picture of a row of old loading docks

What is the Difference Between Dock Seals and Shelters?

Small gaps around parked trailers and trucks at your loading dock could be causing significant problems for your business. While they might not seem like much, these spaces can allow heat, cold, dirt, rain, snow, insects and debris into your loading dock and commercial space. That’s where dock seals and shelters can save you money and effort by keeping your dock insulated, clean, and secure. But how do you choose the right option for your loading dock?

Benefits of Dock Seals and Shelters

Both dock seals and shelters can save you hundreds of dollars a year by maintaining your insulation and taking the pressure off your heating and cooling systems.

Dock seals and shelters also provide the benefit of preventing access of rain and snow that can cause water damage to your property and products.

Dock seals and shelters also help to keep out dirt, dust and other debris, to keep your workplace clean. They also help to prevent access to insects and other pests that could create a nuisance.

Facade of modern warehouse of yellow sandwich panels with airtight door gates (dock shelter). Front view. Dock Seals vs. Dock Shelters

Dock seals and dock shelters may look similar and accomplish similar goals, but they are each uniquely designed to fulfill different purposes.

Dock Shelters

Dock Shelters create a seal around a truck or trailer using fabric curtains fitted with fiberglass stays. Dock Shelters are versatile, providing a range of different trailer sizes and being ideal for larger docks. Dock Shelters are more durable and allow for unobstructed access to loads for higher efficiency. Newer Dock Shelters match the seal effectiveness of dock seals.

Dock Seals

Dock Seals are foam pads that the trailer backs into and rests against when at the dock. Dock seals provide a tight seal around three sides of the trailer but can wear out quickly on a dock that gets a lot of use. Dock seals also take up less space than shelters but aren’t as versatile to fit a variety of trailers. Dock seals can also restrict forklift access to the trailer.

Seals vs Shelters Summary

Cost Dock shelters are usually more expensive than dock seals, but also offer a higher level of seal performance and durability. Dock seals offer a more economical solution, but also wear out more quickly with high use.
Seal Style Dock Shelters provide a seal around the entire perimeter of the trailer and newer model provide a seal as tight as dock seals. Dock seals have historically provided a tighter seal, but only around 3 sides of the trailer.
Durability Due to the constant contact, Dock Seals can wear out more quickly than Dock Shelters.
Adjustability Dock Shelters can be more easily adjusted to larger docks and different trailer sizes than dock seals.


Weighing the options to choose between a dock seal and dock shelter can be tough, so it’s helpful to consult with a dock and commercial door specialist. Talk to the specialists at Frontier Pacific today for expert advice on the right seal or shelter for your dock.