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Posted by Stephanie on September 4, 2023

Managing a warehouse in the current market comes with numerous challenges. Along with customized orders and quick deliveries, you must also contend with brief lead times and the rise in popularity of eCommerce. To remain ahead of the competition, you must strive to boost efficiency and productivity regarding your material-handling operations.

In order to account for how busy your warehouse may get, accommodate different truck sizes. You can load and unload items from various trucks with the use of pit lifts. These lifts provide material-handling operators with the tools they need to load and unload vehicles more efficiently.

Once you install dock lifts, they’ll improve safety by providing a level surface for loading and unloading operations. If you’re in the midst of upgrading your facility, consider using pit lifts to improve your material handling efforts. The following guide details the many benefits of pit lifts.

Dock Lift

Introduction to Pit Lifts

A pit lift is a type of dock lift that’s mounted directly in a pit on the dock’s surface. These dock lifts are capable of lining up loads to any bed height by simply clicking a button. You can install pit lifts as a permanent installation or portable piece of equipment. These lifts come with steel construction and a robust hydraulics system that can accommodate maximum loads of 15,000 pounds. Most pit lifts reach a vertical height of 55-60 inches.

The purpose of a pit lift is to provide versatility, dependability, and convenience when it comes to material-handling operations. The solid steel composition of a pit lift ensures considerable stability. When you select a pit-mounted unit, every roller is captured to keep the lift from turning over. Most pit lifts are equipped with steel tread plates that provide superior traction. The hydraulic cylinders are often made from polished and chrome-plated rods along with wear plates and polyurethane seals to prevent leaks.

Before you purchase pit lifts for your warehouse, make sure you use the proper specifications to ensure optimal performance. The lift of your choice must accommodate every truck that enters your facility for the purpose of loading and unloading items.

Advantages of Pit Lifts Over Traditional Loading Solutions

When you’re considering the purchase of dock lifts for your facility, you also have the option of selecting more traditional loading solutions, the primary of which are edge-of-dock levelers. However, there are clear differences between these two solutions that you should be aware of. Pit lifts are mounted in dock pits. Once a truck arrives at your facility, you can raise the lift to properly connect it to a trailer bed.

By using pit lifts, you’ll be able to make a safe and stable bridge between your loading dock and various trailer sizes. To that end, pit lifts offer far more flexibility in comparison to dock levelers. While truck trailers often have similar heights, dock heights can vary considerably. When you select a lit lift, you’ll also benefit from more advanced safety controls that allow for additional dock equipment to be outfitted to the lift.

Edge-of-dock levelers are meant to be installed directly on the dock face. While this solution is highly useful if the trucks that arrive at your warehouse have minimal height differences, it doesn’t offer the same level of flexibility that’s provided by pit lifts.

You should also use pit lifts because of how convenient they are when compared to space-consuming ramps and wells. Pit lifts can either be portable or affixed to the dock. Regardless of the configuration you choose, they’ll take up less space than ramps.

Understanding Different Types of Pit Lifts

There are two types of pit lifts you can select for your facility, which include recessed pit lifts and top-of-ground pit lifts. Recessed pit lifts are effectively placed in the ground and will rise upwards with the click of a button. They might not be suitable for lower-volume facilities because of how expensive they are.

Top-of-ground pit lifts are often used by warehouses that are looking to obtain the benefits of recessed pit lifts without needing to pay the high installation costs. This equipment is portable and can be moved to a different area in your warehouse when it’s not being used.

Consider the applications you’re going to use the pit lift for in order to determine which type is right for you. As touched upon previously, a recessed pit lift is ideal for facilities that load and unload a high volume of items. If you don’t have an ample amount of space in your facility, a recessed pit lift can be advantageous. In comparison, top-of-ground pit lifts are ideal if portability is essential to your operations.

Key Factors to Consider When Selecting Pit Lifts

There are several factors you should consider when choosing pit lifts. For instance, what platform size and lifting capacity would you prefer? If you’re set to transport heavy items with the use of a forklift, the pit lift must have a high enough weight capacity to accommodate the machinery you use.

You can determine lifting capacity requirements by adding together load weight, transport vehicle weight, and operator weight. For example, let’s say the load weight is 5,000 pounds and the forklift weight is 6,500 pounds. If the operator weight is around 220 pounds, the lift you select would need to accommodate at least 11,720 pounds.

You should also consider the axle rating capacity and load distribution for your pit lift of choice. A lift’s axle capacity refers to the total weight that can be put on the lift while the transport vehicle and load enter the lift. At this moment, a high amount of stress is placed directly on the lift, which is why a high axle rating capacity is essential.

When the items are first entering the lift, around 80% of the load is positioned towards the forklift’s front wheels. If you need to transport a 12,000-pound load onto the lift, the axle capacity would need to be around 9,600 pounds. Keep in mind that many lifts that come with a 12,000-pound capacity have an axle capacity of just 8,400 pounds, which isn’t sufficient for your application. In this situation, select a lift that comes with a lifting capacity of 15,000 pounds or more.

Consider the power units, controls, and safety features as well. The most popular option is a hydraulic-powered pit lift. The controls on the lift should be easy to use by any personnel. It’s also important that you find a pit lift that comes with ample safety features.

Common Use Cases and Industries for Pit Lifts

There are many use cases and industries that pit lifts are being used in, which include the following:

  • Manufacturing plants
  • Supermarkets and retail stores
  • Healthcare facilities and hospitals
  • Warehouses and distribution centers
Forklift and Scissorlift

Design and Installation Guidelines for Pit Lifts

Make sure you select a pit lift that supports the primary material handling equipment that’s used at your facility. If you mainly use pallet jacks, a platform length of seven feet should suffice. When using a powered pallet jack, select a platform length of 10 feet. For forklifts, a 12-foot platform length is necessary.

Pit-mounted lifts need to be connected to the electric service in your facility. In many cases, these lifts are installed on concrete pads, which might require a building permit from the local building authority. Make sure you place the power unit out of the elements. Try to position it inside your building. However, it must be kept within 25-30 feet of the lift. As for the push button control, it should be kept in a place where the operator can still see the lift. Make sure any pit lift you install complies with ANSI, IBC, and UL standards.

Maintenance and Safety Practices for Pit Lifts

Pit lifts should be treated like any other piece of heavy equipment in your warehouse, which means that performing regular inspections and setting consistent maintenance routines are essential. Make sure your operators understand how to safely operate the lift. For example, all items and equipment must be securely on the platform before the operator presses the button to raise the lift.

When you’re using a pit lift, there are a few challenges you might encounter, the primary of which include flooding and corrosion. Even if your power equipment is safe inside your facility, a flooding event could damage the equipment. Any spills in the area might also cause corrosion, which is why regular inspections are necessary.

Real-life Case Studies of Successful Pit Lift Implementations

Pit lifts have been used for many years in warehouses, distribution centers, and other material-handling facilities. These lifts are known to maximize worker safety and enhance productivity.

For example, let’s say an employee is trying to move items onto a trailer bed. Without a pit lift, the employee would be tasked with either stepping up and into the trailer or walking up a ramp. While ramps are generally safe to walk on, they can shift the load distribution. Pit lifts are level with the trailer bed.

Once you install pit lifts, you should notice that your costs are lower and your return on investment is high. You’ll save money by reducing accidents and increasing productivity. While the upfront cost for a pit lift can be high, the money you save over the long run outweighs the initial expenses.

Future Trends and Innovations in Pit Lift Technology

Automation and IoT are two innovations that are being introduced to warehouses all over the world. In fact, automation is a trend that should continue for many years. Eventually, you might be able to operate pit lifts through automation, which means that a manual operator wouldn’t be necessary.

The inclusion of IoT should make it easier for you to monitor and control all the pit lifts in your facility at the same time. You should also notice improved safety features and predictive maintenance when it comes to future pit lift technology.

Conclusion: Optimizing Material Handling with Pit Lifts

Pit lifts offer many advantages that aren’t available with more traditional loading solutions. You’ll benefit from more versatility, ample stability, and enhanced productivity. To ensure your pit lift matches the exact specifications of your warehouse and loading dock, it’s highly recommended that you collaborate with design professionals and lift manufacturers to obtain the perfect pit lift for your facility. Once your ideal lift is drawn by a design professional, it can be made by the right lift manufacturer.


The QMH mission is to serve and/or create a world where people and products are handled the right way. Our customer service philosophy is simple: We strive to be the best for everyone who walks through our door. We’re passionate about providing our customers with the greatest value for their money.


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With over 32 years of experience in material handling, QMH is committed to providing end-to-end solutions for companies with distribution, logistic and warehousing needs. From permit approval management to full-service execution from the ground up, QMH delivers unique solutions providing distinct value in record time.