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Posted by Stephanie on July 8, 2024

When goods need to be loaded and unloaded from containers and trucks, warehouse loading dock ramps can make this process considerably easier. Whether you select a fixed or portable ramp, you’ll be able to drive forklifts and other vehicles to the items with ease. A poorly optimized loading dock can become a bottleneck in your operations. If you want to boost warehouse efficiency and maintain high productivity rates, make sure you install the right loading dock ramps.

If you can expedite the loading and unloading processes, you should notice that trucks and vehicles spend less time at your warehouse, which means that goods will reach their destinations quickly. Measure the efficiency of your existing supply chain to identify any performance improvements that occur when you use the right loading dock ramp.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about loading dock ramps, including ramp slope, types, and forklift usage. Knowing what to look for in a loading dock ramp will help you select the best option for your warehouse.

Forklift on Yard Ramp connected to a loading dock

Understanding Warehouse Loading Dock Ramps

A ramp is a steel or concrete platform that allows trucks, cargo vans, and other vehicles to reach the loading dock. These structures also make it possible for forklifts to reach trucks for the loading and unloading of items. Without ramps, loading docks are far too high for the safe loading of last-mile delivery vehicles. Dock ramps eliminate the need for new construction on your loading dock.

While loading dock ramps can have different maximum weight capacities, they can support as much as 50,000 pounds. Some of these ramps come with a more modular design that allows them to be customized to the unique needs of your facility. While there are many benefits of using loading dock ramps to bolster your warehouse operations, the primary one is that they ensure the efficient loading and unloading of your cargo. These tasks will also be safer for your personnel to carry out.

Types of Loading Dock Ramps

There are several types of loading dock ramps that you can install in your facility. Your options include fixed, portable, and edge-of-dock ramps.

Fixed Loading Dock Ramps

Fixed loading dock ramps are designed to be permanent installations at your facility. While they can be made from several materials, they are often constructed with concrete. This type of ramp rises at a straight and gentle slope until it reaches the loading dock. They are bolted to the ground, which means that you can’t easily move them to another location around your warehouse.

If you’re looking to obtain loading dock ramps for forklift operations, consider fixed ones. Fixed ramps are reliable and accommodate efficient loading and unloading. You can use them on a long-term basis. While they need to be maintained, they should last for many years. The main drawback to fixed ramps is that they are often more expensive than portable ones. These ramps can support up to 50,000 pounds.

Loading Dock with Access Ramp

Portable Loading Dock Ramps

Portable loading ramps are made with versatility in mind. While they shouldn’t be used in every warehouse, they may be able to help you increase operational efficiency. These ramps allow you to save space. They can also be moved to different areas around your warehouse depending on your needs, which means that they can be used for numerous applications. The primary advantages of using portable ramps in your facility include the following:

  • You can move the ramp out of the way when it’s not being used
  • Removes a potential bottleneck from your loading dock logistics
  • Can be equipped with level-offs, ramp clamps, and non-slip surfaces
  • Durable steel construction means that these ramps come with a high weight capacity

Edge of Dock Ramps

Edge-of-dock ramps are designed specifically to bridge the gap between a trailer and a loading dock. These ramps are often permanent fixtures on loading docks. They are most effective when used with trucks that need to back up to the dock for loading or unloading.

Edge-of-dock ramps are available in numerous widths to accommodate different dock sizes. If you expect to receive trucks of varying bed heights at your facility, consider using edge-of-dock ramps. These ramps require very little maintenance and are durable.

Loading Dock Ramp Slope

Whether you use forklifts or choose to load and unload vehicles manually, the right loading dock ramp slope is crucial for safety and efficiency. You need to be able to move items to and from vehicles without experiencing steep slopes. If the slope is too large, your forklifts could be at risk of tipping over.

Based on existing regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the slope of a warehouse ramp shouldn’t be higher than 20 degrees above the horizontal. Otherwise, you risk the unsafe operation of your forklift.

Make sure you calculate the appropriate slope for different types of vehicles and loads. Heavier loads require gentler slopes to ensure items don’t shift dangerously. If you’re using a ramp in a tight space, consider shortening it to achieve the right slope. For most applications, the slope should be as low as you can get it.

A higher slope grade puts pallet jacks and forklifts at risk. For example, forklifts may lose traction or bottom out on a steep grade. The primary factors that influence your choice of ramp slope include load weight and dock height. If you end up using a ramp with a somewhat steep slope, consider installing welded metal grades along the decking to make it easier for foot traffic and vehicles to maintain traction.

Loading Dock with Access Ramp Extension

Loading Dock Ramps for Forklifts

If you intend to use loading dock ramps for forklift travel, there are certain requirements you’ll need to meet. For example, make sure the ramp you choose is flush against the dock edge. The length of the ramp should be around 20-30 feet. Otherwise, the angle might not be shallow enough. As touched upon previously, you should also obtain solid-steel grates or plates to accommodate a smooth transition. Your ramps should be equipped with safety curbs as well.

If pedestrians will likely walk on your ramps, select ones that come with handrails. It’s also highly recommended that you implement strict safety protocols that allow your forklift operators to use a different travel path than pedestrians. When you’re trying to select a ramp with the right load-bearing capacity, keep in mind that fixed ramps can accommodate up to 40,000-50,000 pounds.

Forklifts weigh upwards of 9,000 pounds, which doesn’t include the weight of the cargo. Last-mile delivery vehicles that are still loaded can weigh anywhere from 10,000-25,000 pounds. Determine how your vehicles will use the ramp to identify the right specifications for your warehouse. While some ramps are made with heavy-duty aluminum, it’s best that you select solid steel or concrete ramps to benefit from the highest load-bearing capacities on the market.

Safety Considerations and Best Practices

When using loading dock ramps, there are some general safety guidelines that you and your personnel should adhere to. For example, make sure all employees use handrails and walk in the right spots if they are manually loading and unloading trucks. Forklift operators should receive comprehensive training on safety instructions and procedures when ascending and descending ramps. You should also:

  • Post safety signage display in all working areas
  • Make sure the loading dock ramps are stable and can support the loads
  • Clean up the working environment to eliminate obstacles that could impact forklift paths
  • Seek support from dock ramp manufacturers if you notice cracks or other issues
  • Avoid overloading issues that can occur if you attempt to move too many items at once

Your loading dock ramps should be maintained and inspected regularly. While the best ramps have minimal maintenance requirements, it’s still a good idea to visually inspect these areas to identify potential problems early on. If you notice any worn parts in your docking ramps or equipment, replace them immediately.

Train your personnel on how to properly use material-loading vehicles and ramps. Once they understand the necessary safety procedures, you can be confident that accidents will be kept to a minimum. When you or your personnel detect safety issues and hazards, address them immediately. For example, let’s say that the ramp is exposed to the weather and gets wet. If a vehicle is about to be loaded or unloaded, dry the ramp before getting to work.

Conclusion

Loading dock ramps support the efficient loading and unloading of the goods that are stored in your facility. You must choose a loading dock ramp that meets your specific warehouse needs. If you load and unload items from a singular location in your warehouse, consider a fixed ramp. On the other hand, portable ramps save space and offer more flexibility. Consider the characteristics and benefits of each type of loading dock ramp before you make your final decision. Consult with experts for personalized recommendations you can trust.

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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.