Cranes in ports, factories and businesses around the globe spend their days lifting shipping containers on and off trucks. But those cranes could soon find themselves out of a job because of a new container that can sprout legs and lift itself onto a truck flatbed.

Using four hydraulic legs, the SL-tainer shipping container can lift itself high enough for a truck and trailer to back up underneath without the need for a crane. When the legs are folded out in the lift position, the Canadian company's website notes the clearance width is 3.138 m, or about 10.25 feet, which lets regular flatbed trucks comfortably reverse between the legs. 

The heavy-duty legs then fold neatly back into the container's frame when it nestles on the truck flatbed. The SL-tainer uses a self-levelling safety mechanism that ensures the contents don't get damaged. The legs can lift the box to a height of 1.6 meters, just about 5 feet 3 inches, plenty of clearance for a truck flatbed but not quite high enough to reach the hull of a cargo ship. So large port cranes can rest easy, they'll still be needed to unload ships and stack containers for a while yet.

The real value of the SL-tainer is at the other end of the supply chain. Small businesses expecting delivery of just one container have to hire an expensive crane, costing at least a few hundred dollars, just to lift the box off the truck. Excalibur Shelters, the makers of the SL-tainer, estimates that it costs just $1 each time to shift the container on and off a truck. That's the cost of the electricity for the 15-minute operation. The SL-trainer is powered externally either from the truck or a portable power generator it calls the Power Pack, which has a 9 KW motor, 2-speed hydraulic system. 

The self-lifting legs also allow you unload the box in a location that might be hard for a crane to access. This might prove popular in cities where container boxes are finding a whole host of new uses. Shipping containers are being used as pop-up stores, restaurants and even temporary art galleries where having the SL-tainer on stilts could be seen as an extra feature.

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