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Continuing the series of articles from The Association of Loading and Elevating Equipment Manufacturers (ALEM),Andrew Georgiou, general manager, Loading Bay Division, Stertil UK Limited, offers a few tips to follow when buying dock levellers and dock shelters.
ALEM member company salesmen will ask a lot of questions about your application to ensure that they only sell you the right products. They are seeing distribution companies with problems and applications just like yours every day of the week and have the benefit of experience. Look at the products: Make sure that you ask the technical salesman to show you the products before you buy. Encourage the technical salesman to set up a couple of site visits where you can talk to satisfied customers. Talk to an established supplier: ALEM member companies are manufacturing several thousand dock levellers and dock shelters a year so they have economies of scale while turning out good quality products complying with the latest European regulations regarding safety and performance.
The road to the correct selection of loading bay contains pitfalls – these can be avoided by relying on the knowledge and experience of a qualified ALEM member company.
Ensure that the supplier is a qualified installer: Because of the seasonal and cyclical nature of the retail market, most suppliers use sub- contract installers. Nothing wrong with that, providing that they are fully trained in the installation of your supplier’s products and follow a quality programme to ensure a system of vendor assessment covering quality of training, product knowledge and compliance with Health and Safety requirements.
Look after your loading bay: Trust your ALEM supplier to ensure your loading bay provides effective and reliable performance throughout a long working life. Many non-ALEM suppliers will not offer routine maintenance contracts, trained engineers, 24-hour callouts or knowledge of older products.
What can go wrong?: Many things can go wrong – here are a few examples:
- Too small a door or too low a door;
- Too steep a slope on the approach to the dock;
- Wrong size of dock leveller;
- Wrong capacity of dock leveller.
Door size: The correct door will allow for easy access of transport equipment and product into the vehicle during the loading and unloading operation, and will reduce building damage! Most HGVs are a minimum of 2400mm wide, with refrigerated trailers up to 2600mm wide. With barn doors swung back, a fridge trailer can be as much as 2900mm wide. Smaller delivery vans especially can be fitted with tail lifts incorporating extra large protruding locking plates that extend as much as 250mm from the back of the vehicle. If the door is not wide enough, the locking plate can (and regularly does) cause real damage to the doorjamb and external cladding. It is becoming commonplace to see a wide range of vehicles at the dock, with double deck trailers becoming increasingly popular. It therefore pays to discuss your current fleet and The road to the correct selection of loading bay contains pitfalls – these can be avoided by relying on the knowledge and experience of a qualified ALEM member company. contractor’s/suppliers vehicles and your likely future fleet with the loading bay technical salesman.
Yard slopes: The optimum slope is 1:80 away from the dock – this negates the slope that the ‘5th wheel’ puts on the trailer. Steep slopes into the dock cause real problems with rain running of the roofs of trailers into the building as well as wheeled loads tipping out of trailers when the doors are opened. It is also common to find damage to the head of the door because the top of the trailer arrives before the buffers have had the chance to stop it. (See also door size problems).
Dock leveller sizing: This applies to both the capacity and the dimensions of the dock leveller. Too narrow - and loading and unloading of the first two pallets in the rear of the trailer will be problematic, especially without a fork truck. Too wide – and narrower vehicles cannot be unloaded. Once again, information about vehicles intending to use the dock is most important. Capacity of the dock leveller is rated on the way a load is imposed on the platform. Ask your intended supplier what single axle load has been used to calculate the capacity. The more robust dock levellers are designed using a single axle load of the rated capacity i.e. 6000kg rated leveller designed on 6000kg single axle load. So, as you can see, the road to the correct selection of a loading bay contains pitfalls – these can be avoided by relying on the knowledge and experience of a qualified ALEM member company.