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Understanding Dock Levellers: What Does a Dock Leveller Do?

18/04/24 | News 2024

Dock levellers are a vital part of any modern warehouse or distribution centre, but how much do you know about them?  

To fully understand the function of dock levellers, its important to recognise the different types, their role in logistics, and their key safety features. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of dock levellers so you know what they are and how they can benefit your business. 

Stertil UK dock levellers

The Loading Bay Environment 

Dock levellers form part of the wider loading bay, a crucial hub for the movement of goods that acts as a link between transportation modes, such as trailers or containers, and warehouse or logistics facilities. 

Whilst the loading bay can include a variety of equipment such as vehicle restraints, wheels guides, traffic lights, industrial doors, and dock bumpers, it's the dock leveller that provides the vital platform for the loading and unloading of goods from transport vehicles.  

The dock leveller's role in the smooth handling of goods can make investing in the right leveller, a make-or-break decision for your business’s operations.  

What is a Dock Leveller? 

In simple terms, dock levellers bridge the difference in height and distance between a transport vehicle and warehouse floor. This enables forklifts and other manual handing equipment to safely and efficiently transition between the warehouse and vehicle bed, significantly speeding up loading and unloading.  

Dock levellers can be mounted to the dock face or installed in a constructional recess within the loading bay called the pit. This recess can either be a closed pit, in which the leveller will be installed on the concrete pit floor, or an open pit, in which a letterbox (tail lift opening) is integrated.  

Bridging Height Differences 

Safely bridging the gap between vehicles and warehouse floors means choosing the appropriate length of dock leveller.  

To do this, it's important to consider the height difference between the truck floor and platform. With the working range of a typical leveller being 300 mm above and below the platform height, a platform with a height of 1250 mm, for example, would be able to safely load and unload vehicles with a floor height of 950 to 1550 mm.  

If your dock leveller needs to operate more than 300 mm above or below platform level, then a longer a dock leveller would be required. 

What Manual Handling Equipment Will You Be Using? 

Another important consideration when selecting a dock leveller is the type of internal transport equipment being used. 

With forklifts and other manual handling equipment required to negotiate a slope during loading and unloading operations, the European standard EN1398 stipulates the maximum gradient for each type of internal transport equipment: 

  • Hand pallet truck: 3% 
  • Electric pallet truck: 5% 
  • Electric forklift truck: 10% 
  • Forklift truck powered by fuel engine: 15% 

You will require longer dock levellers if the leveller incline is above the maximum gradient of the internal transport equipment being used.  

Ensuring Safety 

By bridging the space between vehicles and warehouse floors, dock levellers help to eliminate hazardous gaps and uneven surfaces that can lead to accidents such as slips, trips, and falls.  

Additionally, the design of all quality dock levellers ensures that both the platform and its extending lip automatically adjust to allow for the rise and fall of goods as they are transferred between the vehicle deck and the loading dock. Most dock levellers also incorporate an emergency stop button to protect against malfunction. 

As a leading manufacturer of dock levellers, Stertil also incorporates advanced safety features into our products to provide you with further valuable health and safety benefits. 

  • Closed rear hinges that are specially constructed to allow the platform to twist 125 mm on both sides, preventing dangerous gaps between lip and floor. 
  • Decks manufactured from a single piece of high tensile steel for stronger and more durable performance. 
  • Extra support struts beneath the platform to ensure stability when heavily laden forklifts drive over a leveller in its resting position. 

Facilitating Efficiency 

Efficiency is essential in logistics where time is money, and the safety of your workers and goods is paramount.  

Dock levellers speed up loading and unloading with a smooth, even bridge between the warehouse floor and the trailer bed. This ensures that forklifts, pallet trucks, and workers can move goods in and out of trailers quickly and safely. The faster turnaround times increase the productivity of both warehouse workers and vehicles fleets, which spend less time at the dock.  

Furthermore, dock levellers reduce the risk of damage to goods due to improper handling with a stable platform that ensures trouble-free loading and unloading.  

Hydraulic vs. Mechanical and Air-Powered Systems 

Whilst there are many types of dock levellers on the market, including mechanical, air-powered, and vertical systems, the most popular, certainly with businesses handling a high volume of goods, are hydraulic dock levellers. 

Hydraulic systems are fully automatic with a push-button operating system that offers precise and smooth adjustment between various heights, making them easy to use and ideal for busy facilities.  

By contrast, mechanical systems are manually operated and require physical effort to position. Because they don’t require a power source, they are considered a more economical option. However, this is offset with increased costs incurred from a higher frequency of breakdowns and repairs. 

Similarly, air-powered systems typically require more maintenance relative to hydraulic levellers, with regular cleaning of the air bag. There is also the possible risk associated with debris puncturing the air bag.  

Upgrade Your Facility  

If you need to improve the safety and efficiency of your loading and unloading operations, investing in the right dock leveller is a great option.  

Stertil is the market leader in dock levellers, designing and manufacturing levellers for installation in the UK and across the world. Get in touch with our experienced team to discuss your requirements.  

Contact Stertil on 08707 700471, or email info@stertil.co.uk