Different operation place different demands on a dock leveler. Make sure that the leveler you choose matches your individual requirements. Consider the types of vehicles that will use your dock, trailer dimensions, frequent of use and load capacities. All of these factors will help determine the leveler that’s best designed for your operation.
Selecting leveler length
Consider the type of traffic and activity at dock when selecting a leveler length. It’s important to establist a safe, smooth path for forklift to travel between the dock and the trailer, and truck bed heights can vary dramatically. As a rule of thumb, the greater the distance between dock height and trailer bed height, the longer your leveler should be.
Several trends are leading to lower bed heights, increasing the need for longer levelers.
Today’s trend toward wider, lower, higher-capacity trailer has led to the need for longer leveler. Year ago, 6’ leveler lenghts were standard. Now, 8’ and 10’, lenghts are common. These levelers can mode safety and efficiently serve the newer trailers.
Low-profile tires. Trucks using low-profile tires are becoming increasingly common today. The old standard 24” wheel has been replaced by the 22.5” wheel. And tomorrow’s standard could be 19.5”. This trend means lower trailer bed heights – as much as 5” to 8” lower.
High capacity – or high cuve – trailers. New trailers are designed to carry more cargo and have 6” – 18” lower bed height than standard trailers.
Air-ride suspensions. More and more air-ride trailers are being used today. They improve driver comfort and help protect cargo. But unless specially equipped, the air must be released when the truck is parked at the dock to help prevent “trailer walk” and ensure safe loading and unloading. The release of air can lower the bed heights as much as 8”, meaning you’ll need a longer leveler to safety service these trailers.
Note: even if your facility is not handling low-profile or air-ride trailers now, these’s a strong chance that you will be handling these vehicles in the near future.
Steep slope can create numerous material handling problems
Forklift hang-ups can occur the leveler grade is too steep.
Short leveler can limit your capabilities. If your leveler is too short, a steep incline or decline can be created. In addition to being unsafe for the forklift driver, this can cause several material handling problems, including an inadequate amount of lip on the trailer bed, more wear and tear on forklift and leveler, slower operations, and equipment that can hang-up on the crown – that point where the leveler deck and lip come together.
Forklift grade limitations. Different types of material handling equipment have different grade capabilities. Electric pallet trucks have a 7% maximum grade capability. Electric forklift are limited to 10% grade and gas-powered forklifts can accommodate up to 15% grade. Longer levelers let you minimize the slope of ramp and increase your choice of forklift.
Note: leveler lip length is also s consideration when determining leveler length. Once standard 16” lips are now giving way to 18” and 20” lips on new levelers. A longer lip can be retrofitted to an existing installation to effectively increase the overall length a leveler
Selecting leveler width
Choose a leveler width that matches the specific needs of your loading dock. In the past, the most common leveler width was 6’. But with the increased demand of maximum capacity, today’s trailers average 8’6” wide, and are fully loaded to the end. That’s why a wider leveler is usually a better choice. Wider leveler provide better accessibility to ends loads and below-dock loads, while allowing more maneuvering room for forklift trucks. And wider levelers provide greater flexibility to meet future needs as your operation changes.
Three standard dock leveler widths are available – 6’0”, 6’6” and 7’0”. I most cases, the widest leveler gives you more flexibility for nominal extra cost.
A leveler that is too narrow can create interference for forklifts, especially below dock
Wider levelers offer greater access for below dock operations, with minimal pit wall interference
Choosing leveler capacity
Make sure that the leveler you select has the structural strength handle the gross weight, speed and frequency of-use of your material handling equipment. Choosing the right capacity will help you get more productive years from your dock leveler investment.
Evaluate these factors to help determine proper leveler capacity:
Frequency of use. Determine how many trucks will be serviced at that dock opening per day, and how many loads per trucks. This can greatly affect the life expectancy of your leveler.
Gross load weight. Combine the weight of your heaviest capacity lift truck, including attachments, plus the weight of the heaviest load to determine gross weight.
high speed, steep incline, high impact on leveler
Low speed, minimal incline, low impact on leveler
Forklift speed. How fast do your lift trucks usually travel? The faster they travel, the more punishment your levelers take.
Required life expectancy. How long do you plan to keep this leveler in operation? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? Higher capacity levelers have longer life expectancies.
from: Rite Hite – Choosing the right dock leveler
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