Is it Time to Replace Your Dock Seals and Shelters?

An essential part of any operation is ensuring your facility is using a loading dock seal or shelter. While seals and shelters are unique in their design and applications, they serve the same purpose of offering environmental control by sealing the space between the dock door and parked semi-trailer. Without this protection, heated or cooled air can flow freely out of the building, resulting in higher energy costs. Additionally, outside elements like rain, wind, dust, and bugs can enter, threatening products or creating slippery working conditions. The benefits gained for facilities with existing units can decline over time as they wear out from use. So, it is important to evaluate the condition of each dock seal or shelter routinely, looking for key items that will tell you whether it is time to replace them.

Signs That It’s Time to Replace Dock Seals and Shelters

Equipped with the right information, you can quickly and easily identify whether your loading dock seals and shelters might need replacing. Here are the top things to look for and understand:

  • Worn, torn, and damaged from use. Understandably,  and shelters get worn out over time since they interact with semi-trailers. With dock seals, backing trailers compress firmly into the enclosure, while forklifts then load the trailer causing it to bounce up and down as they enter and exit it. This repeated process can lead to dock seals with tears, punctures, exposed foam, or sagging materials. Dock shelters are also susceptible to damage from trailers, especially when they back into the dock off-center. A quick visual inspection will reveal any obvious damage that has occurred to the seals or shelters at your facility.
  • Noticeable light gaps around the parked trailer. The next time a trailer is parked at your loading dock, take a moment to look at the seal your dock enclosure is providing from inside the building. You want to be on the lookout for any light shining in around the trailer. (You won’t be able to miss it.) The right seal or shelter will provide a tight, effective, dark seal along the sides and top of the trailer. Worn, damaged, or misapplied dock enclosures offer poor sealing shown by the numerous air gaps around the trailer
  • Changes in operations or trailers used. Changes are common in business, and they can affect your loading dock operations. If you’ve recently started welcoming trucks that vary in size or type, or you now need full-width access into the trailer, it is important to assess your seals or shelters. Using the wrong dock enclosure for your application will result in poor sealing and product damage.

Benefits of Replacing Dock Seals or Shelters

While there is a cost to replacing dock seals or shelters, there are also many benefits to utilizing the latest seal or shelter technology.

  • Reduced energy costs. A new dock enclosure that is properly applied will provide a good seal around the trailer, which can reduce the amount of money spent on energy. A comfortable loading dock environment for workers also helps with productivity.
  • Protect products and workers. Better sealing dock seals and shelters help keep outside elements like rain, snow, dust, or bugs from entering the facility. These contaminants can damage products or cause slippery conditions that lead to worker injuries.
  • Improved efficiency. Using the correct dock enclosure can improve your loading/unloading times as the wrong unit can prevent you from having full access into the trailer.
  • Pass inspections and audits. If your business undergoes routine inspections, it is important that every gap around a trailer is sealed tightly because an inspector will be looking for any light shining in. The latest dock enclosure designs help provide more effective, complete sealing.


How to Choose the Right Replacement Dock Seals or Shelters

If you have found that you need to replace your current loading dock seal or shelter, then it is helpful to be educated in how to choose the right replacement for your dock door. Dock seals and dock shelters are not the same and each type has benefits and drawbacks. The adage, you get what you pay for, is also good to keep in mind.

  • Comparing dock seals and shelters. Dock seals are foam pads that the trailer compresses into when it backs in and comes to rest against the dock bumpers. Dock seals are best used when there is a minor variation in the size and style of trailers coming to your facility. Dock shelters are enclosures that seal the perimeter of the trailer to form a seal. This is accomplished by applying pressure against the sides of the trailer with fabric curtains fitted with fiberglass stays. They fit larger dock door openings and service a wide variety of trailer heights and styles.
  • Benefits and drawbacks of each type. As you select your replacement dock shelters and/or seals, recognize that each has its advantages and disadvantages. Generally speaking, dock seals provide a tight seal for a relatively low price, but they can wear out more easily. Access to the trailer can also be restricted as the dock seal side pads get compressed into the trailer opening. Dock shelters are less subject to daily wear and tear and allow for full access to loads on the trailer. Yet as a category, dock shelters can be a more costly initial investment and some offer lower sealing efficiency than dock seals.
  • Differences in low cost vs. premium dock seals/shelters. There is a difference between low cost and premium dock enclosures, and it comes down to durability features and sealing ability. Top-of-the-line dock seals are built with special features that protect against specific sources of damage, including trailer pressure and friction, burns from trailer marker lights, as well as head pad sag and pop-off. High wear areas come with replaceable dock seal and shelter parts for a longer life. Premium dock shelters focus on offering a seal on par with the best dock seals. Newer dock shelter models include side curtains with a hook on the edge that wraps around the hinge gap on each side of the trailer. Plus, trailer tops are tightly sealed with weighted head curtains and corner gaps get plugged through engineered side curtain/head curtain functioning.

How to Make Dock Seals or Shelters Last

There are several things that you can do to help ensure your seal or shelter lasts, but these steps begin before they are even installed on your facility.

  • Proper product application. Many factors need to be considered to make sure the correct dock seal or shelter is used for your unique application. That is why it is important to consult your local Rite-Hite representative for a free dock seal/shelter audit. They will be looking at a wide range of factors, such as door size, dock approach grade, distance between doors, if there are any obstructions on the building walls, what trailers are served, trailer access needs, and budget.
  • Hire a professional to install your dock seals/dock shelters: The importance of proper installation needs to be stressed when it comes to these critical pieces of loading dock equipment. Correctly installing seals and shelters on each unique building wall type and application will help maximize their life span.
  • Conduct routine inspections. As you are walking around the loading dock, make it a habit to keep an eye on the condition and sealing of your dock seal or dock shelter. If you notice sudden changes in performance, call your local dock enclosure distributor to discuss what might be happening, as well as a potential solution to the issue.


So, is it time to replace your dock seals and shelters? If so, remember, if you need assistance, your nearby Rite-Hite representative is prepared to help you make sure you select the right product for your needs.

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