Loading docks | Complete guide

Loading docks are a fundamental element for logistics centers, warehouses, and other industrial facilities.

Loading docks are a part of intralogistics that help move products effectively from a facility to their final destination or vice versa. This should be a loading dock owner’s top concern.

What is a loading dock?

We can define loading docks as a logistical area of great importance where the loading and unloading of products within warehouses or industries are taken place.

The fundamental aspect element that makes a loading dock stand out is the ramp, which makes it possible to bridge the gap between the transport vehicle, usually a truck, and the industrial facility’s floor level, achieving a perfect fit.

Types of loading and unloading docks

Although all loading docks have the same basic function, their uses vary depending on their environment.

Types of loading and unloading docks
Types of loading and unloading docks | BECOSAN®

From its construction to the type of loading merchandise, there are different types of loading docks that are better suited to certain environments than others.

Here we are going to explain some of them.

Sawtooth loading dock

A sawtooth-shaped dock is one of the most innovative when it comes to manoeuvring in tight outdoor spaces around the warehouse. They easily fit into tight or narrow spaces.

The industrial sector that is best suited to this type of loading dock is one of large-scale manufacturing and that has a vast storage size to accommodate its unusual size.

Flush dock

It is the most common type of loading dock for lifting or transporting large and heavy objects.

This type of loading dock allows the access zone to be flush against the rear end of the truck.

Shock-absorbing bumpers are used to prevent the walls from being damaged. The dock is parallel to the building, allowing materials to be easily loaded and supplies to be unloaded comfortably and directly.

These docks are generally used to save space, because they fit perfectly within the building or warehouse, making them ideal for small businesses.

What industries use this type of dock? Manufacturers and those with commercial items to deliver.

Open dock

Despite being unpopular and rare among loading dock types, open docks are still being used today.

It’s basically an open platform with little protection from the natural environment.

They don´t provide safe enclosures for merchandise, prone to damage and theft.

Loading and unloading docks
Loading and unloading docks | BECOSAN®

This is why they are being used less and less to transport items.

However, they have a great advantage which is the easy access to the load, which translates into greater efficiency when unloading and loading.

Enclosed dock

Another of the rarer types of docks. This is because they take up a lot of workspaces, preventing workers to access the supplies easily.

However, it has a very good advantage and that is that it helps protect merchandise from any structural or environmental damage.

Every type of loading dock has its advantages and disadvantages, but they can all be effective if we know where to install them and how to use them.

Planning a loading dock

In this section of the article, we will talk about the main elements that compose a loading dock and the requirements they must meet.

Elements compose a loading dock

Some are used in all types of loading docks, whilst others are optional since they can provide advantages and benefits in safety, work speed, etc. But, as a general rule, these are the most commonly used.

Mechanical ramps

The installation of mechanical ramps hardly requires any building work, so they are considered to be an economical and very quick solution to bridge the gap between the loading area and the truck.

They are viable in industrial buildings that don´t have electrical power since they don´t require any electricity, such as, for example, vegetable and fruit warehouses.

What is a loading dock
What is a loading dock | BECOSAN®

Loading dock shelters

They are used to protect from heat, wind, and cold. They guarantee energy saving and thermal insulation.

They create a union between the warehouse and the truck, so they are essential in industries with perishable products to maintain the cold chain.

Loading dock shelters
Loading dock shelters | BECOSAN®

Sectional doors

They are an ideal solution for air-conditioned warehouses because their insulation capacity guarantees energy saving.

They open by moving under the ceiling horizontally or vertically, therefore, their installation will always be possible, even if there is little space available.

Sectional doors used in loading docks are safe and practical for unloading goods. This is because they adapt to all types of environments, allowing a great optimization of space and great functionality.

Sectional doors in loading docks
Sectional doors in loading docks | BECOSAN®

Other components

If you want the loading dock’s cargo area to have greater durability and safety, it is advisable that as well as carrying out industrial maintenance, you incorporate other accessories that optimize its daily use: truck restraints, protective buffers, and bumpers, guide tubes, etc.

These elements have been appeared over time due to the need to guarantee safety in the loading process, as well as due to the different equipment and utensils used: pallet trucks, forklifts, trucks, etc.

With some of the aforementioned accessories, we can reduce damage and wear and tear of the constant use of a loading dock.

Requirements of a loading dock

Loading docks have certain legal requirements they must meet so that they can be installed in an industrial warehouse. We are going to tell you some of them.

Height requirements

Loading docks can be made in any size to adapt to the specific needs of the business.

Some docks are made with adjustable heights.

If the dock is going to be used primarily for loading and unloading trailers, then it will be built so that the deck height matches the trailers, which is usually between 44 and 48 inches tall.

In the case of refrigerated trailers, these tend to be higher, between 50 and 60 inches, so it all also depends on the type of trailer we use.

Requirements of a loading dock
Ideal Height for a Loading Dock | BECOSAN®

Ramp slope requirements

Although the ideal loading ramp inclination is 10 degrees (and also the most common), the truth is that it is very common for it to adapt to the space we have.

Weight requirements

Many of the loading ramps are used to endure the enormous weight of machinery such as forklifts or normal vehicles to unload the goods.

That is why the weight requirements vary depending on its use.

However, the minimum weight is usually between 7,000 and 9,000 kg, although it is always better to exceed it.

Risk factors of a loading dock

Loading docks always hide many dangers, but you have to be very careful because some of them can be deadly.

From large department stores to small businesses, any worker operating on a loading dock can be at risk of having an accident.

Companies must be aware of the dangers related to loading docks to tackle them as soon as possible by establishing security measures such as loading dock bumpers.

When looking for information regarding loading dock safety, it is difficult to find concise and clear information.

For this reason, we have decided to list the most common dangers and incidents that occur on loading docks, as well as recommendations on how to handle them.

However, we recommend that you take a look at the current security regulations and legislation in your region or country on this subject.

Slips, trips, and falls

It is a common risk in our day to day lives, but on a loading dock, there is additional danger due to the potentially greater height difference.

This danger can be easily improved with the use of bollards, industrial protectors, and the use of a non slip industrial flooring.

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Back injuries

Lifting and moving heavy loads can cause very painful back injuries.

This is mainly due to the fact that we adopt incorrect body postures to lift weights or we do not use tools effectively.

What risk factors exist on a Loading Dock?
What risk factors exist on a Loading Dock?

Broken and/or crushed bones

Caused by slips, falls, misused equipment, etc.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Trucks that don’t shut off their engines cause fatal poisoning to unsuspecting employees by inhaling carbon monoxide. This is more common in poorly ventilated warehouses.

Forklift incidents

Here we can include many and very varied such as a forklift to fall down the ramp and injuring pedestrians due to the driver’s distraction.

Safety requirements on loading docks
Safety requirements on loading docks | BECOSAN®


Trailer lights can reach high temperatures, which can even cause fires. It is not a frequent event but should be considered when establishing security measures.

The dangers and consequent injuries that occur on loading docks are very varied and depend on countless variables.

Safety regulations and laws hanging on the wall won´t prevent them, but engineering advancement combined with good training can make the difference.

Regulations in a loading dock
What regulations are there for a loading dock? | BECOSAN®

Safety legislation

  • 486/1997, of April 14, 1997: Minimum health and safety requirements applicable to the workspace.
  • 1215/1997, of July 18: Minimum health and safety requirements for the use of work equipment by employees.
  • Law 31/1995, of November 8, on the Prevention of Occupational Risks.
  • 39/1997, of January 17, approving the Regulation of Prevention Services (RSP).

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