FAQs – The Warehouse Dock

One could say that the heart of a warehouse operation is the loading dock. All sorts of trucks and trailers are coming and going and personnel are loading and unloading these vehicles. Not only are there a lot of busy workers focused on the task at hand, there are also an abundance of equipment that assists the workers in the activity of loading and unloading products on to or from the trucks. Such equipment includes forklifts and other material handling tools. Other accessories imperative to warehouse dock operation include chocks and restraints that keep vehicles from rolling away from the dock, protective items that assure that the dock is not damaged, and safety equipment to assure that the workers are safe.

What follows are answers to frequently asked questions concerning equipment used on the dock.

Q: What basic equipment is used on a warehouse dock?
A: The dock includes a large door that trucks back up to for loading and unloading; a leveler, which is a device that levels the surface of the dock with the truck; roller racks to quickly move items from the truck to the floor of the dock, pallets, forklifts and pneumatic carts to move the items into the warehouse for storage.

Q: What is the best type of leveler to use?
A: There are currently three types of dock levelers –- hydraulic, mechanical, and power assisted mechanical units. Each serves different applications and there are distinctive differences between each. So, to determine the best leveler for your application you need to figure out what your specific needs are, determine the operational requirements you will need and consult with a salesperson that works for an establishment that sells levelers.

Q: How do I choose the right dock leveler?
A: There are six factors you need to consider when selecting a leveler –- consider your specific needs, worker safety, maintenance costs, ease of operation, reliability and durability, and support of the manufacturer.

Q: Under what circumstances would it be best to use a fully hydraulic leveler rather than a mechanical leveler?
A: Hydraulic levelers are more expensive, but offer lower lifetime costs due to lower maintenance requirements. Benefits of such a door include smooth, quiet operation at the touch of a button and automatic return to cross traffic position. Due to operator convenience and trouble-free service, fully hydraulic dock levelers are suggested for all applications.

Q: What sort of truck restraint should we use?
A: A truck restraint is designed to assure that a trailer will not creep away from the dock. There are different kinds of restraints available. To select the right one for your application you need to evaluate how each prevents trailer separation. Each restraint provides a different degree of protection against trailer separation. There are vertical barrier restraints that deal with trailer creep and early departure; rotating hook restraints that deal with preventing trailer creep, landing gear failure and trailer tip-over; wheel dependent restraints that engage the trailer’s rear wheel(s) and is often used with lift gate trailers.

Q: How do we choose the right restraint?
A: Things to consider when selecting a restraint include how well they prevent trailer separation and how reliable are their communications capabilities. You need to also consider your specific operation. This includes the type of trailers you service, the layout of the dock, your loading practices, and the facility design. You also need to consider the restraint’s effectiveness against trailer creep, early departure, trailer tip over, and the system components or safe/unsafe condition alerts to communicate its status.

Q: How should we select manual wheel restraints?
A: When selecting manual wheel restraints consider these factors: trailer tire dimension, axle configuration, trailer design, the truck’s centering and side-to-side movement, barrier height, pullout resistance, and weather resistance and visibility.

Q: What are dock seals and shelters?
A: Dock seals and shelters are fabric items that are placed along the top and sides of a loading dock door opening and are designed to contact the trailer as it backs into the dock. The seal or shelter is designed to prevent safety problems including employee discomfort, energy loss, theft or security concerns, product damage or contamination, insect infiltration, slippery or other dangerous conditions, and loss of temperature control.

Q: How do we choose a dock seal or shelter?
A: Selecting the right dock or shelter can save you money and help to increase the safety and efficiency of your operation. However, your particular situation is unique. So when selecting the right products for your situation you need to focus on five key points –- situation, environmental control, access, durability, and support.

Q: How do we select the proper industrial door?
A: Due to the number of doors now being offered, the selection of a door for your particular application can be difficult. To add to the confusion, the selection of the wrong door can lead to serious problems concerning environmental control, efficiency, durability, and safety. However, if you select the proper doors, then the benefits include improve safety, increased productivity, minimized maintenance and repair costs and savings in energy costs.

Experts in the field identify six factors to consider when determining what door is best for your needs. They include environmental control, efficiency, durability, safety, activation and selection.

A major benefit of the door is to separate different environments. This is achieved by sealing, speed of the door’s operation, security, and quality control. Focusing on these elements as well as safety will help you find the best door for your particular needs.

Q: What equipment would you recommend to enhance safety on the dock?
A: Many recommend side shift forklifts. They increase productivity, help to prevent product damage and promote safety because the lift truck driver can perform tasks with fewer movements. It also eliminates the need to ride right against the wall of a trailer. You should also include physical barriers at open edges of the dock and ramps to protect pedestrian walkways. Use paint or tape to distinguish staging areas, through aisles and loading lanes. Use traffic cones or portable barricades to temporarily block off staging areas where pedestrians are working.