In simple terms, a dock leveler is a piece of steel creating a bridge between a warehouse building and the bed of a truck. Dock levelers are important because your loading dock cannot match the height of every truck that enters your dock zone. The gap left between the delivery truck and your warehouse dock creates a dangerous situation for workers loading or unloading cargo.
When deciding on which dock leveler will work best for you, it’s important to have a full understanding of your loading dock’s needs and operational practices. Some factors that should be considered are:
- The volume at which your loading dock is used daily;
- The types of handling equipment needed to transfer cargo loads into your warehouse, and;
- The average size of the product loads.
Once you know this information, you can make a more informed decision on which dock leveler equipment will best improve your loading dock operations. Here is a list of the functionalities of different types of dock levelers.
The Different Operational Styles of Dock Levelers
All dock levelers operate by using one of the three systems: mechanical, hydraulic, and air.
- Mechanical dock levelers are easy to use, durable, and offer the highest load capacities. Mechanical levelers are manually operated by a chain system and use a series of springs and levers to raise the loading platform and extend the lip onto the back of the delivery truck.
- Hydraulic dock levelers are great for high volume, heavy traffic dock zone conditions. The hydraulic cylinders are engaged by a push-button system design, which makes hydraulic dock levelers less likely to experience mechanical breakdowns, thereby minimizing their overall maintenance needs. While they are the most expensive choice, the hydraulic leveler easily makes up for it by being safer and easier to use than its counterparts.
- Air dock levelers operate using a push-button system to inflate an airbag that raises and lowers the loading platform. Air-powered levelers have fewer components and eliminate the risk of a hydraulic fluid leak, but they also contain many moving parts— leaving them susceptible to breakdowns that require extensive maintenance service. The airbag also requires regular cleaning and has the risk of being punctured by debris, which can make them a high safety risk for loading dock operations.
Since these dock levelers don’t require a power source and are the least expensive of the levelers, they’re the best option for those on a budget. However, operating mechanical dock levelers is a slow process and requires an extensive amount of maintenance. Regular adjustments must be made to hold down the system once it’s no longer in use — and find the long-term maintenance costs are just another big expense to an already-tight warehouse budget.
There are multiple variations of these dock levelers that run using the same type of operational system, but there are three versions used most often include:
- The CentraAir dock leveler is operated by an air-powered, push-button application system that uses existing air or air from a compressor to raise and lower the loading platform with a cylindrical airbag. It is environmentally-friendly without the need for a power source and is perfect for washdown applications or wet environments.
- Vertical storing dock levelers are controlled by a hydraulic system and are built for a temperature-controlled environment. This type of dock leveler equipment is capable of forming a complete seal for your dock door when stored in the vertical position, which helps prevent theft and keeps out pests, dust, and other debris.
- Hydraulic railcar ramp levelers are another hydraulics dock leveler that can form a seal when stored in a vertical position. These are specially designed for railroad warehouse operations to provide more room for railcars when loading and unloading.
Need to Purchase a Dock Leveler?
Depending on your dock door needs, each dock leveler variation can improve the efficiency and safety of your loading dock operations. Southern States Enterprises offers the widest, most comprehensive line of loading dock and door equipment in the industry. We have the right equipment to fit your budget and provide dock safety and repair services performed by highly-trained service technicians. If you’re interested in knowing more about our other warehouse services and equipment selections, contact us today!