Below Dock Loading Solutions
In a perfect world, all trailers would be the same, uniform height, and industrial facilities could design the height of their loading docks accordingly. But as we all know, it’s not a perfect world, and trailers come in a variety of heights, shapes and sizes.
These height differences can lead to issues, especially when the trailer height is lower than the dock height. This results in the need for below dock loading, which can lead to a bevy of potentially damaging problems. These problems, however, can be addressed by implementing dock levelers that offer below dock loading solutions, thereby protecting your personnel, equipment and cargo.
Below Dock Loading
The height of trailer beds can vary drastically, ranging anywhere from 30’’ to 62’’ in height. Conversely, the average loading dock height is between 48’’ and 52’’. Your loading dock and loading dock equipment needs to be flexible enough to accommodate any trailer height disparities
In recent years, trailer beds are trending toward lower heights, which makes addressing below dock loading increasingly relevant to many warehouse operations. In addition, trailers equipped with air-ride suspensions are becoming more common, and this can lead to a wider fluctuation of the trailer height, depending on the weight of the cargo being loaded or unloaded.
This trend has created a problem that must be addressed.
Potential Problems with Below Dock Loading
If your trailer-bed is lower than the height of the loading dock your leveler may rapidly fall if the truck pulls away unexpectedly. A proper loading dock leveler with free fall protection can prevent damage to the truck, dock, or cargo.
In addition, unexpected drops are a serious safety hazard. Choosing the right dock leveler is crucial to creating a safe and functional loading dock area.
All loading dock levelers are required to provide free-fall protection.
How Loading Dock Levelers Address Below Dock Loading
Dock levelers are meant to create a smooth transition between the trailer bed and the loading dock. When loading, you’re making a direct transition between the edge of your loading dock and the trailer bed. If the height of your dock is above the height of the trailer bed, adjustments need to be made to level your dock with the trailer.
This can be accomplished with loading dock levelers, including both mechanical and hydraulic levelers.
Mechanical Dock Levelers
All loading dock levelers are required to provide free-fall protection in case the truck separates from the dock. Mechanical dock levelers feature retractable safety legs to address this concern. When engaged, these safety legs will stop the leveler from dropping to dangerous levels where cargo or the forklift can fall from the loading dock.
For below dock loading, safety legs can get in the way by stopping the leveler before the dock is low enough to be even with the trailer bed. To address this, mechanical dock levelers include manually-operated pull-chains that allow personnel to retract the safety legs - allowing the leveler to be lowered to the correct height of the trailer bed. This creates a safe, even plane for forklifts and personnel as they remove or deposit cargo. When the truck is ready to depart, the trailer bed rises back up to the level of the dock, and the safety legs snap back into place.
Hydraulic Dock Levelers
While mechanical dock levelers do address issues with below dock loading, relying on mechanical leveler’s safety legs can be problematic. Hydraulic dock levelers, however, provide an optimal below dock loading solution.
Only hydraulic dock levelers have full-range free float which provides velocity-fused free-fall protection. This allows the leveler to go below dock without having to retract mechanical safety legs. This provides two main benefits.
- Better free-fall protection than retractable safety legs
- Ergonomic benefits since it eliminates the need for workers to bend down to pull a chain.
Hydraulic dock levelers by Rite-Hite include the Safe-T-Lip® barrier, an important safety feature that helps prevent open dock drop-off accidents. It features a unique lip design which can easily be positioned out of the way. This is especially critical to accommodate trailers with air-ride suspension.
If you are currently using a mechanical dock leveler, and are concerned about below dock loading safety, there’s no need to fret. Rite-Hite offers a hydraulic conversion upgrade for mechanical dock levelers. This upgrade allows the leveler to go below the dock without retracting legs, resulting in full range free-float and velocity fused free-fall protection.
It’s important to know that where there are loading dock problems, there are also loading dock solutions. Below dock loading has the potential to be problematic, but if the appropriate loading dock leveler implementation is practiced then your safety and sustainability of your loading dock operation will be secure.