Air-Powered Dock Levelers vs. Hydraulic Dock Levelers

Posted On: September 1, 2015 in Dock Levelers

Advancements in the loading dock industry have resulted in many dock leveler options for your facility. If you are seeking a powered dock leveler, one of the first decisions is whether to go with an air or hydraulic powered system. While both systems work well in dock leveler applications, it is worth taking a deeper look at both systems to see which one is best for your application.

Hydraulic dock levelers:

Until about 20 years ago, hydraulic powered levelers were the only alternative to manual levelers, also known as mechanical levelers in the industry. Hydraulic dock levelers use a simple hydraulic circuit, consisting of a pump, cylinder, and valves to raise and lower the leveler platform.

There are millions of hydraulic levelers in use throughout the globe. The large number of installed systems is a testament to the reliability of this technology, but today it is the third most popular design after mechanical and air-powered units. The prevalence of hydraulics is a benefit when considering system maintenance and repair. There are a large number of trained technicians with the skills to maintain hydraulic systems. Additionally, hydraulic dock levelers are best suited for very-heavy load applications.

Air-powered dock levelers:

Where hydraulic levelers use a hydraulic cylinder to position the leveler platform, air-powered levelers employ an airbag to raise and lower the leveler deck. The airbags in these levelers bear little resemblance to the automotive style airbags most people think of when they read the term airbags. Leveler airbags are constructed from a woven polypropylene fiber membrane, coated with a durable PVC shell. These industrial strength air bladders take advantage of their size to move heavy loads with low-pressure air (4 psi).

Air-powered levelers offer improved simplicity compared to hydraulic levelers. A high volume, low-pressure pump inflates the air bladder. Using air as the working fluid eliminates messy hydraulic fluids and avoids issues with leaky seals and connections. The simplicity in the air-powered design have made the Kelley aFX air-powered dock leveler the lowest maintenance dock leveler available.

ir powered dock levelers are a relative ‘newcomer’ to the dock leveler industry, with the first system designed and installed by The Kelley Company in 1995. Since then, industry leader Kelley has installed more than 135,000 air-powered levelers and received very positive feedback. McKinley Equipment has been an exclusive distributor for Kelley since the early 1950’s.

When it comes to powered dock levelers, both air and hydraulic systems are capable of providing years of trouble free operation. McKinley represents a full line of air and hydraulic powered levelers by Kelley, a division of 4Front Entrematic. To learn more about dock leveler options, contact your McKinley representative today.