Manual v. Automatic Vehicle Restraints

Loading dock accidents cost companies an estimated $675 million annually with average cost of worker injury estimating around $189,000. Not to mention, they are dangerous and potentially fatal to your most valued resource- your employees. That is why it is so important to have a solid, secure, and reliable vehicle restraint system in place to help prevent these accidents. 

Dok-Lok® vehicle restraints can help prevent these costly accidents while helping to keep your loading dock running efficiently and safe regardless of application type. From liftgates and obstructed rear-impact guards (RIGs) to live loading applications, it’s important for facilities to understand their needs when choosing which vehicle restraint is best for their operation.

One important operational question to consider is whether a manual or automatic vehicle restraint is best for your loading dock application?

Although they differ greatly in how the dock attendant operates the equipment, at a minimum manual and automatic solutions from Rite-Hite satisfy OSHA requirements by properly restraining a trailer's rear impact guard (RIG) or rear wheels while also maintaining constant communication between dock attendants and truck drivers. Both restraint types facilitate future integration of Rite-Vu™ Hazard Recognition and Control audible and visual alarms as well as Opti-Vu IIoT platform.

However, manual and automatic vehicle restraints greatly differ in physical operation and hazards associated with boots on the ground while operating the equipment on the dangerous drive approach.

Manual Vehicle Restraints

A manual vehicle restraint system requires full physical interaction of a dock attendant. The vehicle restraint system must be engaged and released manually which when compared to automatic solutions is time intensive, leads to more exposure to loading dock hazards and not ergonomic. Considering America’s workforce is aging, with nearly half of new jobs in the U.S. last year filled by workers 55 years or older, seemingly undemanding manual processes can become back-breaking and prohibitive to productivity.

Some key ergonomic benefits of incorporating an automatic dock restraint system, include helping reduce back strain and alleviate unnecessary strain for an aging workforce.

Manually operated equipment also places facilities at heightened risk for human error. Although manually vehicle restraints have measures to help mitigate operator errors like fault modes, proper safety precautions should always be taken to ensure that everything is secure. 

Manual Vehicle Restraints offered by Rite-Hite

  • VBR-300 Manual Vertical Barrier Restraint – Manual budget-friendly dependable solution designed for live loading. Vertical Barrier Restraints help to prevent early departure and trailer creep during live or dropped loading. For dropped trailers, a trailer stand can assist in helping prevent landing gear collapse and trailer upending.
  • GWC-1000 Global Wheel Chock – Helps improve on the standard wheel chock design with a manually positioned footbed that enables a tire to maintain downward momentum, which reduces the likelihood of dangerous movement during the loading & unloading process. This budget-friendly wheel chock solution can help restrain the widest variety of trailer types including liftgates and those with obstructed RIGs.
  • MWL-1300 Manual Wheel-Lok™ -The Wheel-Based Restraint offers simple operation in a cost-effective, versatile design to service the widest variety of trailers, such as hydraulic liftgates or trailers with obstructed or missing RIGs, by placing a superior-strength steel locking arm into place between the rear-wheel tires of a trailer.

Help Prevent Accidents on the Drive-Approach

Because manually placing restraints between the rear-wheels of a trailer places pedestrians out on the dangerous drive approach, it’s imperative to communicate the dangers of placing boots on the ground. Approach-Vu™ utilizes a light and horn system to present a clear visual and audible warning to workers in the drive approach when a backing vehicle is detected. Offered as standalone or integrated into the housing of the vehicle restraint, Approach-Vu helps prevent the 2nd leading cause of backover fatalities. (OSHA)

Automatic Vehicle Restraints

Automatic vehicle restraints simplify loading dock operations for workers by utilizing a simple push button to properly engage and release the restraint which helps to mitigate human error when manually operating equipment.

Automatic Vehicle Restraints offered by Rite-Hite

  • SHR-500 Shadow Hook Restraint - Offering the highest level of safety and performance with a unique rotating hook design which can properly secure intermodal chassis with RIG obstructions, the SHR-5000 is the latest derivative of the Original Dok-Lok Rotating Vehicle Restraint introduced in 1980 and is universally considered the premium trailer restraint in the industry.
  • STR-4200 Stabilizing Trailer Restraint – Integral in the Smooth Transition Dok System™, the STR-4200 helps prevent vertical and horizontal trailer movement for wide and heavy loads by securing the trailer’s RIG and stabilizing the rear of the truck or trailer
  • Vertical Barrier Restraints – Budget-friendly dependable solutions designed for live loading, Vertical Barrier Restraints help to prevent early departure and trailer creep during live or dropped loading. For dropped trailers, a trailer stand can assist in helping prevent landing gear collapse and trailer upending.
  • GLW-2300 Global Wheel-Lok™ - The GWL-2300 utilizes the moving trailer to position the barrier automatically and to securely engage a trailer’s rear wheel tire with a reliable, low-maintenance wheel locking system. Serving virtually all trailer types with the widest tire engagement range, it performs in all weather conditions.

Combined Controls for Ergonomic Efficiency

Another piece of equipment that can help with safety and ergonomics at the loading dock is the Dok-Commander® Combined Control Panel. Integrating multiple pieces of automatic loading dock equipment, the controls are programmable to help provide safe sequence of operations, such as: supply chain integrity, best practice and door protection. Facilities are able to further increase productivity while eliminating a step placing pedestrians on the dangerous drive approach by incorporating Lok-Vu™. Utilizing an exterior camera and interior monitor, the system helps confirm if a trailer is properly secured at the loading dock. 

How to Choose the Smartest Vehicle Restraint

Aside from helping keep employees safe during loading, Rite-Hite vehicle restraints have the capability to deliver insights about loading dock productivity and performance to any connected device via the Opti-Vu® IIoT Platform. Manual and automatic smart equipment empowers facility managers to make data-driven decisions, such as identifying average load time, equipment faults, trending alerts and more!

Opti-Vu Loading Dock Productivity Module

  • Monitor real-time loading dock status. Optional Dok-Lok Dock Timer digitally displays total engagement time at each dock position to help dock attendants prioritize loads and avoid costly detention and demurrage charges. 
  • Leverage loading dock analytics with current and historical Dok-Lok efficiency and utilization data to identify areas of operational improvement through robust reporting and intuitive dashboards.
  • Receive trending productivity alerts and review correct actions / next steps.

Opti-Vu Loading Dock Safety Module

  • Study and understand safety challenges, frequency trends and root cause with diagnostic analytics to proactively influence employee behavior. 
  • Interactive Safety Assessment Tool helps place priority on specific safety events.

Make the Rite Choice with Dok-Lok Vehicle Restraints

Overall, the smartest vehicle restraint is the one that best fits your application needs. Whether manual or automatic, it is important that your choice maintains constant communication inside and out and facilitates additional safety solutions all while keeping your loading dock efficient and safe. To determine which is best for you, contact your local Rite-Hite representative for a personalized loading dock safety assessment today!

Which Vehicle Restraints is Right for You?

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