Why Trailer Inspections Should Be on Your Daily Checklist
There is already a long list of possible loading dock hazards that safety managers and loading dock operators must consider. Any defects of trailers that come to the dock can create even more risk and possible threats that might lead to damaged product or worse – injuries and deaths of workers. If trailer inspections are done thoroughly, however, these accidents can be prevented.
Simple trailer inspections don’t take much time and they can increase the safety of material handling employees during loading and unloading. Trailer damage or defects can lead to forklift operators falling from the 4-foot dock drop-off area or absorbing the effects of punishing “dock shock” during loading and unloading. Here are a few parts of the trailer that should be examined before any material transfer at the loading dock takes place.
Check the interior of the trailer
Check the floorboards and cross members to make sure there isn’t damage. Warped or uneven floors can be a sign of structural problems that can lead to heavy forklifts breaking through the floor. They can also cause extra bumps and stress for forklift operators.
The roof structure should also be examined. Damage can mean greater structural damage on the sides and frame of the trailer, which might lead to sides bowing out and potential falls.
Examine the exterior sides of the trailer
Examine the top and bottom rail fasteners on the outside of the trailer. If these fasteners appear loose or are missing, the side of the trailer can be prone to damage if bumped by a forklift, pallet or product inside the trailer.
Watch for faulty landing gear
Landing gear takes punishment from heavy trailers and the outdoor elements. If it’s uneven or rusted, the risk of collapse is increased. Heavy loads that shift during the loading and unloading process add even more stress to damaged landing gear. If landing gear does collapse, the best case scenario is a damaged trailer and product. The worst case scenario is if a forklift operator inside the trailer is hurt or worse.
Inspect the rear impact guard (RIG)
Some RIGs might be bent, rusted or missing completely. In most operations, the RIG is what a vehicle restraint grabs and locks into place during loading and unloading. A damaged or missing RIG prevents a vehicle restraint from doing its job and opens the door to any of the potential trailer separation accidents – trailer creep, trailer tip-up, trailer up-ending, and early departure. These accidents pose serious dangers to forklift operators that navigate this material transfer zone.
Note the location of the rear tandem wheels
This set of wheels provides stability to the trailer during transport, as well as stability for forklift operators during loading and unloading. Wheels that are set near the end of the trailer will maximize this stability for forklift operators as they minimize the bounce and wiggle that can occur from upward and sideways forces exerted during loading and unloading. Wheels that are closer to the center of the trailer do not offer the same kind of stability and forklift operators should be aware of these set ups to protect themselves during material transfer.
Identify if the trailer has air-ride suspension
Most trailers have air-ride suspension to smooth out transportation for the driver and protect the product inside. However, trailers with air-ride suspension tend to be more susceptible to vertical and horizontal trailer movement as a forklift enters and exits the trailer. This can lead to trailer creep and eventually trailer separation. It’s important for forklift operators to know the set up so they can load and unload in a way that minimizes this movement.
Remember to Inspect Trailers at Arrival
Taking a few minutes to inspect trailers at the loading dock can identify risks and potential hazards. Material handling employees can use the proper precautions if these risks are knowns ahead of time. If trailers are deemed too dangerous, it can help save the misfortune of a tragic accident.
Loading dock equipment upgrades can help provide a solution to reduce the degree of the potentially devastating accidents that can occur due to any damaged trailers. Look for companies that put a premium on the safety of loading dock equipment. A wide variety of vehicle restraints can help minimize the impacts of damaged or defective trailers and protect workers in the process.