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 EFFECTIVE LOADING BAY DESIGN IS ABOUT ATTENTION TO KEY CRITERIA….says Mike Bunn, MD of sara Loading Bay Specialists.

Designing, specifying and installing an optimised loading bay area does not have to be a painful process, provided adequate research is undertaken beforehand. Just talking to people with the right experience can make the difference between taking a potentially costly leap in the dark and making a confident, well-informed decision.

However, there are many key criteria to be observed in loading bay design; and many things that can go wrong. Choosing too small or too narrow a door, for example; or specifying too steep a slope on the approach to the dock; or plumping for the wrong size and capacity of dock leveller. As any one of these factors can undo an installation, it pays to get things right first time. Having to rectify things later can be very costly and highly disruptive to logistics operations.

Door Sizing
Probably because it is the most straightforward of the key considerations, door sizing is usually considered first in loading bay designs. After all, it will be evident, even to the uninitiated, that specifying a door that is too small or too low, will result in problems with delivery vehicles.

Today, the majority of HGVs are at least 2.4- metres wide; while refrigerated trailers are up to 2.6- metres wide – or 2.9 metres wide with their doors swung back. Trailer wheel guides, which help drivers direct vehicles safely and quickly onto loading bays, are set at 2.6- metres wide to the inside of the tube. Even so, drivers cannot be expected to get it right all the time; they are, after all, up to 17-metres away from the action, and relying on their mirrors for orientation. So the message has to be to allow plenty of room inside the doorway. 
                                                                                                             

Problems can also be encountered with smaller delivery vans (7.5T and 12T), especially types fitted with tail lifts, if the loading bay door is not wide enough. The tail lifts often incorporate protruding locking plates that extend as much as 250mm from the back of the vehicle. With insufficient door width, the locking plate can damage the doorjamb and external cladding.

The way to avoid this problem is to take a “future-thinking” approach. This takes into account all possible vehicles that will be using the loading bay, including the installer company’s own current and likely future fleets, and also contractors' and suppliers' vehicles.

Dock Approach Slope
As the loading bay design process relies on getting three key elements right, the benefits of arriving at an optimised size door can be easily undone if the dock approach is made too steep. There can be problems with rainwater ingress from the roofs of trailers, and possible damage to the building fabric as a result of trailers hitting the head of the door.

The optimum slope is 1:80 away from the dock. This negates the slope that the “5th wheel” puts on the trailer. However, many service yards are by no means perfect and compound slopes - where two opposing slopes create the required slope- are common. Often a slope away from the dock is formed to a drainage channel, and then a slope up to form a compound 1:80.

Steep slopes into the dock can cause real problems with wheeled loads tipping out of trailers when the doors are opened; as well as the aforementioned problem of rain running off the roofs of trailers into the building. It is also common to find damage to the head of the door because the top of the trailer arrives before the buffers have a chance to stop it. Packing out the dock bumpers can prevent damage to the building fabric, but often a longer lip is often needed, and sometimes the leveller has to be pulled forward as well.                  

The resultant costs can run into the hundreds of pounds for each bay modified in this way. However, these costs can be avoided by getting expert advice from the onset of the loading bay project.

Dock Leveller Sizing
Even with a well specified door and slope, getting the wrong size or capacity of dock leveller will instantly nullify any improvements. This is because of its effects on loading and unloading capabilities, and the possibility that the dock leveller may not be able to handle the varying sizes of delivery vehicles it is bound to encounter.

With dock levellers, size is everything. This applies both to the capacity and dimensions of the dock leveller. Too narrow a leveller, and loading and unloading of pallets in the rear of the trailer will be problematic. Too wide, and narrower vehicles cannot be unloaded.

The length of the leveller is also critical in terms of the gradient of the platform. EN 1398 requires that the maximum slope be designed to be 1:7 (about 12.5 percent), although, as a rule of thumb, 1:10 is quicker to calculate and errs on the safe side. It is important to calculate the platform gradient, excluding the lip of the leveller, as this is generally designed to be in a different plane.

As with the door and slope, once again, information regarding vehicles that will be using the dock is most important. The capacity of the dock leveller is rated depending upon the way a load is imposed on the platform. It is important that the intended supplier be asked what single axle load has been used to calculate the capacity, as this varies. The more robust dock levellers are designed using a single axle load of the rated capacity i.e. 6000kg rated leveller designed on a 6000kg single axle load.
                                                                                                      

Service and Support
Once installed, a loading bay should be regularly maintained to ensure optimum life and top performance. Here it is essential to ask questions such as: Does the supplier offer routine maintenance contracts, with his own service engineers? Does he offer a 24-hour service? Do engineers have electronic manuals for older products, and for those that are less frequently serviced? Are all of his engineers trained on all of his products?

About sara Loading Bay Specialists
sara Loading Bay Specialists Limited is a major force in five key market sectors within the UK: high speed doors, loading bay equipment, industrial doors, aluminium ramps and drawbridge levellers. sara is a total package supplier, combining excellence in product supply with the highest levels of pre and post sales design input and technical support. Our solutions are an important benefit to the end user, specifier, and main contractor.                                                   
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For editorial enquiries contact Brett Davies, DMA Europa Ltd, 2nd Floor, Snuff Mill Warehouse, Park Lane, Bewdley, Worcs. DY12 2EL. Tel: 01299 – 405454 Fax: 01299 403092 E-mail:
admin@dmaeuropa.com

For further information contact: Mike Bunn, sara Loading Bay Specialists Ltd, 4, Garnett Close, Greycaine Estate, Watford, Herts. WD24 7JX. Tel: 01923 208888 Email: info@saralbs.co.uk Web: www.saralbs.co.uk

 


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