Milling Machine Transportation Guide: How to Move Vertical and CNC Milling Machines

Milling Machine Transportation Guide: How to Move Vertical and CNC Milling Machines

Mills are used to drill, bore, and cut gears, threads, and slots in the metal industry. The rotary cutters on these machines perform many small, separate cuts into a workpiece to shape it accordingly. While milling has various purposes, it's mostly used to cut oversized, round, and rectangular holes for mass-produced equipment in the aerospace, medical, and automotive industries.

Milling machines manufacture machined parts usually made from steel or aluminum, although they can also produce ones from plastic or wood. Since their inception in the early 1800s, these machines have evolved from manual operations to sophisticated computer-controlled CNC varieties. Milling machine transport, like most industrial and manufacturing equipment, requires specialized freight shipping.  

Different Sizes of Milling Machines that We Ship

Different milling machines have varying functions depending on the type of control, spindle orientation, number of axes, purpose, and power source. The average milling machine weighs from 60,000 to 90,000 pounds and is equipped with roughly 7-foot-wide cutting drums, powered by 600 to 800-hp engines.

While desktop machines can be packed in a box and transported, shipping a milling machine larger in size requires disassembly. Below are the most common types of milling machines that require freight shipping:

  • Knee and Column Type: This industrial mill machine provides vertical movement to the workpiece located in the base. A saddle, attached to its vertical column, can move in a transverse direction.
  • Universal Milling Machine: The tables on these machines can pivot up to 45-degrees at any angle to accommodate helical milling operations. It is suitable for milling planes, bevels, and grooves.
  • Fixed Bed or Manufacturing Type: As the name suggests, this machine has a rigid bed attached to the machine. It performs cutting operations moving in horizontal or vertical directions.
  • A Planer Type: An industrial mill machine that carries the workpiece and a sliding crosspiece that contains rotating cutters, used especially for heavy planing.
  • Special Type: Able to perform special tasks other milling machines can’t; these have provisions to move the workpiece or tool in different directions and rotate the cutter.

Freight Shipping Conventional Milling Machines: a Step-by-Step Guide

machine tool transport bench mill dril

Shipping large items like conventional milling machines are not like shipping smaller parts or desktop mills that can easily be boxed up or crated. If you want to transport a milling machine, you need to do the following:

  • Disassemble: Remove detachable parts like handles and cranks and pack these separately.
  • Clean: Make sure your machine and its parts are clean from debris and free of all tools and accessories.
  • Adjust: Lower the knee and rotate the head. If possible, protect these parts with packaging foam, padding, or blankets.
  • Fasten: Bolt your machine to a pallet or the bottom of a crate to ensure it does not move during transit. You can also use industry-standard ratchet straps for additional security.
  • Shrinkwrap: Shrinkwrap the entire pallet to secure the milling machine to the pallet. If you are creating your palette, make sure the machine is secured inside and padded to prevent it from hitting the edges of the crate during transit.

Always check with your freight forwarder what their specifications are. If your packaging is not up to scratch, the driver may refuse to transport your milling machine. Additionally, it's important to ensure you provide the correct size and weight measurements; otherwise, you may experience billing adjustments.

CNC Milling Machines Shipping Guide

Machine tool transport often requires the use of a step-deck truck to ship its potentially long, oversized, and wide load. Step-deck trucks allow for loads to be up to 10’ without having to apply for over height permits. At Cowtown Express, we supply the following trailers, which offer easier loading and unloading of mill machines.

  • Standard Step Deck Trailer (drop deck)
  • Extendable Open Deck Trailer
  • 3 Axle Open Deck Trailer
  • 3 Axle Extendable Step Deck Trailer

How to Move a Vertical Milling Machine

Knowing how to move a vertical milling machine safely is imperative, as it weighs upwards of 2,000 lbs and poses serious risks if mishandled. The logistics of this process should be carefully considered to ensure the milling machine is secure. Machinery moving starts with removing any smaller parts to avoid damaging them during machine transport. Then proceed with the following steps when loading milling machines from the side:

  • Forks should be lifted and spread to fit just around the column.
  • Be sure to move in so the forks have just barely extended past the Ram.
  • Wood or rubber pads should be used between the forks and the ram to create friction and decrease the likelihood of sliding.
  • Wood timbers should be used between the back of the forks and the mill to stop the mill from sliding.
  • A cargo strap should be run around the mill and attached to the mast to stop the mill from sliding off the forklift.

After you have secured the milling machine, be sure to clear a path to keep workers safe just in case the equipment doesn't stay where it should be.

Truck Service Options for Milling Machine Transportation

machine tool transport

Regardless of the size of your bench mill drill or plain horizontal milling machine, a reputable freight forwarding company will help you determine which truck service option is best for your heavy haul. Most freight companies offer a dedicated truck, less-than-truckload, or a truckload service. As part of the process, it's critical to provide them with the following details:

  1. What type of milling machine are you shipping?
  2. Is the delivery or pickup in a residential or industrial area?
  3. Do you require a lift gate at the pickup and/or the delivery address?
  4. How much does the freight weigh in terms of density?

A Single Dedicated Truck

With this service, there is no additional freight loaded on the truck with your cargo, which increases safety and quickens delivery time because the truck is dedicated to your freight only.

A single dedicated truck allows you to dictate the pickup and delivery time to meet your exact needs, especially if the timing is critical.

Depending on the size of your milling machine, this premium service may require a team of drivers. While the most costly, it is the safest and most customizable option.

Truckload Service

With this stock-standard service, you can specify a loading and delivery schedule; however, other freight may be added to your cargo, so long as it doesn't conflict with your delivery time. This service provides control over your schedule and is more economical but comes with a slightly higher risk, as your milling machine may travel with other goods.

Less Than Truckload (LTL) Service

This method enables multiple shippers to share space on the same truck and is more cost-effective than the above two because multiple parties pay for their portion of the trailer space.

Packaging your milling machine properly is critical if you use this method, as your freight may ensure handling during transfer to multiple trailers before arriving at its destination. Although uncommon, this cheaper transportation option is not without risk and potential delivery delay.


Milling machine transport remains a challenge. Improper preparation and security measures may lead to accidents. Luckily, Cowtown Express has your back. Our freight shipping company have over 35 years of experience in heavy hauling, of which milling machines are no exception.

We're here to help, whether you want to know how to ship a vertical milling machine across the country or need to expedite a machine for urgent repair. Our large fleet accommodates loads of all sizes, while our experienced and certified drivers are sure to get your machine delivered on time. Ready to ship? Get your truckload freight quote today!

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