For a warehouse or loading facility to be as efficient as possible, the loading and unloading processes should be seamless. While there are many items that can make these processes more convenient, one solution for you to consider is an edge-of-dock leveler, which is designed to bridge the gap that’s located between the edge of your loading area and the ramp or truck.
While some facilities will rely on a dockboard for the same purpose, edge-of-dock levelers are considered superior because of their ability to be fixed directly to the loading dock for a more secure connection. When you pull the handle on the piece of equipment, the leveler will be lifted over the truck height for simple positioning.
Maintaining a smooth transition between the loading dock and truck is essential to keep cargo from falling and maintain worker safety in regards to tripping and other hazards. During standard loading/unloading operations, forklifts, pedestrians, and other types of material handling equipment are at risk, which is why it’s highly recommended that you take your time to choose the right solution for your warehouse.
There are several different types of edge-of-dock levelers, each of which has its own set of features. This guide serves as an in-depth look at edge-of-dock levelers and why you should use them in your facility.
Advantages of Edge-of-Dock Levelers
Edge-of-dock levelers offer numerous advantages that will improve the safety and efficiency of your warehouse. These benefits include:
- Time-saving advantages
- Cost-effective compared to other solutions
- Easy installation and maintenance
- Increased safety for workers and equipment
The main purpose of edge-of-dock levelers is to help make businesses more efficient, which can be done by improving operational reliability. When this type of leveler is installed between the truck and loading dock, cargo can be transported from and to the truck with ease. Higher efficiency leads to increased productivity among your personnel.
These pieces of equipment are also low-cost alternatives to other solutions. Along with being relatively affordable, edge-of-dock levelers should also save you money by reducing falls and cargo damage.
The installation and maintenance processes for edge-of-dock levelers are easy. You can mount these devices to the face of nearly every loading dock. The bar-lift design allows the edge of dock to be quickly tilted back before being moved forward and onto the truck. As for maintenance, edge-of-dock levelers come with continuous hinges that are outfitted with grease fittings for maximum strength.
By eliminating the gap between the truck and the loading dock, your workers and equipment will be kept safe at all times. Since these levelers are secured to the loading dock, there’s no chance of them moving when personnel are loading or unloading cargo.
Features to Consider
The primary features that you should consider when searching for the right edge-of-dock leveler include:
- Weight capacity – The majority of edge-of-dock levelers come with weight capacities that range from 20,000-35,000 pounds.
- Dock height – Edge-of-dock levelers have a working range that extends from 10 inches above to four inches below dock height. These levelers usually come with a hydraulic piston that moves the tread-plate deck.
- Width and length – The standard deck widths for these devices include 66, 72, 78, and 84 inches. The activation handle for an edge-of-dock leveler is around 42 inches long.
- Durability and material – These levelers are built with low-allow steel that increases equipment durability.
- Lip length – Most edge-of-dock levelers are equipped with a hinged lip of around 15 inches long that facilitates smooth travel via fork trucks or pallet jacks.
Some additional features that might be provided with the edge-of-dock leveler you select include dock bumpers, grease fittings, an activation bar, and an adjustable torsion spring.
Types of Edge-of-Dock Levelers
There are four types of edge-of-dock levelers that you can obtain for your warehouse, which include:
- Manual – Also referred to as mechanical edge-of-dock levelers, these systems are activated by the operator manually pulling the lip and ramp directly into a raised position. The lip will then be lowered to the truck bed. After the truck departs from the facility, the leveler will automatically retract to its original position.
- Hydraulic – Activating a hydraulic leveler can be done by pressing a button, which allows the lip to be raised without any manual work. Once the leveler has been fully extended, the primary operator will release the button, which pushes the leveler down to the trailer bed. It will retract after the truck moves away.
- Air-powered – These systems use airbag-lifting technology and push-button operation to get rid of manual lifting entirely. This equipment comes with a lift system that can be used even in freezing or sweltering temperatures. Additional features include a maintenance strut and laminated dock bumpers.
- Electromechanical – Electromechanical edge-of-dock levelers provide users with both hand-pump manual control and push-button control.
How to Choose the Right Edge-of-Dock Leveler
Now that you know what an edge-of-dock leveler is and how you can benefit from having them in your facility, you should know how to choose the right one. These pieces of equipment can be purchased in many different lengths, widths, and weight capacities, which is why you should take steps to narrow your options.
First, it’s important to assess your needs and determine what you want out of a leveler. What is the max weight of the cargo you load and unload? Make sure that you take the lift truck and cargo weight into account when making these calculations.
Consider your operating environment as well. Certain industries have special pest control and dust needs that dictate what type of leveler would work best. In the event that your facility is situated in a more frigid climate, the type of leveler you choose may be primarily determined by insulation requirements. Once you’ve identified your current needs and anticipated your future ones, you should have a good idea of which leveler is best for your warehouse.
You should now focus on evaluating your budget. If you have a strict budget without room for many additional expenses, there are affordable edge-of-dock levelers available to you. Units with lower weight capacities usually cost less than the alternatives. Knowing your budget beforehand should help you avoid overspending.
With your budget in mind, you can now compare different types of levelers. The range of trailer heights and cargo loads in your warehouse will automatically narrow your selection by a considerable amount.
If ramp loads are relatively light, an entry-level manual system might be preferable. In this scenario, cargo should be kept below 20,000 pounds. If you routinely transport heavy loads that are far higher than 20,000 pounds, make sure that you select a unit that accommodates this weight. Keep in mind that these systems are sometimes available with additional features, which include signaling lights and alarms that enhance worker safety.
If you’re still finding it difficult to make a decision, think about consulting with a professional. Here at QMH, we have ample experience with all types of edge-of-dock levelers, which gives us the knowledge required to help you select the right system for your needs.
Installation and Maintenance Tips
Every edge-of-dock leveler should come with a manual that gives you detailed installation instructions. While these systems are designed to provide a secure connection between the loading dock and truck, it’s essential that the leveler is correctly installed to avoid issues.
For instance, the dock area needs to be strong enough to support the leveler and the heavy loads that will be traveling over it. Every anchor needs a minimum strength of 10,000 pounds of force and 6,000 pounds of pullout strength with non-cracked concrete. The leveler should also comply with local building codes.
When you’re installing this system, keep in mind that the edge-of-dock leveler should accommodate five inches below and above the dock for a 20% grade up and 18.5% grade down. If your facility uses freight trailers, these range from 46-56 inches in height, which means that the leveler needs to be mounted 51 inches above the ground.
In comparison, refrigerated trailers usually range from 50-60 inches in height, which indicates that the leveler needs to be mounted 55 inches from the ground. Other containers and trailers have an array of trailer heights and configurations. Some of the maintenance tips that you should remember once the edge-of-dock leveler has been installed include:
- The dock leveler should be inspected for wear and tear on 90-day intervals
- Inspect every weld
- Lubricate grease fittings at 90-day intervals
- Inspect the dock bumpers every 90 days to ensure at least four inches of bumper protection
- Replace a worn, loose, missing, or torn bumper immediately
- Check every label when inspecting other parts
- Verify that you have the most current manual every 6-12 months
- If you have a hydraulic edge-of-dock leveler, change the hydraulic fluid occasionally
Why Choose QMH?
The clients we offer service to at QMH are usually searching for warehouse solutions that will help them improve efficiency. To that end, edge-of-dock levelers are specially designed to bolster the efficiency with loading and unloading processes. We can help you choose the right leveler for your warehouse and will make sure that it meets all local code requirements. Call us today to learn about the edge-of-dock leveler solutions available to you.