Considerations for: Loading Dock Leveler Design, Capacity, and Loading Dock Safety!

 

When it comes to Loading Dock Leveler Design, Capacity, and Safety, well thought out loading dock equipment lets companies avoid delays, minimize accidents, prevent product damage, meet schedules and ultimately, satisfy customers.

Determining Loading Dock Leveler Capacity

The most important factor that you need to consider when choosing a loading dock leveler for your business is to ensure that the unit you choose offers enough weight capacity to allow for all of the goods that you are working with to be loaded and unloaded safely. Most companies offer a large selection of different units that are designed to operate properly with loads of up to 80,000 pounds.

It is important that your chosen  Loading Dock system is the right size for your dock, offers sufficient load capacity to enable it to operate, and is safe. You will also need to ensure that the Loading Dock system you opt for is regularly maintained,

Selecting the proper capacity for the leveler can be confusing due to the variables that must be addressed. Dock leveler manufacturers have different terminology to describe capacity such as rated load, dynamic capacity, rollover capacity, etc., which can add to the confusion.

To ensure proper capacity selection, consider these factors:

1.      What is the maximum lifting capacity of the forklift in the facility?
(no matter how infrequent)

 

2.      What is the maximum forklift weight (with battery) in the facility?
(no matter how infrequent)

 

3.      Does the forklift have any attachments?
If so, add the weight of attachments to the weight of the forklift.

4.  Forklift type, three wheel, or four wheel?
(Specify the number, size, and arrangement of the vehicle wheels)

 

5.  What speed are the vehicles traveling - 4 mph or less, over 4 mph?

 

6.  Fork lift direction onto the dock leveler - straight or angle approach?

 

 

7.      What is the height difference between the vehicles and the dock?

 

8.      Trailer traffic volume (trucks serviced per shift)? Light (1-3), Moderate (4-8) or Heavy (over 8)?

 

 

9.      Number of shifts per day - one, two or three?

 

Calculating Loading Dock Leveler Capacity

To calculate the proper Dock Leveler capacity:

Add the gross weight of the Load Lifting Vehicle and the gross weight of the load.

Ø      For minimal or light usage multiply that by 2.0 (not more than 4 trucks per door per day, 5 rollover cycles per vehicle), (i.e. forklift gross weight  is 8,000 lbs. + gross load is 4,000 lbs = 12,000 lbs x 2.0 = 24,000 lbs; rounded up to 25,000 lbs).

Ø      For normal to heavy usage, a multiplier of 3 to 4 should be applied. (not more than 8 trucks per door per day, 20 rollover cycles per vehicle).

Ø      For applications of higher frequency, greater grade, and higher speeds, a multiplier of 4 to 5 times the total gross load should be used. Unusual conditions can lessen the effectiveness of this guideline. When in doubt, always specify a higher capacity.

If the manufacturer does not offer that exact Dock Leveler capacity, use the next higher capacity. Specifying a capacity higher than the calculated requirements will further extend the life expectancy of the dock leveler. The rated capacity may be adversely affected by unique loading or operating conditions.

Loading Dock Leveler Designs

Dock Boards / Dock Plates

Ø      Dock Boards and Dock Plates -This loading dock equipment bridges the gap between the end of the loading dock and the truck that you are loading or unloading. A dock plate is used only for hand-operated application with a hand truck or pallet truck. A dock board is used for powered lift equipment. The biggest physical difference between a dock board and a dock plate is that dock plates do not include a safety curb that prevents a forklift from veering off the dock board.

 

Dock Levelers

Ø      Automatic or Hydraulic Dock Levelers allow your loading dock to be mechanically lined up with trucks without the time and effort it takes to deploy a manual truck dock board or dock plate. Hydraulic Dock Levelers can save about 5 minutes over a mechanical dock leveler and 20 minutes over a dock board.

Ø      Dock levelers are designed to withstand dynamic forces generated when the loading vehicle makes contact with the inclined Dock leveler. The impact force can be many times greater than the actual gross load due to the speed at which it is traveling.


Three-wheeled loading vehicles or narrow wheels greatly increase pinpoint loading and should be accounted for by further increasing the leveler capacity. When using equipment of this type, a dock leveler with a minimum capacity of 30,000 lbs. is recommended regardless of gross load.

 

Loading Dock Safety

Loading dock safety is serious business.


Every year there are thousands of loading Dock related accidents.
Many of those are the result of a forklift running off a loading dock. Some of those accidents are undoubtedly the result of the early departure of a Truck trailer from a dock. That happens when a truck driver pulls out of the loading dock before the forklift driver is out of a trailer and off the dock plate.

It is an OSHA requirement that trucks have their wheels chocked at all times while loading and unloading. Wheel chocks are wedge-shaped blocks placed in front of the rear wheels of a trailer to prevent the trailer from moving away from the dock while the trailer is being loaded. By design, the weight of the truck makes the wheel chock grab the ground harder when motion is attempted.

Loading dock accidents can be prevented however, with proper training and procedures, and safety equipment such as dock restraints, wheel chocks, dock boards, and dock levelers

Most common methods to try to keep the truck and trailer in place at the dock.

One is to attach a hook to the rear impact guard (RIG) bar. The hook can hold a load between 20,000 and 35,000 pounds,

The problem is that the RIG bars, also known as ICC bars, are really designed to prevent another vehicle from driving under the back of a trailer during an accident, not to restrain a trailer.

 

Rubber trailer chocks are another commonly-used solution. They work, but only if the driver remembers to put them in place,

 

That even with a chock in place, the force of a heavy forklift repeatedly entering a trailer can cause it to creep, or move away from the dock. This phenomenon is often called Trailer Creep.

 

Wheel restraint systems that utilizes the wheels and axle to keep the trailer in place are the best way to safely keep a trailer properly positioned at the loading dock,

 

Accidents on the loading dock can be very expensive. There are the direct costs of medical expenses, workers compensation costs, and OSHA fines. There may also be many indirect costs such as equipment damage, cargo loss, lost productivity, litigation, and damaged customer relations. To prevent those serious injuries and fatalities,

Wheel Chocks

One of the most common causes of loading dock accidents is dock walk (also known as trailer creep or trailer walk). This occurs when the force of employees entering and exiting the trailer with lift trucks causes the trailer to slowly move away from the dock, resulting in separation from the dock leveler. Separation from the dock can also occur when a driver pulls away thinking the loading or unloading is done, but there is still a forklift operator in the truck. One issue with wheel chocks is that people are required to deploy them.

Trailer Restraints

In lieu of Wheel Chocks, consider automatic trailer locks that cause a clamp to be deployed when a truck backs up to the lock, thereby grabbing the truck’s ICC and securing it with no human intervention.

Dock Boards / Dock Plates

Dock boards and dock plates are also very important to the overall safety of your loading dock. This loading dock equipment bridges the gap between the end of the loading dock and the truck that you are loading or unloading. A dock plate is used only for hand-operated application with a hand truck or pallet truck. A dock board is used for all power equipment. The biggest physical difference between the two is that dock plates do not include the curb that prevents a forklift from veering off the dock board.

Dock Levelers

Automatic dock levelers allow your loading dock to be mechanically lined up with trucks without the time and effort it takes to deploy a manual truck dock board or dock plate. Automatic dock levelers can save about 5 minutes over a mechanical dock leveler and 20 minutes over a dock board.

Additional Equipment

Other important dock equipment includes expanding benches, stand-alone barriers and barriers built into dock levelers to prevent driving off the edge of the dock when the dock is empty, strip doors for protecting the inside of the loading dock or truck from external factors, fixed and variable height ramps to raise trailers to a level closer to that of the dock, and a variety of dock doors and dock seals.

About Michigan Commercial Door Group:

Michigan Commercial Door can meet all of your Loading Dock Equipment needs in Southeastern Michigan, including Detroit, Flint, and Ann Arbor. Please contact us at (800) 826 -3667 to speak with an account representative today.

Michigan Commercial Door also provides many other energy saving and productivity products including, Insulated Rolling and Sectional Doors, Air Curtains, Weather seal, Fire Doors,  Loading Dock Seals and Shelters, High Speed Rapid Roll Doors, Automatic Entrance Doors and Operators,  Revolving Doors.