Considerations When Choosing Dock Bumpers For Your Loading Dock Area

October 07, 2020

A loading dock is often one of the busiest areas of any warehouse or distribution center. It’s where all of the products that a warehouse carries must pass through on their way in or out. Since dock bumpers facilitate vehicle movement in and out of warehouse facilities and can absorb plenty of wear and tear that your loading docks experience on the daily, the right dock bumpers can improve the useful life of your loading docks.  

Finding the right type of loading dock bumpers suited for your warehouse is essential for receiving the most investment out of your loading dock and increasing the safety of your loading dock area. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when on the hunt for new dock bumpers. 

WHAT ARE DOCK BUMPERS?

You may also know them as dock pads or truck dock bumpers. Regardless of what you call them, they all do the same job: protect your property and equipment from wear and tear. Dock bumpers provide protection to trailers, vehicles, loading dock equipment, and warehouse walls by absorbing impact damage.

Dock bumpers are commonly made of versatile rubber or similar materials to withstand environmental elements like wind and rain, and for high impact resistance.  

FIVE COMMON TYPES OF DOCK BUMPERS 

There is not one standard type and size of dock bumper. Just like how loading docks vary with size, there are numerous types of dock bumpers suited for different warehouse needs. Listed below are several of the most common types of dock bumpers on the market.  

STANDARD DOCK BUMPERS

Your typical dock bumper usually consists of rubber or a similar material and offers substantial protection for your vehicles and loading docks from abrasion. They can typically absorb over 80% of impact and resist prolonged exposure to extreme weather. Standard dock bumpers are ideal for typical loading docks that witness plenty of dock traffic. 

EXTRA-THICK LOADING DOCK BUMPERS

Loading dock or truck dock bumpers with extra thick rubber padding are used for unique anchoring conditions. If your loading dock bumpers need to “stand out” from the loading dock due to canopied docks, steep ramps, overhangs, or other similar architectural features, then extra-thick loading dock bumpers would be your best option. 

EXTRA-LENGTH LOADING DOCK BUMPERS

If your loading dock is longer than most or needs extra insulation, then extra-length loading dock bumpers would be an ideal fit for you. Their added length works with dock seals to completely seal the vehicle or trailer to the dock door, so they would be a valuable asset for warehouses with refrigeration.

DURA-SOFT DOCK BUMPERS

Dura-soft dock bumpers provide the greatest impact absorption out of any other dock bumper, with an impact rating of 85% due to their unique “loop” bumper design. Dura-soft bumpers feature a floating steel face which heavily reduces the wear and tear standard dock bumpers receive from the abrasion caused by vehicles and trailer movement.  

STEEL-FACE DOCK BUMPERS

These dock bumpers are reinforced with steel to provide extra protection in loading dock areas with heavy traffic. If you need heavy duty protection for your equipment and vehicles, then the steel-face dock bumpers can provide that. 

DOCK PAD CONSIDERATIONS 

There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to dock pads. Loading docks can have a wide range of specifications and features, so some dock bumpers may be better suited for your needs than others. If you’re thinking about adding dock pads to your loading dock, there are some considerations to keep in mind so you can make the best investment decisions. 

ARE THERE ANY ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES TO CONSIDER?

If your loading dock has unique features such as a steep ramp, canopied docks, and overhangs, then your dock bumpers have to be designed with this in mind. Standard dock pads will be too short for a loading dock with these structural elements. Extra-thick dock bumpers, which add distance for declined approaches, allow for distance between the vehicle or trailer and the loading dock, which means this option would be a better fit.

HOW MUCH TRAFFIC DOES YOUR LOADING DOCK SEE?

Dock bumpers are designed to provide protection for plenty of traffic, but some types of dock pads are better suited for increased usage. Steel-face dock bumpers are especially constructed to handle heavy traffic, so this type of dock bumper would be a better investment for a warehouse that sees higher than average amounts of freight movement. 

WHAT ARE MY CARGO NEEDS?

If your vehicles are unloading fragile cargo, then you would want loading dock bumpers with the most shock absorption possible. Or, if your inventory needs to be refrigerated, then dock bumpers which work with dock seals for insulation would be ideal for your warehouse. 

Proper Dock Bumper Maintenance

Although dock bumpers are designed for impact absorption, they can be worn down from the repeated impact forces they sustain. There are some signs to look for to tell that your dock bumpers need to be replaced. 

Essentially, if the depth of the existing rubber pad on the dock bumper is half of what it was brand new, then it needs to be replaced. Dock bumpers with less than that amount of padding will be unable to provide proper impact absorption, which can damage your loading dock and vehicles.

Look for other signs of wear and tear, such as deep cracks or compression on the dock pad’s rubber surface. A dock pad with a metal frame that is bent or rusting needs to be replaced to prevent abrasive metal on metal contact. Remember: the more you use your dock bumpers, the quicker they will wear down. By conducting safety surveys and comprehensive emergency and routine repairs, you can ensure your loading dock area can operate functionally and safe long-term.

If you’re ready to leverage dock bumpers to transform your loading dock area into a more productive and secure working environment, reach out to one of our experts at SSE today. We'd be happy to help you find a solution that fits the specific needs of your warehouse and its loading dock area!

Dock & Door Equipment

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