Loading docks are an important part of transporting goods from place to place by truck. Truck drivers have to deal with loading docks not being the right height for their trucks, which can be quite a hassle. What is the standard height of loading docks, and how does it compare to the heights of trailer beds?
The standard loading dock height is 48 inches to 52 inches. Trailer bed heights typically range from 30 inches to 62 inches. Loading dock levelers are used to even out the loading dock and the trailer bed when they are not already level.
There are some important things to note about the standard loading dock height and how it compares to most trailer beds. It’s also important to know what to do if a loading dock is too high or too low for a truck.
Standard Loading Dock Height Vs. Standard Trailer Bed Height
Ideally, every loading dock would be built to the same height, and every truck would have a trailer bed with the same height. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, so loading docks and trailer beds have different heights. However, truck drivers can generally count on loading docks to be within a range of heights.
The standard height of loading docks is 48 inches (122 cm) to 52 inches (132 cm), though regular loading docks may reach heights of 55 inches (140 cm). There are also loading docks designed for specific and unique trailers, and those loading docks may be unusually high or low to accommodate them.
Someone designing a loading dock may know the trailer bed heights of the different trucks that will be using the loading dock and be able to use that information to choose the most convenient dock height for those trucks. Companies that own both the loading dock and the trucks that use it can ensure that the heights are ideal for transporting their cargo.
Companies that use specialized trucks or trailers often need control over how the loading docks they used are designed because normal loading docks don’t fit their needs and make loading or unloading difficult or even impossible.
However, not all truck drivers are lucky enough to have a loading dock specifically built for their truck; this is why it is important to keep in mind these standard ranges of loading dock heights to know if a truck will be higher or lower than most loading docks.
While there is a relatively small range of standard loading dock heights, the range of heights of trailer beds is much wider. The height of trailer beds generally ranges from 30 inches (76 cm) to 62 inches (157 cm). This means a truck bed may end up 22 inches (56 cm) below the loading dock or 14 inches (36 cm) above it.
Trucks built more recently may have different trailer bed heights than older trucks. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to rebuild a loading dock to accommodate a recent trend in trailer bed heights. This can result in a pretty big and inconvenient gap.
What Do I Do if the Dock is Too High or Too Low?
Since loading dock heights are inconsistent, trailer bed heights are even less consistent, and the gap between the two can be almost 2 feet. It is important that there be ways to load or unload the truck when the dock is too high or too low.
At best, the job of unloading or loading a truck can be made more difficult and time-consuming by a drastic height difference. At worst, the people working on loading or unloading the truck may get hurt, and the cargo may be damaged.
Luckily, loading docks come prepared for trucks that need to load or unload that are not the correct height. Most loading docks come with a loading dock leveler, a device or system to level out the often drastic distance between the loading dock and the trailer bed.
Loading dock levelers essentially create a ramp between the loading dock and the trailer bed so that people can walk up and down it, or boxes can be slid along it easily. They can go downward toward a trailer bed that is too low or upward toward one that is too high. There are a few different systems of loading dock levelers, but each has essentially the same function and solves the same problem.
A problem that can be seen with loading dock levelers is that a truck may unexpectedly pull away from the dock, which means that the leveler will fall and potentially damage the truck or dock as it falls or harm people or cargo on top of it that will fall as well. It can be very dangerous and cost a lot of money if a loading dock leveler falls.
Loading dock levelers are required to come with safety measures so that safety hazards or a falling loading dock leveler can be avoided. Free fall protection is a safety standard in all loading dock levelers. Mechanical loading dock levelers, the most common type of loading dock leveler, come with retractable legs that can catch the loading dock leveler should the truck pull away so that the leveler and anything on top of it do not free-fall down.
Hydraulic, air-powered, and edge-of-dock levelers, the other three types of loading dock levelers, are all built into the dock itself and do not attach to the truck, so they do not have a risk of falling if the truck pulls away. They are more expensive than mechanical loading dock levelers, so they are not as common in loading docks.
Ultimately, there are solutions to a difference in dock height, but it is good for trucks to have trailer beds that are close to the dock height so that using a loading dock leveler is easier and the job of unloading and loading the truck is not made more difficult.