What is a Loading Dock Leveler?

What is a Loading Dock Leveler?

If you are considering purchasing a loading dock leveler for your facility, it is essential first to consider its purpose. Because loading docks are the connection point between the facility and transport vehicles (which sit at unequal heights), loading dock levelers bridge the gap and create a passable section between the truck and the warehouse or dock floor. Loading dock levelers are usually mounted to the dock face or will be recessed into a pit at the dock door.

Choosing the right loading dock leveler is critical to maintaining the proper transfer of materials in and out of your facility. Selecting the correct loading dock leveler will result in less damage to products and equipment, lower maintenance costs, and fewer injuries to employees.


What are the types of loading dock levelers?

There are five main types of loading dock levelers:

Mechanical Dock Levelers

The least expensive of load dock levelers upon initial purchase, mechanical dock levelers often require the most service and maintenance over the years, making them more expensive long-term. They are powered by mechanical spring systems and usually biased upwards, meaning that the spring naturally wants to lift. A restraining device prevents that natural upward motion when it needs to lower. This spring system is run without any electrical power, making it dependent on parts that may need constant upkeep and replacing.

Hydraulic Dock Levelers

One of the most versatile of loading dock levelers, hydraulic dock levelers utilize a hydraulic activation system to raise and lower the deck. One hydraulic cylinder usually takes care of this movement while another cylinder powers the lip operation, running on anything from 110 single-phase volts to 575 three-phase volts. Though initially more expensive, hydraulic dock levelers are more versatile and cheaper to maintain in the long run than mechanical or air dock levelers.

Air Powered Levelers

Air powered dock levelers use an environmentally-friendly high volume, low-pressure air system to raise and lower the platform. With the push of a button, you can raise the leveler and extend the lip. The lip latch mechanism is fully-yieldable, which protects against damage if it is impacted by a trailer while backing-in. The simplicity of the design requires minimal maintenance and allows for easy cleaning of the frame and pit floor.

Edge-of-Dock Levelers

These levelers are often used when a facility wants to upgrade from a portable dock board to equipment that assists with lifting loads but is not as expensive as other dock levelers. Edge-of-dock levelers are simple machines that are best used with a limited operating range. They can be operated by mechanical, pneumatic, or hydraulic systems, and are often mounted on the exterior wall of a facility (but may also be pit mounted).

Vertical Storage Levelers

These levelers are most advantageous for facilities that need strict environmental control, such as food service companies. As their name implies, vertical storage levelers’ main feature is the way they can be stored vertically when not in use. Vertical storage allows a building’s doors to be closed on concrete instead of across a leveler, as with a pit leveler. Vertical levelers are usually hydraulically activated. 

What are the aspects of a loading dock leveler?

Loading dock levelers are intricate pieces of equipment that perform a variety of functions. To best understand how they work, it is helpful to familiarize yourself with all of the components involved, including the following: 

  • Activation system: This describes the way the dock leveler is powered. Common activation systems include hydraulic, pneumatic, and mechanical.
  • Dock level: This refers to the vertical degree that the dock meets the building’s flooring.
  • Bumpers: To prevent transport vehicles from damaging the facility, rubber bumpers are placed to protect points of contact between dock levelers and buildings.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW): This is the combined weight of both the load and the equipment moving the load across the dock.
  • Deck: This is the primary apparatus of the dock level and encompasses the part that vehicles drive over. Many decks have specialized surfaces to prevent sliding. At the farthest end of the deck, away from the vehicle, is the pivoting point that enables it to move, and at the closest end is a hinged lip that keeps it attached.
  • Capacity: The maximum load that a dock leveler can safely handle is called its capacity. The manufacturer of a dock leveler calculates the capacity not only by how much weight it can hold but also how well it can handle the complexities that it factors into the equation. These include the speed of a forklift moving across the dock, the dock’s degree of angle, the lifetime of the dock, the use of three versus four-wheel lift trucks, and the number of times vehicles are moved across the dock. Taking these factors into consideration gives a much more accurate and much safer estimate of the dock leveler’s capacity.
  • Dock Pit: This is the cavity in the building’s floor that fits a pit dock leveler. Most dock pits are reinforced with steel and concrete. 
  • Attachments: These include the various components that can be added to forklifts when transporting loads from the facility to the transport vehicle. Some of the most common attachments include clamps, slip sheet forks, and carpet poles.
  • Lips: These are usually made with a plate similar in the tread to the deck and are designed to pivot from a stored vertical position to a working position on the floor.
  • Load: This is the weight of one pallet on a transport vehicle.
  • Shims: These are the steel plates that are sometimes welded under the frame structure to assist in leveling pit-mounted dock levelers.
  • Transport Vehicle: The vehicle that carries goods from a facility for distribution can include a truck, semi-truck, railcar, or trailer.
  • Working Range: This refers to the recommended range of vertical movement that the dock should stay within for loading and unloading.

If you are unsure of which type of loading dock leveler is right for your facility, an authorized parts dealer can work with you to help you select a safe, durable, and easy-to-operate leveler for your freight-handling needs.

Why Choose Parts Brite? 

Parts Brite proudly provides the highest-quality aftermarket loading dock parts to companies across the United States. We ship from warehouses in California and Wisconsin, and our sales headquarters is located in Southern California. Contact us today at info@partsbrite.com or 1-855-PARTSBRITE (1-855-727-8727).

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