Why Having A Self-Flexing Deck Is Important For Dock Levelers
The importance of safety at the loading dock cannot be understated. From the pedestrian traffic around the staging area to a vehicle's approach, there are many places to prioritize for safety. An area that should not be overlooked is the overall deck flex of your dock leveler.
Consider three key points when choosing a leveler: Types of dock leveler flex, beam structure and the importance of safety.
Types of Dock Leveler Deck Flex
There are two possible kinds of deck flex that are present in dock levelers.
Traditional levelers feature rigid deck designs that can provide added strength, but lack flexibility. This design choice does not allow for the leveler to flex under its own weight and can result in leveler deck pop-up. When the weight of the forklift and cargo are removed, the leveler deck loses contact with the trailer bed. This can injure staff or cause damage to products and equipment.
What is a self-flex deck? Levelers that feature a self-flexing deck have a distinct advantage over those that do not. Instead of forcing a leveler deck down with weight to meet the trailer, the deck flexes in a way that allows the deck to meet the trailer under its own weight. One of the ways of accomplishing this is by utilizing L-beams (more on this later).
Flexing Under Weight
Dock leveler deck flex is extremely important not just for the forklift operator, but also the material handling equipment and the products that are being transferred.
When the weight of the forklift is required, it can cause potential dangers for everyone and everything involved in the loading and unloading process. Forklift operators are one of the most susceptible parties to experiencing this danger.
A leveler, without a self-flexing deck (AKA dock leveler deck flex), will pop up when the weight of the forklift is no longer present. Imagine a seesaw that has suddenly had a large weight lifted off of one side. In this situation the leveler is that seesaw and the deck can bounce back in a dangerous way if it’s overly rigid.
With the leveler no longer contacting the full-width of the trailer bed, the forklift driver will back into a raised leveler lip, potentially causing damage to the suspension of the forklift. Other dangerous situations include damaging tires, destruction to cargo, and more importantly, injury to the driver. A driver twisted to face backwards when reversing out of a trailer is already at risk, but then you add in the unexpected impact of a partially raised dock leveler lip; jarring to the neck and back in particular.
This kind of issue is most present in traditional levelers and is why it is so important to purchase a dock leveler with a self-flexing deck.
The Importance of Beam Structure
One thing that should be taken into consideration, when evaluating a dock leveler’s flexibility, is the type of beam that is being used throughout the leveler deck. There are a couple types to choose from with most dock levelers. Below are some of the most common beams:
The I-beams are structural steel members with more surface area in contact with the underside of the dock leveler deck. These are beams that are designed to enhance the resilience of the dock leveler and are seen most often in high capacity levelers that need the extra support and strength. While this gives strength, it does not allow for as much flexibility.
C-Channel Structural Steel Members
C-Channel structural steel members are similar to I-beams in the fact that there is more surface area in contact with the underside of the leveler deck. The biggest difference between the two is that a C-channel will have less surface area because of its shape. The top of an I-beam has contact with the leveler deck to the right and left of middle of the beam, where the C-channel only has contact to the right side of the beam.
Lambda beams are created in a closed triangular shape that can help with twist resistance and are often used in dock levelers that do not have a front header. Since the frame of the leveler is made up of only 3 sides (Right side, left side and backside of leveler), this can give more flexibility to the deck, but also reduce the strength of the leveler when compared with 4-sided rectangular frame construction. Due to this, a more rigid beam is needed.
L-Beams on a dock leveler grants the most self-flex in the deck, allowing the leveler to adapt to uneven surfaces more easily. This results in the ability to maintain full contact with the trailer bed, flexing under its own weight vs. the weight of the forklift and load. This allows the deck to remain level and flush with the trailer and to move more freely with less wear and tear on the leveler over time, helping to prolong the life of the leveler.
Rite-Hite Levelers Prioritize Safety
The jarring impact of Whole Body Vibration opens the door to chronic injury and lost productivity with lower back pain as the largest cause of job related disability, at nearly 20 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses. So when it comes to the safety of warehouse personnel, equipment and product, a loading dock leveler with a self-flex deck is a must.
However, Rite-Hite levelers don't just stop with a beam structure that helps prevent leveler lip pop-up by flexing under its own weight. Each leveler comes standard with a complete Smooth Transition Dok System®, where each feature is uniquely designed to help:
- Reinforced front and back hinges to prolong leveler life
- Smooth gaps to provide a seamless ride
- Remove dangerous catch and trip points
- Optimize lip chamfer for a more gradual transition
- Extended lip length for security against trailer creep
- Prevent injury and product / equipment damage due to deck pop-up