The Ins and Outs of Warehouse Loading Docks

Your warehouse loading dock might feel like just another corner of the warehouse, but it’s really an integral part of the flow of your business.

What Is a Warehouse Loading Dock Leveler?

The warehouse dock is the focal point of inflow and outflow within your company. It’s often the singular location where goods are shipped and received, so it’s more important than you might initially think. A faulty dock can act as a bottleneck against the flow of business; both loading and unloading can become backed up if proper care isn’t taken to maintain your dock.

A dock leveler bridges the gap between a trailer and the dock itself, compensating for height differences between the two entities and the movement of the trailer bed during loading and unloading. Dock levelers are composed of two main parts: the ramp and the lip. These two parts are moved in conjunction with one another to provide a smooth transition for products coming into your warehouse from the trailer and vice versa.

Types of Dock Levelers

Warehouse loading docks come in a variety of styles, and each type provides different levels of security, cost, and maintenance. With that in mind, let’s explore the three commonly used types of loading dock.

Hydraulic Dock Levelers use hydraulic pumps and cylinders to fully raise and lower the ramp and lip into position with the trailer. These levelers have the highest capacity and are considered the safest and most efficient choice. However, hydraulic dock levelers are also the most costly up front, when compared to other types of levelers.

Air Powered Dock Levelers use an airbag or bellows system to raise and lower the ramp and lip into position. While they have less carrying capacity than hydraulic levelers, they are a slightly more economic choice.

Mechanical Dock Levelers use a pull chain to raise the ramp and lip, and an operator can simply walk down the ramp to lower it into position. These levelers are the least costly type of dock leveler, but are often used for more basic applications. Mechanical levelers are also helpful in situations with extreme floating, or when the trailer itself is moving.

Which Warehouse Loading Dock Is Right for My Business?

In any given business, the requirements for loading and unloading will vary. Different types of warehouse loading dock leveler styles are conducive to the varying needs of different businesses. Here are three styles of dock leveler installation that might further improve your business.

Pit Style Levelers are installed in a recessed concrete pit, allowing for the dock leveler to be flush with the surrounding concrete when not in use. These dock levelers have a great load capacity and can extend up or down depending on the trailer height. Pit style levelers can be hydraulic, air, or mechanically powered.

Edge of Dock Levelers are attached directly to the dock face, bridging the gap from dock door to trailer on the outside. Edge of dock levelers are less costly than pit style or vertical storing dock levelers, but are not as heavy duty; their carrying capacity is much less.

Vertical Storing Dock Levelers are stored upright on the inside of the warehouse loading dock. They are ideal for climate controlled warehouses and for keeping dust, debris, and pests out of the dock area, since a trailer doesn’t need to open its door upon approach. Vertical storing dock levelers are often considered specialty levelers, since their application is used in particular cases. For this reason, they are often more expensive than pit style or edge of dock levelers.


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Keeping Your Warehouse Loading Dock in Top Shape


Whether your business sends and receives just a few shipments each week or is constantly shipping and receiving products, your dock, leveler, and dock shelter will require regular maintenance from general wear and tear.

Dock Maintenance and Care

Keeping your warehouse loading dock up to date on maintenance can mitigate or prevent issues like trailer separations, forklift accidents, or other forms of damage to products and your facility. Dock maintenance should occur at least once every 90 days, with special care taken to examine mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic components. Dock maintenance should include an initial inspection, followed by a deep cleaning, lubrication and adjustment of any moving parts, and, finally, documentation of any issues or changes. These five steps can help improve the efficiency of your warehouse’s energy consumption as well as the workflow itself.

Dock Safety

Docks are dangerous places within the warehouse. Not only are they a hub for products moving in and out, they are also a focal point for heavy machinery like forklifts, trucks, trailers, hydraulic or air powered levelers, and more. Because the loading dock is such a central location for your business, it’s important to not overlook any safety precautions. Proper safety around the dock can greatly reduce the risk of harm or injury to employees as well as the possibility of an issue harming your bottom line and your workflow.

Find OSHA’s loading and unloading requirements

HTX and McGuire Loading Docks Could Be Your Solution

HTX Material Handling is proud to be a leading supplier of dock solutions and the exclusive provider of McGuire warehouse dock equipment in the Houston and Dallas areas. HTX and McGuire provide a variety of equipment including dock levelers, dock seals, and shelters. These products are durable, locally made, and built to order for each warehouse and its unique specifications. McGuire has been providing quality warehouse loading dock equipment for over 60 years.

Contact HTX today for your dock related solutions in Dallas and Houston.

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