Finding The Right Leveler For The Job

Vertical dock levelers offer many advantages.

"One of our customers--a major producer of poultry products--has a particular marinated chicken product which is so temperature sensitive that if the product rises a few degrees above the optimal temperature it spoils," says Carroll. "If you have a situation where a driver stops short to open his doors and it takes him two to three tries to get the truck perfectly lined up with the dock, the first few rows of that product could already be ruined."

In addition, the use of vertical dock levelers also maintains a tighter seal against rodent and insect infestation.

"They really do make for a much cleaner workplace," says Gordon Food's Mortenson.

Demanding Applications

Anderson-Dubois, Carnegie, PA, is the exclusive distributor for McDonalds in the tristate PA area, running from as far north as Erie, PA all the way through Ohio. The company ships 46 million cases of McDonald's products out of its facility every year and sees heavy duty traffic in and out of its dock doors.

"Because of the high traffic and the fact that we have very few dock doors for the amount of business that we do, we had an absolute need for heavy duty dock levelers," says Mark Latsko, distribution process manager for the company. "That's why we ended-up going with heavy duty electric and hydraulic levelers. The others didn't have the capacity that we needed.

One issue the company dealt with was receiving trailers of different size lengths, which meant it needed fairly long ramps. In addition, Anderson-Dubois has to use double pallet jacks in the loading and unloading process due to the amount of traffic they get. The ramps needed to be able to handle the added weight.

"Cross docking is becoming more complicated and has to be looked at more carefully as trailers become larger to accommodate bigger payloads and businesses operate three shifts due to demanding distribution requirements," notes Blue Giant's Greco. He says companies today need to give consideration to specifying heavier capacity dock levelers that will withstand the dynamic forces applied to it during load transitions.

"In addition, longer dock levelers can maintain the minimally required operating angles. These help prolong the life of the dock levelers, but also provide safer operating slopes for the forklifts to operate under," says Greco.

He suggests companies choose dock levelers that are designed with I-beam deck support, which provides the best structural support for demanding applications.

"From a safety and a reliability standpoint, the longer, heavy duty hydraulic and electric dock levelers that we're using here are of such dependability that they are becoming the mainstay throughout the McDonalds supply chain," says Latsko.

A Rusty Situation

International Oceanic Enterprises is a wholesale seafood company located in Bayou La Batre, AL, which specializes in domestic shrimp. The company currently uses air dock levelers on its dock as a means of bridging the gap between the dock and delivery trucks. Prior to this, International was using truck actuated dock levelers.

"One bad thing about the truck actuated levelers is that you have to put a sign out front that says 'do not back up to the dock unless you speak to someone inside,' otherwise he could back up, activate it and ruin the leveler and damage the door," notes Dominic LaDolcetta, sales manger for International. "It's too much liability."

Another problem International had with its previous dock levelers was the salt brine on its frozen products.

"The dock levelers we had before had more mechanisms underneath like cams and because they were truck actuated levelers, the paint was being scraped off them as the trucks were pushing the heavy I-beams with the cams--it's difficult to get any kind of paint to stay on them."

The salt water run-off from the shrimp combined with the lack of paint on the levelers to cause a rust problem for the company.

Switching to the air actuated levelers eliminated this problem for International because there are fewer moving steel parts underneath the plates.

"Air dock levelers are a good intermediate decision," says Joe Manone, vice president of marketing for Rite Hite Corp., Milwaukee, a manufacturer of loading dock safety systems and industrial door solutions. "They're better than the mechanical levelers from a long term cost standpoint and safer."

One of the reasons is that the air actuated levelers that International is using can be activated by workers from the inside, as opposed to being activated by the truck itself, which is inherently safer.

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