Engine Shipping: All You Need to Know

Engine Shipping: All You Need to Know

Engine transport is subject to regulations and strict protocols that most don't consider. To put it lightly, it's a hazardous material that needs careful packaging and transportation that's best left to professionals. Most engines are shipped through 3-PL providers (not the postal service) who have an extensive network of carriers to ensure your shipment is delivered without issue.

Here's a quick primer on the A to Z of engine shipping to ensure your engine stays safe and protected!

Preparing Your Engine Before Transportation

Engine shipping is hazardous because oil and fuel are highly flammable. Therefore, it's important to ensure all fluids, including coolant, water, oil, and fuel, are drained before shipping. More than that, oil is also a lubricant, so if it leaks, it can cause your engine to loosen from the restraints and result in engine damage and trailer damage charges.

Line the surface of wherever your engine is resting with an absorbent material before turning it upside down to drain fluids. It will soak any liquid and cushion your engine. We recommend letting your engine stand overnight to eliminate any residual fluid. The driver of your cargo may use a dipstick to check for oil, so ensure he has access to do so.

How to ship engines

Packing Your Engine Before the Shipping

Engine shipping should be via a crate or pallet. Regardless of which packaging method you choose, it's critical not to take shortcuts with oversized freight shipping. Improper and flimsy packaging can damage your equipment, and the engine shipping company may refuse to load it onto their truck if the packaging doesn't adhere to industry standards.

Always check with your carrier, as some won't accept uncrated engines due to the high liability of potential damage during transit. Here's how to ship engines using pallets or crates:

Transporting Engine in a Pallet

  • The right-sized pallet should leave 4-inches of space surrounding the engine when placed centrally.
  • Screw 2×4s to the edges of the pallet so that it's elevated and doesn't rest directly on the oil pan.
  • Use durable nylon or ratchet straps to secure the engine to the pallet.
  • Cover the engine with a blanket or cardboard before shrink-wrapping.
  • Ensure the fluid intakes are accessible.

Using Crates for Engine Shipping

  • Bolt an engine stand to the bottom of the crate to ensure better stabilization during travel.
  • Add foam protection around the engine to cushion it from turbulence and impact.
  • Assemble the crate with nuts and bolts for easy opening, as the carrier will inspect if the fluids are drained.

Whether crated or palletized, engines should be laid flat, with a decent amount of surface contact with the pallet or bottom of the crate. Engines with a sump should be positioned with a car tire to help stabilize.

Acceptable alternatives to ratchet straps are industrial-standard plastic straps or steel banding, provided there is a minimum of two bands in place, and all straps are protected where they touch the engine to prevent slipping. Generally, carriers consider crates the superior option over shipping engines on a pallet since they offer more safety. An engine boxed on all sides can't be knocked into and stays secure throughout transport.

Get to know more about Pallet Shipping Best Practices.

Choose a Freight for Engine Shipping: LCL or LTL

Two possible ways to ship an engine are LCL (less-than-container-load) or LTL (less-than-truckload). Which you select depends on the shipment’s location, engine size, budget, and urgency. Both options entail your engine traveling in a container along with other shipments that aren’t large enough to fill their own. LCL customarily refers to cargo that travels on ocean freight carriers, whereas LTL shipments are transported on trucks.

Full truck load prices are completely dependent on the current market, which fluctuates according to the season and time of day. Price factors include; shipment weight, shipping lanes, route, fuel cost, location, origin, destination, type of truck, and a carrier’s general operating costs.

Less-than truckload prices are regulated by the NMFTA (National Motor Freight Traffic Association), which adopts a set of classifications, called freight class, to determine the cost of shipping cargo. Every LTL carrier service will establish a minimum shipping rate to ensure the job is worthwhile. Often, consolidating an engine shipment with other freight, rather than paying for an FTL (full-truckload), is more cost-effective in the following ways:

  • Eco-Friendly: LTL reduces the fuel and vehicles needed for shipment and ramps up environmental efforts. It saves your carrier time, gas and allows them to be greener because they can determine optimal travel routes.
  • Cheaper: You don’t waste money on a half-filled delivery truck. With LTL shipping, you only pay for the space and density your engine occupies, which is especially helpful for smaller engines like a car engine or a motorcycle engine.
  • Greater flexibility: LTL shipping offers convenient delivery options like inside delivery, notification before delivery, residential pickup, freeze protection, or lift-gate services. This makes it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to meet their customers’ needs.
  • Tracking and visibility: LTL freight shipping services usually provide shipment tracking and complete visibility of a load’s status.
how to ship engines

FTL vs. LTL Shipping

We know that LTL is the better choice between LCL and LTL, but is there an even better option of freight shipments?

Full Truckload Shipping

FTL stands for "Full Truckload" and means paying for an entire shipment for engine delivery, whether or not your engine occupies the whole space in a semi-truck.


  • FTL shipping routes are direct, so delivery is faster, with fewer delays.
  • Engines aren't transferred between trucks during transport. Less handling equates to less risk of damage and a greater chance of your engine safely transported.


  • FTL shipping is more expensive and harmful to the environment because of the cost, fuel, and labor.


LTL refers to less-than-truckload shipping and, unlike FTL, you only pay for the space your cargo occupies in a semi-truck.


  • The motor shipping cost is cheaper because your freight is corralled with others.


  • When goods are transferred between trucks, more handling can increase the risk of damage.
  • Since LTL shipments combine different clients' cargo, they may take longer to reach their final destination due to many stops along the way.

While LTL offers the greatest cost savings, there is a higher risk of delivery delay and damage. As for safety and speed, FTL is a better option. However, it really comes down to how quickly you need your engine delivered and the size of your budget.

Moreover, there is a higher risk of potential damage and delivery delay. Because LTL does not go directly to the end customer, the actual delivery date may differ from the estimated delivery date. As for safety and speed, when you ship loads like jet engines, truck engines, or aircraft engines, it's best to go FTL.

Engine transport

Prepare All the Important Paperwork

Because engines are classified as hazmat or "dangerous goods," the paperwork is quite extensive but not necessarily challenging to complete. Most importantly, you'll need a bill of lading and a dangerous goods declaration form, which includes the following:

  • The shipper's information
  • The consignee's information
  • The Hazard Classification Number
  • The engine specification
  • Packing and handling instructions
  • The UN or ID number
  • Authorization
  • The Date
  • Your Signature

Added to this is a safety data sheet, which explains how dangerous your shipment is and how it should be handled in general and emergencies. Lastly, your shipment should contain hazard communication and handling labels such as "this way up" to alert others to the risk.

Remember, the carrier approves dangerous goods for carriage based on the information provided at the request. If the information isn't accurate, it creates issues for the shipper, as they may be forced to unpack or rework the entire container to reflect the goods approved.

How Long Does It Take to Ship an Engine?

motor shipping cost

Shipping an engine can take anywhere between one and 14 days, depending on whether it’s traveling by road, plane, or ship. An example of international engine transport is crossing the Pacific Ocean, which takes 12 hours by plane and roughly two weeks by container ship.  If you’re shipping by truck, and the weather is bad, or the driver has to traverse challenging terrain, a trip that may take one day might end up taking several more.

However, distance and environmental factors aren’t the only factors when it comes to over the road truck transportation. There are also laws that prevent drivers from traveling at certain times of the day, and credible shippers will never prioritize driver safety above swift delivery times. Most truck drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving time per shift, with a mandatory 10 hours break. Therefore, a 24-hour trip will actually take three days.

When selecting an appropriate shipping mode for your engine, you’ll want to consider:

  • Time: Seasonality, AKA peak season, will always affect shipping time.
  • Urgency: The delivery date will impact whether you can afford a delay, if standard shipping times are appropriate, or if you need to expedite your engine.
  • Budget: While airtime convenience is prized, it comes at a high price, which isn’t always conducive in the long term.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship an Engine?

If you’re shipping out of the country, customs and destination fees will also apply. Warehousing fees at ports are also more expensive, as are cross-docking and warehousing. At Cowtown Express, we aim to provide competitive pricing determined by distance, weather, time of year, shipment size and weight, handling requirements, security, insurance, and fuel prices, to name a few.

The best way to determine engine shipping cost is by contacting a shipping companies or freight brokers for a free quote, though checking shipping rates or a rate table will also do the trick; truthfully, if you’re not a professional shipper, there are too many variables to attempt to estimate the cost of engine shipments yourself, and there’s really no need to when custom quotes from a freight specialist are an option.


The heavy, delicate, and irregularly shaped nature of engines demands careful packing and freight transportation by someone you can trust. Our freight shipping company has over 35 years of experience as an engine shipping service, helping retailers, collectors, and manufacturers transport their valuable engines.

We specialize in creating custom solutions to protect and transport your investment. Whatever the reason you're shipping an engine, we understand how important it is to you. At Cowtown Express, you can rely on us to deliver. Get your free engine shipping quote now!

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