Hydraulic Dock Levelers vs. Mechanical Dock Levelers

The widespread adoption of loading dock levelers has helped expedite loading and unloading and have made this essential part of the transport process much safer for facilities of all sizes in all industries. A loading dock leveler is essentially a bridge that creates a level surface between trucks and the facility. This makes moving products or materials in and out of a facility safer and faster, and it minimizes the possibility of damaging those items in the process.

There are many different kinds of dock levelers on the market and choosing the correct one for your facility requires some planning. With new types of truck designs, a myriad of varieties of goods and products, and attention to both safety and speed of transport, many factors go into the decision-making process.

However, one of the things that can help streamline this selection process is to get a top-down view of the two most common kinds of dock levelers: hydraulic dock levelers and mechanical dock levelers.

Mechanical Dock Levelers

Mechanical dock levelers have a spring system that requires manual activation by a loading dock worker who pulls a chain that allows the platform of the leveler to rise and its lip to extend onto the trailer bed of a truck. The worker then lowers the leveler, using body weight, by walking on the leveler until it is on the trailer bed. In cases where the trailer bed is lower than the dock, the loading dock worker will pull the second chain to pull back the support legs so that the leveler can go below the dock.

The are many benefits of mechanical dock levelers. Mechanical dock levelers are an economical loading dock leveler solution. They are easy to operate, and they consume no power. Mechanical dock levelers are an excellent choice for smaller facilities without heavy loading dock traffic.

The disadvantages of mechanical dock levelers are that they increase the potential for repetitive-use injuries to loading dock personnel and they are inefficient in facilities where loading dock traffic is high.

Additionally, because this is a mechanical system composed of parts like hold-downs, lip-latches, and springs that will need periodic repair or replacement, the maintenance costs in terms of parts and labor can be expensive over the long haul.

Hydraulic Dock Levelers

Hydraulic dock levelers are motorized and can be activated, positioned, and stored with a push-button control system, and they require no manual intervention by loading dock workers. Hydraulic dock levelers generally can be positioned with the range of 12 inches above or below the loading dock.

Hydraulic dock levelers offer many benefits as loading dock solution. They are easy to use, and they will last a long time. For high traffic loading docks, a hydraulic dock leveler is very efficient and ensures that trucks get in and out quickly. Additionally, hydraulic dock levelers remove the risk of repetitive use injuries for loading dock workers because there is no manual work involved in operating the leveler.

Because of the positioning range of hydraulic dock levelers, they can quickly and easily be used with many different sizes of trucks, making them an excellent choice for facilities where truck sizes vary because of the types of products being received in to and/or sent out of the facility.

Maintenance costs on hydraulic dock levelers are generally low over time since there are not a lot of separate moving parts get used every time you use the leveler.

The disadvantages of hydraulic dock levelers are that, unlike mechanical dock levelers, they consume power and they cost significantly more to purchase and install.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Dock Leveler

Both levelers offer the fundamental solution of ensuring that the space between trucks and the loading dock are even. However, the needs of the facility will determine whether a mechanical dock leveler or a hydraulic dock leveler is the best solution.

So, the choice between a mechanical dock leveler and a hydraulic dock leveler is determined by several factors that will vary from facility to facility.

One factor is how many active loading docks the facility has. For a facility with one or two active loading docks, a mechanical dock leveler may be the best solution, while for a facility with four or more active loading docks, a hydraulic dock leveler is a preferred solution.

A second factor to consider is the level of shipping and receiving activity at the facility. For facilities that receive and ship products one or two times a day, a mechanical dock leveler may be a good option. However, a hydraulic dock leveler would be the best choices for facilities with moderate to high loading dock traffic.

A third factor to take into consideration is the sizes of trucks being loaded and unloaded. Mechanical dock levelers require extra work and time to accommodate above-dock and below-dock trucks while hydraulic dock levelers can be quickly adjusted for both below-dock and above-dock truck beds.

However, the most significant factor is, of course, budget considerations. You can buy mechanical dock levelers for an upfront cost that can be up to 30% lower than the upfront cost of a hydraulic dock leveler. However, when you consider the maintenance costs of both a mechanical dock leveler and a hydraulic dock leveler over time, the total cost of ownership of both levelers ends up being about the same.

Call Us Today

PartsBrite.com specializes in providing top-quality aftermarket loading dock parts. For companies with loading docks, we offer loading docks parts that are designed to fit your specific needs. Although our sales office is located in southern California, we have distribution warehouses in both California and Wisconsin so that we can provide parts coast-to-coast to companies across the United States. Contact us at Info@PartsBrite.com or 1-855-PARTSBRITE (1-855-727-8727) for assistance.

Paul Hildebrandt
Owner, Parts Brite

My background is in Electrical and Software Engineering, but since I started PartsBrite.com in 2016, I've focused on everything related to docks.   
My team and I are here to help those looking to repair or replace their dock levelers, bumpers, door, and door lights.

1-855-PartsBrite  |   partsbrite.com  |   paul@partsbrite.com

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