility. These little helpers should not be underestimated: They have high load capacities, low loading heights and a high level of tipping resistance. They have been used to transport ship segments weighing over 20,000 metric tons. In the industry, they are known as SPMTs (Self-Propelled Modular Transporters) or MSPEs. However, they need to be controlled by experts, and the transport distance is extremely limited.

Machine transport costs: The calculator

It is difficult to say exactly how much you as a company should expect to pay to transport your machine. However, you can get a rough idea of the costs. To help you do this, we have developed a small calculating tool based on SCHOLPP’s experience of over 60 years and more than 300,000 machine transports. We are happy to share this experience with you to help you estimate your costs.

Click here to open the calculation tool.