Loading Dock Planning and Design


When you put careful planning and design into your facility’s loading docks, you are ensuring that you can efficiently and safely handle current traffic and accommodate increased traffic as your facility grows. Below are some essential considerations for facility owners, managers, and designers:

Dock Location
Smaller facilities with less-frequent deliveries and shipments may be able to use a single loading dock for both functions. However, if your facility is bustling or if shipments often arrive at the same time deliveries must go out, then you should consider the loading dock arrangement that larger facilities must implement.

From a logistical standpoint, there is an optimal flow-of-traffic pattern for medium-to-large facilities handling incoming materials and outgoing products. Trucks that are being unloaded should be at loading docks situated at the front of your production/packaging/distribution operations (receiving docks), while trucks being loaded with finished products or goods should be at loading docks situated at the end of your production/packaging/distribution operations (shipping docks).

Generally, these two sets of loading docks are either on perpendicular sides of the facility or opposite sides of the facility. This design streamlines truck traffic based on function, and it optimizes forklift traffic inside the facility.

Having more than one loading dock in your shipping and receiving areas will also enable you to handle multiple trucks at the same time while decreasing waiting time on either side, which makes operations faster and more efficient.

On-Site Traffic Planning
It is important to plan how traffic will safely move into and out of the facility.

For optimal safety, truck and employee traffic should not intersect. Employees should have a separate access road, and parking lot with their own entrances and exits away from the loading dock areas and trucks should have their own designated access roads and entrances and exits.

Property gates leading to access roads into the facility should be at least 16 to 20 feet wide for one-way truck traffic. For two-way truck traffic, property gates should be at least 30 to 32 feet wide. If a pedestrian walkway is next to two-way truck traffic, then 38 feet is the minimum width that the property gates should be.

The standard configuration for truck access roads is in a Y-shape, with entering traffic coming in on one side of the Y and exiting traffic leaving on the other side of the Y. The turns into or out of the property should have a minimum of a 26-foot inside radius and 50-foot outside radius, which will give trucks a wide enough area to safely turn.

A truck access road should be at least 26 feet wide, so if you are allowing for two-way truck traffic, then the total minimum width of the access road should be 52 feet wide.

You should also designate a truck waiting area near the loading docks for those times when all the loading docks are full, and trucks need to wait until there is an open dock.

Around the facility itself, it is an excellent rule-of-thumb to make sure that truck drivers are always on the inside of turns around the building. This gives drivers the most control over their trucks and will minimize the possibility of accidents or damage to the facility itself.

Apron Space Design
Apron space is defined as the amount of space between a loading dock and its closest obstruction. In practical terms, apron space includes the space at the loading dock that a truck needs to use to park and to get in and out of the loading dock area. This is critical when you design your loading docks because you need to ensure that each truck has enough room to get in and out without hitting other vehicles. A minimum center distance of 12 feet between loading docks is recommended.

Load Dock Configuration
You have two types of dock configurations to choose from: open dock or inside/outside dock. No matter which configuration you decide on, you must take into account the following:

  • Space availability
  • Safety
  • Security
  • Traffic control
  • Climate
  • Worker comfort
Loading Dock Design
There are three standard dock designs: flush docks, enclosed docks, and depressed docks. Good loading dock design is driven by considering and planning for these factors:

• What kinds of trucks will use the loading docks (truck length, width, height, and height of bed)?
• How many trucks will use the loading docks?
• What do the dimensions of the loading docks and doors need to be?
• What is the flow of work inside the facility?
• What should the dock height be (dependent on facility layout and dimensions)?
• How wide should the loading bay be (dependent on facility layout and dimensions)?

Selecting a Dock Leveler
Dock levelers are used to close the gap between the truck and the dock so that loading and unloading by forklifts can be done safely. The two most commonly-used type of dock levelers are recessed and edge-of-dock.

Purchase and Placement of Bumpers
Bumpers keep the facility from being damaged when trucks back up to the dock. They also act to minimize the up-and-down motion of trucks during loading and unloading.

Purchasing Trailer Restraints
Trailer restraints are necessary to keep trucks still during the loading and unloading process. This a safety feature that must be included in your dock planning and design.

Communication Lights Placement
Another safety feature that must go into your dock planning and design are communication lights. These enable truck drivers and loading dock workers to see what is going on with the trucks at all times.

Lip Barrier Installation
Lip barriers are another part of loading dock safety. They keep forklifts from running off the docks when dock levelers are stored.

Sealing Systems Planning
Sealing systems offer many advantages. They can help contain energy costs, keep ice and snow out of loading areas, and thwart entries that are not authorized and theft of products.

Dock Lights Placement
Docks lights are a safety feature that illuminates the inside of truck trailers, making them less hazard for forklift operators to load and unload the trailers.

Purchase Aftermarket Dock Parts from PartsBrite.com
PartsBrite.com provides top-of-the-line aftermarket loading dock parts for facilities across the United States. If you are building a facility or upgrading an existing space, we can provide all of the loading dock parts you need. Our sales office is located in southern California, but we have distribution warehouses in both Wisconsin and California that enable us to ship dock parts throughout the United States. Contact us at 1-855-PARTSBRITE

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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