Considerations when Choosing a Dock Leveler

Posted On: August 25, 2015 in Dock Levelers

At first glance, selecting a dock leveler seems like an easy task. However, a little investigation reveals the many factors you need to consider when spec’ing a leveler your facility. With so many different levelers to choose from, where do you begin? At McKinley, we hope this article will help you with your leveler selection.

Define your Needs

You need to know what you want the leveler to do. What is the maximum load you expect the leveler to handle? Make sure you include both the weight of lift truck and cargo when determining the load. What range of trailer deck heights do you need to accommodate? How frequently will you use the ramp?

Consider your operating environment: certain industries have specific wash-down requirements or unique pest/dust control needs. In refrigerated warehouse applications or facilities located in cold climates, insulation requirements will dictate the style of leveler.

When you considering your needs, look beyond the current operation and anticipate future needs. Selecting a dock ramp to meet your future needs may cost a little more today, but it avoids the costs of having to replace an obsolete ramp in the future.

Narrow the Field

The anticipated range of trailer heights and the cargo loads you need to accommodate will help narrow your selection. If you expect light ramp loads ( < 20,000 lbs.) and little variation in trailer heights (within a 3” range above or below dock height), edge of dock levelers (EOD) can be a good, entry-level choice. They only accommodate a small range of trailer heights; however, they do not require a dock pit, which greatly simplifies installation. The simple installation and compact design make edge of dock levelers an economical option for light-duty dock applications. The downside is an EOD can put undue ergonomic strain on your workers.

If you load/unload from a variety of trucks and trailers, or handle heavy cargo, you will appreciate the extra functionality of a pit leveler. Pit levelers require concrete modification to the loading dock to accommodate the leveler, but the recessed pit and ramp leveling mechanism provide easy alignment with a range of trailer heights. Leveler ramps are available in extended lengths (up to 10’) to reduce the angle between the ramp and the trailer. The flatter ramp angle reduces leveler wear and improves flow in and out of the trailer. Another huge upside is pit dock levelers are designed with standard capacity ratings of 50,000 lbs. and higher.

Identify the required options

Both pit and edge of dock levelers are available with a variety of options. Once you settle on the basic leveler style, evaluate the cost/benefits of the individual options.

Manual or Powered Leveler?

For many low-traffic docks, manual levelers are well suited to the task. They require no electrical connection and the simple operating principles will provide years of trouble-free operation. However, these mechanical units will have much higher maintenance costs in the long run. For higher volume docks, the extra cost of a powered leveler are easily justified when you consider the benefits to dock productivity,worker safety and long run maintenance costs.

Signalling and Controls?

Most leveler systems, especially when accompanied by truck restraints, are available with LED signaling lights and alarms to communicate the status of the leveler to the truck driver and warehouse employees. This can help prevent accidents caused by premature trailer departure. Advanced options include interlocking the leveler with other dock systems to minimize the risk of human error during the loading/unloading


When a bay door is open, falls from the loading dock are a real hazard. Some levelers incorporate guarding, also known as a safety lip, that blocks the opening until the leveler is deployed. These systems are especially effective at preventing vehicles from accidently rolling off the dock platform.

Special Circumstances:

Certain industries have specific needs. In most cases, a leveler exists to satisfy those needs.
For facilities subject to strict hygiene protocols, edge of dock levelers or vertical mounted levelers promote easy cleaning within the warehouse.

In industries where insulation is a key consideration (refrigerated facilities or warehouses in cold climates) vertical levelers, or supplemental perimeter sealing options, will minimize air infiltration when loading/unloading a trailer.

At McKinley, we supply a full line of dock levelers. Our sales team has the knowledge and vast experience to help you with equipment selection and are available to assist you with your next leveler purchase.