Which Vehicle Restraint is Right for You

Since the vehicle restraint industry was created in 1980 with the introduction of the Original Dok-Lok® Rotating Hook Restraint, the industry has continued to evolve with the changes in trends, expansion of the global supply chain and most recently the rapid adoption of technology. Although the many options of vehicle restraints help support safety for various loading dock applications, it can soon prove overwhelming when deciding which vehicle restraint is right for your facility.

However, Rite-Hite has simplified the decision-making process into just two questions one should always ask when determining the best restraint for their application:

  1. What is my facility’s loading style?
  2. What type of trailers does my facility receive?

Once both questions are answered, you should be able to confidently determine which restraint types meet your facility’s needs.

Loading Styles

Loading style should greatly influence the type of restraint at a facility because each type provides pros and cons as it relates to facility productivity and safety. The two common loading styles that should be taken into consideration when choosing a vehicle restraint are:

  1. Live Loads
  2. Dropped Trailers

What are Live Loads?

A live load is when a load is delivered but the truck stays connected and waits for the trailer to be loaded or unloaded. The driver will typically wait in the cab or lounge. Because the truck (tractor) stays connected to the actively loaded or unloaded trailer, the risk of the landing gear collapsing or trailer popping up on either end is a non-factor. The fifth wheel of the truck connected to the trailer also helps prevent catastrophic vertical movement, oftentimes making the budget-friendly vertical barrier restraint an ideal solution when live loading 100% of the time.

What are Dropped Trailers?

A dropped trailer, or drop and hook load, is when a load is delivered and the driver “drops” the trailer at one loading dock position and “hooks” another full spotted trailer before leaving the facility. With dropped loads, the truck (tractor) disconnects from the trailer which increases the risk for traditional trailer separation accidents, such as trailer pop-up or up-ending and landing gear collapse. Because there is no counter balance and stability for the weight of the material handling equipment activity in the trailer, a trailer stand paired with a vehicle restraint is the ideal solution.

If your facility drops loads, or has a mix of live and dropped loads, it is imperative that your vehicle restraint is designed to help address the traditional trailer separation accidents associated with a missing tractor. Depending on trailer type, the restraint must properly engage the rear wheel in wheel-based applications or provide substantial “wrap and hook” around any RIG type to help prevent the dropped trailer from tipping over, popping up or up-ending

Types of Trailers

Once loading style is determined, the next factor to consider is types of trailers your facility receives. With the rise in global logistics and e-commerce, it is not uncommon for facilities to receive multiple trailer types in a day. Trailer types most seen across the material handling industry are either delivery vehicles or standard over the road containers.

Parcel or Delivery Vans

Most commonly used for last mile delivery, delivery vans do not have a rear-impact guard to engage so a wheel-based application is necessary. Because of the smaller tire diameter, and the inability to be a dropped load, the Global Wheel Chock is an ideal vehicle restraint for parcel or delivery vans. Helping to ergonomically secure the widest variety of trailers with an extra-long footbed, the GWC-1000 maintains continuous downward force while providing constant operational communication.

Standard Over the Road (SOTR) Containers

Named for the U.S. DOT dimensions they follow, standard over the road trailers range from 48-53’ in length. They are designed to transport the most versatile dry and refrigerated goods as the trailer is fully enclosed and protected from outside elements. Although standardized in length, there are a variety of rear-impact guard (RIG) types seen on the containers, such as: 

Standard or Reinforced RIGs

RIGs are not synonymous with ICC bars, which were outdated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) standards set in January 1998. RIGs are 22” or more above the ground and at least 3.94” (100mm) in width. The standardization set to help reduce ineffective restraint engagement as well as create 5x stronger rear-impact guards in the case of premature departure and automobile accidents. In the case of live loads, Vertical Barrier Restraints or Rotating Hook Restraints are suitable solutions. If servicing dropped trailers or a mix of both live and dropped, Rotating Hook Restraints is the suitable solution.

Obstructed RIGs

With the emerging global economy comes an influx of intermodal container chassis, many of which have RIG obstructions. The obstructions prevent unequipped restraints from helping to safely secure the trailer to the loading dock which can cause lost productivity, equipment and product damage and most importantly – worker injury. In the case of live loads, Vertical Barrier Restraints or Shadow Hook Restraints are suitable solutions. If servicing dropped trailers or a mix of both live and dropped, Shadow Hook Restraints are the suitable solution.

Broken or Missing RIGs

In the case of a broken or missing RIG, the trailer should be engaged by any Wheel-Based Restraint.


Also common for delivery, as well as in the Food, Beverage and Grocery applications, liftgates are fold away metal platforms that mount to the back of a trailer. When stored, they obstruct access to the RIG. When in use, the platform extends out from under the truck to serve as a bridge from trailer height down to the ground creating a sizeable gap from loading dock to trailer bed. Because of this, Wheel-Based Restraints are the only solution to properly engage a trailer equipped with a liftgate.

Specialty Stabilizing (AGVs)

As technology advances, so does the industry’s adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). To support the rise in Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), it is imperative that loading dock applications address both vertical and horizontal movement during loading. Thus, minimizing movement to costly forklift and computer components as they cross from building floor to trailer bed. Stabilizing Trailer Restraints are the industry’s only solution, whether live or dropped trailers, to reduce trailer drop to only 1-2” – compared to 6+” without stabilizing support.

The Rite Restraint

Whether dropped trailers and live loading or delivery vehicles and standard over the road trailers, Rite-Hite offers industry-leading solutions for various applications. Regardless of selection, all restraints are expertly designed with must-have features as well as the ability to accommodate future facility needs.

Once you have discovered which restraint is right for you, your work should be over as you team up and work closely with a team of local loading dock experts who handle the rest. To verify which vehicle restraint is best for your application, a dock survey will be completed by your local Rite-Hite expert for each dock position to help ensure safe and proper application of all vehicle restraints. Critical to the safety of material handlers and equipment utilizing the restraint, the surveys should be reviewed by expert applications engineers if outside of standard dock configuration.  

If you have questions or want to talk about which restraint is right for you, feel free to speak to your local Rite-Hite loading dock expert to assist you through the process!

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