Anyone above a certain age and with experience in the logistics service industry will probably remember the days when a trip to a loading bay was a tense experience. |
That was due to the fact that, unfortunately, vehicle beds and loading bays aren’t always at the same height. In fact, the difference can be significant.
In the past, this led to situations that were at best inefficient, and more commonly downright dangerous. A variety of solutions were used to mitigate this, including the use of steel plate ramps stacked between the vehicle and loading bay, long-reach forklifts being used to try and bridge the gap and differentials, and lots of manpower.
Many a logistics service had people seriously injured on the loading bay as a result of trying to apply ad-hoc solutions - but then, along came dock levellers.
What Are Dock Levellers?
As the name suggests, dock levellers are an electrically or electro-hydraulically driven mobile platform that can be elevated to an angle so as to bridge the gap between a loading bay and a vehicle. They’re typically easy to use and should remove the need to try and ‘cobble together’ dangerous ramshackle solutions when there’s a gap between the truck and the loading bay.
However, there still has to be a degree of common sense. There’s little point in bridging a gap if it’s done at the expense of a ludicrously steep, and therefore dangerous gradient between the two surfaces. There are European standards in place governing angles of elevation and the types of levellers available, so do take account of those regulations.
There are different types of dock levellers available to logistics service specialists.
Some are called ‘swing tip’ and work by elevating the core platform to the height of the vehicle’s bed, before a lip ‘swings out’ to create a bridge between the two. Skilled engineering ensures that the lip is fully capable of distributing and carrying the weights that cross it.
Another variation on the theme is the ‘telescopic lip’, which starts off with the platform being elevated until it is higher than the vehicle’s bed. Following this, a lip is telescopically extended and the entire platform is lowered into the vehicle’s bed then onto the dock - or vice-versa depending upon relative heights.
Different people will proclaim the benefits of each, but, once again, there may be practical limitations. For example, most devices of this type won’t be able to cope if the vehicle is of the ‘low-loader’ variety and the loading bay is a standard height. In such situations, a crane or a machine of that nature may be the only solution.
Making the Workplace Safer Whatever solution is adopted, any logistics service provider today must be aware of the imperatives of health and safety as well as legal requirements. The old days of leaving it up to individual loading bay supervisors to craft solutions for height mismatches are long gone. Dock levellers are an important part of making the workplace both safer and more efficient.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides a logistics service for matching delivery work with available vehicles. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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