How Dock Levelers Drastically Improve Loading Dock Safety

When a truck backs up to your receiving area, it’s unlikely the trailer will be at the exact same height as your loading dock. That gap between the trailer and your warehouse floor is a prime location for injury and equipment damage. 

Dock levelers, also known as edge of dock levelers or pit levelers, bridge the gap (in height and distance) between the floor and the trailer for smooth and safe loading and unloading. Learn about the most popular types of dock levelers used in the Bay Area, Central and Northern California, so you can choose the best dock leveler for your facility.

5 Most Popular Edge of Dock Levelers in California

Hydraulic Dock Levelers

Stored in the dock pit, the hydraulic dock leveler provides a smooth transition between the dock leveler and the trailer. The loading dock staff uses a simple push-button control. The hydraulic positioning of the lip and the platform reduces maintenance time and provides high reliability.

Hydraulic dock levelers are an excellent option for high volume and heavy traffic facilities. They are durable and built for increased use. Automatic push-button hydraulic systems can be maintenance-free. They eliminate the breakdown that usually occurs in mechanical and air systems.

The hydraulic dock leveler you may need

The SLIDING BARRIER-LIP has a patented self cleaning open lug and sliding front hinge design that provides strength, reliability, and increased safety. The automatically-positioned sliding barrier-lip prevents accidental falls off vacant docks. The FALL-SAFE™ SERIES MODEL SBL features full hydraulic-powered deck and lip functions. You can control them by a single push-button for easy-to-use operation.

How Dock Levelers Drastically Improve Loading Dock Safety

The stored barrier-lip withstands an impact from a 10,000 lb. forklift traveling at up to 4 mph. Available in 30,000, 40,000, 50,000, 60,000, and 80,000 lb. capacities and standard nominal sizes of 6’ wide x 6’ long to 7’ wide x 10’ long. Standard features include full operating range telescoping side guards, fall protection velocity fuse, and a comprehensive warranty.

Mechanical Dock Leveler

Known for its sturdiness, the mechanical dock leveler is reliable and easy to use. The staff manually pulls and lifts the mechanical leveler from the stored position and the platform. The ergonomic system will deliver a smooth and consistent experience.

Many managers view a mechanical system as a more economical leveler as it doesn’t need a power source. Due to its safety features, such levelers may cause ‘stump-out’ problems. It occurs when the dock leveler can’t move down to accommodate the trailer bed movement. If saving money is a priority, a mechanical leveler may be the best option for your loading dock.

Keep in mind that long-term maintenance costs may outweigh potential short-term cost savings.

The mechanical dock leveler you may need

The INDUSTRIAL™ Series has an exclusive lip lug and header plate, easy release hold down with dual pawls, and full yielding walkdown lip extension. Standard features include working range side guards, retractable deck stop legs, night locks, and a comprehensive warranty.

How Dock Levelers Drastically Improve Loading Dock Safety

The platform is a unitized welded structure with continuous welds at the beam, header plate, and lug connections. The deck plate, lip plate, beam sections, and lugs consist of a minimum 55,000 PSI yield material. A standard center deck beam and welded side guards provide deck plate support. The continuous rear hinge provides 4″ of side-to-side tilt with no pinch point.

Air-powered Dock Levelers

An air-powered dock leveler offers benefits like hydraulic levelers. It prevents potential stump-out problems, as no legs or rollers are required.

Air-powered levelers are operated with a push-button. They use an inflatable airbag to raise the leveler. Compared to a hydraulic leveler, this leveler may need more maintenance. The airbag design requires more cleaning. Air-powered levelers also have the safety leg system, causing the same “stump out” as mechanical ones.

Unlike mechanical levelers, air-powered levelers have fewer components. Some managers see them as more reliable. Also, they have more moving parts than a hydraulic leveler.

The air-powered dock leveler you may need

AIRDOCK® Dock Levelers provide ‘NEXT GENERATION AIR™’ technology to advance loading dock performance and reliability. 

How Dock Levelers Drastically Improve Loading Dock Safety

The AIRDOCK® SUPER-DUTY™ Series of Air-Powered Dock Levelers is the smart choice for the strongest and most demanding loading docks. These dock levelers are the strongest air-powered levelers, offering  a 60,000 lb. capacity. The SUPER-DUTY™ Leveler is easy to install, operates by a push-button, and comes with unmatched strength. Standard features and comprehensive warranties set a higher standard of excellence.

Edge of the Dock Levelers

Edge of the dock levelers come in both hydraulic and mechanical versions. They work best for low-volume facilities. A simple dock-to-truck leveler positioned on the edge of the dock is best suited for trucks with a minimal height difference.

If there is limited space around the dock, the edge of the dock leveler is an ergonomic solution. You won’t need to store or move portable plates to correct dock positions.

These types of levelers are suitable for standard loading dock heights with highway trailers.

The edge-mount dock levelers you may need

The NORDOCK® LEVER Series Model EM edge of dock levelers provide the ultimate strength, ease of use, cleanliness, and reliability. Features include a self-cleaning lip lug style front hinge, a continuous rear piano style hinge, a gas spring counterbalance system that requires no adjustment or lubrication, and a deck and lip that automatically returns to the stored position.

How Dock Levelers Drastically Improve Loading Dock Safety

This dock leveler is available in capacities of 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 45,000 & 50,000 pounds, and standard widths of 66”, 72”, 78” and 83”. Standard features include solid molded rubber bumpers mounted to extension blocks, a sub-frame with anchor holes, and an operating lever.

The NORDOCK® PUSH-BUTTON™ SERIES – EFH HYDRAULIC DOCK LEVELER is easy-to-use, robust, and reliable. The EFH model that includes lift and lip extension cylinders are available in capacities of 20,000 to 80,000 lbs.

How Dock Levelers Drastically Improve Loading Dock Safety

Tips for Using a Dock Leveler

  • Check the load capacity of the dock leveler and account for the weight of the load, a forklift, and an employee who is moving the load.

  • Check the dock leveler for signs of wear, corrosion, or material failure.

  • Position the dock leveler with at least 8 inches of overlap on each end.

  • Don’t drop dock levelers into position, to minimize movement and wear at the edges.

  • A certified specialist must inspect hydraulic dock levelers at least once a year.

  • Lower the hydraulic dock leveler to ground level when not in use.

  • Paint the edges of the leveler and consider a lip to prevent forklifts and people from falling from it.

  • Keep oils, grease, and other fluids away from the leveler and clean up spills immediately.

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What to Consider when Choosing a Dock Leveler

If you’re investing in a new loading dock leveler, consider these areas:

  • Maintenance Cost. Some dock levelers seem cheaper in the short run and end up costing more than the expensive one. Consider long-term maintenance costs before committing to a dock leveler.
  • Your Loading Dock. Take into account the equipment and vehicles at your loading dock, loading capacities, and your loading schedule.
  • Reliability. Assess the design, quality, and strength of the dock leveler
  • Safety. Safety first! No matter the model, it has to have features necessary to operate safely.

Choosing the right dock leveler is a solid start to ensuring safety across your entire facility. There are more safety issues to consider when it comes to hazard-proofing your dock. Learn more from our free Loading Dock Safety Guide and protect your staff, equipment, and inventory.

There are many aspects of safety to consider – from the right combination of security devices and facility rearrangements to personnel training. An experienced partner can help. Schedule a free safety assessment to get at least three tangible ways to future-proof your loading dock and answer any questions.

Please contact us online with any questions about your loading dock safety, or by phone:

San Francisco East Bay – Livermore  (510) 379-5210
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091

Further Reading:

Dock Levelers Vs. Edge of Docks
Dock Locks and Vehicle Restraints
Loading Dock Seals and Shelters – Small Cost, Big Value