A Brief Container History

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With growing popularity, it’s very likely that you’ll see at least ONE shipping container on your morning commute. Be it a converted storage container (like the ones we offer here at ATR!), an office container or even someone’s home or store! But why are they becoming such a common facet of American culture? Who invented these containers and why are there so many on US soil?


Back in the 1950s and beyond, Americans got all their goods moved/shipped via trucks loaded with crates and barrels. These trucks were loaded straight off the trains or ships the supply came on. It took extra man-hours to 1. Load the trains and ships and 2. Unload and load the trucks.

In comes Malcom McLean, an American trucking magnate with a revolutionary idea: Containerization.

McLean understood that unloading trains and ship by hand was costly. Not only in man-hours but in wait time for the ships. McLean understood that “A ship earns money only when she’s at sea,” so he wanted to base his invention with that in mind.

McLean patented the first steel boxes used to transport goods. Not only were these steel containers great for moving shipments, they made loading and unloading easy and fast. A crane could pull the containers off the ships and trains, and there were doors on each end of the containers for easy loading/unloading! Ships could leave port in a fraction of the time it took before the containers came into play!


After some success with the steel containers. McClean noticed a new issue. There were too many different sizes or container types. He decided to fight for standardization within the shipping industry. He patented a specific container design (specialized/reinforced corners) but gave permissions to the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) to help enforce a global standard. Now the shipping or storage container you will see in Florida is compatible with one you may see in Korea!

Why so many stay state-side?

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The bulk of our containers are one-trippers; meaning they’ve only been shipped overseas ONCE. Most containers are manufactured in Asia and loaded there or sent to other various exporting countries’ ports to be loaded and shipped. It is more cost effective to manufacture and ship a one-tripper than it is to ship the units back empty. This is why we have such a boom in shipping container projects like homes, offices and even restaurants! It’s also why storage containers are now the core product of American Trailer Rentals!

The Future of Containers and Green Building

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As supply is ever in demand, shipping containers are not going anywhere. In fact it’s quite commonplace to see entire downtowns or shopping centers that have taken advantage of these steel boxes! Considered Eco-Friendly, shipping containers provide a distinctive look and remarkable strength while repurposing something that would otherwise sit stacked and unused for decades!

American Trailer Rentals provides the top quality storage containers for rent. Please reach out to us today for a quote on your next storage container, storage trailer, or office trailer rental! We have an amazing office staff waiting near the phones to answer all your storage trailer delivery questions!