Dock leveler and shutter door use for product transfer to truck.

Top 5 Things to Understand about Dock Levelers and their Purpose

You probably already know that dock levelers make your loading dock safer, easier, and more efficient. But what type of dock leveler will best meet your needs? And how will different dock types suit different purposes in your business? Here we look at what you need to understand about different dock levelers and their purpose.

1. Why Dock Levelers Matter

Dock levelers are important because it’s impossible that your dock match the height of every truck that services your loading zone. If they don’t, this leaves a gap between your dock and the truck, which can make it cumbersome and dangerous to load at your dock.

Dock levelers form a permanent part of your dock to bridge the gap between the truck and the dock or the warehouse floor.

2. Dock Levelers Should Be Matched to Your Dock Usage

Forklift and trucks at cargo dock of warehouse The right dock leveler choice for your dock will depend on how you use your dock, as well as budget and operation type. The factors you should consider when evaluating your dock usage include –

  • Volume of dock use
  • Gross amount of weight transferred
  • Whether you use a forklift, pallet truck, hand loading, conveyor, or other material handling equipment
  • The size of the product you handle
  • Your dock and building layout

3. Choose the Right Operation Type

Dock levelers can operate in several different ways, with different advantages and drawbacks for your business.

  • Mechanical – Mechanical dock levelers are composed of a series of springs and levers that are manually operated to raise the loading platform and extend the lip assembly. The mechanical dock leveler is then manually positioned on the delivery truck bed. Mechanical levelers are the least expensive option upfront, but are slower to operate, require a lot of maintenance and need regular adjustment to the hold down system.
  • Hydraulic – Hydraulic levelers are structurally similar to mechanical levelers but are powered by hydraulic cylinders to raise the platform and extend the lip assembly. Hydraulic levelers are easier to maintain and faster to operate than mechanical levelers. They are more expensive at purchase but compensate for being safer and easier to maintain.
  • Air – Air powered levelers use an airbag to raise and lower the platform. Air-powered levelers are simple yet effective, and are the easiest to maintain, eliminating messy hydraulic fluids and the potential for leaks.

4. Balance Cost with Functionality and Maintenance

Consider the difference of investing more upfront for higher quality and more functional equipment, versus paying less upfront and paying more for repairs and maintenance over the lifetime of the equipment. Making the right dock leveler choice upfront by looking past cost alone to prioritize safety and performance will pay off in the long run.

5. Choose the Right Type of Dock Leveler

The right dock leveler design can make loading and unloading from your warehouse dock safer and easier.

  • Edge of dock leveler – Attach to the front edge of the dock, and are more cost effective upfront, but provide a more limited service range.
  • Top of dock leveler – When working range exceeds that offered by edge of dock levelers, top of dock levelers provide more range at a higher price.
  • Pit style leveler – Recessed or pit style levelers are the most common type and are found in recessed concrete openings at the warehouse dock. They are available in a range of sizes and capacities to match your business’s needs.
  • Flex-Lip leveler – Provide the smoothest transition from truck bed to loading dock and is more cost effective over time by preventing damage to forklifts, products, and personnel.
  • Vertical storing leveler – Maintains climate control and hygiene so is ideal for food or pharmaceutical applications. However, proper layout and employer training is required to optimize safety.
  • Telescoping lip leveler – Retractable lip and horizontal storage offer the benefits of vertical storing levelers without the safety risks or issues with end loading.
  • Specialty leveler – Other levelers are available for specialty applications such as barrier lip pit levelers for water run-off protection or truck levelers function by lifting the entire truck.

Matching your choice of dock leveler with its functionality and purpose means you get better operating results and smoother, more efficient loading from your dock.