Sometimes, the smallest and most easily overlooked pieces of loading dock equipment can make the biggest difference to your operations. This is absolutely true in the case of loading dock bumpers, which serve to protect against the consequences of trucks pulling up slightly misaligned with loading dock doors.
Loading dock bumpers may be hard to notice on a day-to-day basis. After all, when these assets are well chosen and correctly installed, they can seem to blend into the warehouse wall. When you lack the proper loading dock bumpers, however, the consequences can be swift and costly.
Letting your loading dock bumpers fall into disrepair due to inadequate maintenance, using equipment that isn’t suitable for your purposes and operations, not having bumpers in the first place — these scenarios can lead to an increased risk of avoidable accidents on the loading dock.
To ensure your facility is ideally prepared for loading and unloading, it’s important to ensure you don’t just have loading dock bumpers, but that these assets are:
- The right type for your needs
- Correctly installed by experts
- Maintained frequently and monitored carefully
There are several common types of loading dock bumpers available, including molded, laminate and steel face asset. Within these categories, there are multiple sizes and shapes you can choose from.
You can craft an effective loading dock environment by matching your loading dock bumpers with the dimensions of your facility doors, the models of trailer your deliveries come in, the nature of your shipments and more. Making this match is the No. 1 way to ensure these potentially overlooked assets meet your supply chain and employee safety awareness needs.
Why invest in loading dock bumpers?
The clearest illustration of why to invest in loading dock bumpers comes from what can happen when they are insufficient for the purpose or not present at all. A truck or trailer pulling up to a loading dock for loading or unloading can do significant damage to a building’s structure.
Without the right loading dock bumper — with the correct amount of projection from the wall and a material type that suits the intended purpose — a truck can strike the wall or even become caught on the incorrectly set up bumpers, compromising the structural integrity of the wall.
As with any kind of damaging incident on the loading dock, these trailer strikes can put the whole supply chain on hold, stopping loading and unloading operations from that door while emergency repairs take place. Such a collision can also be a safety risk for all personnel in the area.
Investing in the right loading dock bumpers means guarding against avoidable incidents such as those collisions, with the corresponding advantages to safety awareness and efficiency due to reduced downtime.
It should be noted that investing in loading dock bumpers doesn’t only mean purchasing and installing equipment. These assets should also be monitored and maintained over time to ensure they are still in good working order. It can be easy to discount this step because bumpers are such simple machines, with no moving parts. Considering the consequences when a vehicle strikes a building, however, bumpers must not be overlooked.
What types of loading dock bumpers are available?
Not all bumpers are equal in their form or function, and it’s important to:
- Determine whether your facility has suitable equipment for its needs
- If bumpers are inadequate or worn down, pick the correct replacements
The following are three of the most common loading dock bumper types, each of which might be the right match for your loading dock area, depending on your industry, facility layout, loading and unloading frequency and more variables.
Molded loading dock bumpers
In the past, loading dock bumpers were more standardized than they are today. At that time, the one-size-fits-all bumper type used by most facilities was a bolted-on molded loading dock bumper with a projection of four inches. These bumpers are 10 inches long, with a height of 14 inches. If you operate a facility that has been in use for a long time, it’s likely you have such assets among your loading dock equipment.
If your loading dock area still contains a large amount of well-maintained legacy equipment, molded bumpers may still be the right choice for your purposes, as other assets in use around loading dock door areas were designed to match these bumpers’ composition and dimensions. Aftermarket add-on products for these bumpers are common because they served as the industry standard for so long.
In cases where you are revamping and updating loading dock facilities, it’s likely you will not opt for these standardized molded bumpers. Recent developments in loading dock equipment have yielded new options made out of higher-quality materials.
Laminated loading dock bumpers
Laminated loading dock bumpers provide greater shock absorption than traditional molded bumpers due to their ticker pads. These pads are often made from materials such as recycled truck tires, providing both strength and flexibility. The flexible pads are held together by steel rods, with steel plates on each end.
Loading docks with pit levelers and high-traffic loading docks, in general, are frequent users of laminated dock bumpers. These assets’ construction is designed to provide long-lasting service in these high-activity areas when maintained carefully over time.
In some situations, the impact resistance of a laminated loading dock bumper may not be sufficient to protect the loading dock. In cases when heavy equipment is moving up and down the dock during loading, when there is a decline leading up to the dock or when yard jockey trucks are in use, facility operators may want to choose steel face dock bumpers instead.
Steel face loading dock bumpers
Steel face bumpers are similar in composition to laminated loading dock bumpers. The key difference is that instead of just having steel plates as bookends, these bumpers also have steel across the whole side that faces outward.
These steel bumpers can absorb the maximum amount of impact relative to the other common types. When trucks strike or rub against steel face bumpers, the layer of metal prevents them from doing damage to the laminated rubber buffer. In potentially high-impact situations involving heavy loads, steel face loading dock bumpers can deliver the longevity users are looking for.
How do you install loading dock bumpers for the correct fit?
Suitable loading dock bumpers aren’t just made of the right materials, they are also the right shape and size to meet a facility’s needs. The three variables to think about are the dimensions of the bumper, its projection from the wall and the orientation of the asset.
When facilities tended to standardize around 10-inch by 14-inch molded bumpers with four inches of projection, these calculations were not as important. However, as doors and loading dock areas in general become more specialized, larger bumpers or those with greater projection may be necessary.
Today, projection can reach up to 12 inches in some cases. The ideal projection for a graded slope leading to the loading dock is usually one inch of projection per degree of graduation.
Orientation means either setting up the bumper horizontally or vertically. When trailers tend to move up and down during the loading and unloading process, a vertical bumper may offer better protection than the traditional horizontal orientation.
It pays to work with facility experts when selecting and installing loading dock bumper equipment. Teaming up with MINER for a consultation is a way to ensure you have access to high-quality equipment from trusted manufacturers, and that the loading dock bumper configuration you select will match your needs.
How do you keep your loading dock bumpers in top condition?
After selecting and installing ideal loading dock bumpers, it’s important not to leave them alone. Ignoring any piece of equipment, even one as simple as a bumper, may lead to increased risk of avoidable failures and costly loading dock downtime.
The ideal maintenance plan for your entire selection of loading dock equipment begins with an advanced, digitally enabled surveying strategy. This means making frequent checks and noting the suitability, age and wear status of each asset. With this data, employees will be able to perform targeted maintenance to maximize the usable life of each asset and boost total cost of ownership while guarding against premature failures.
Proactive maintenance is the key to an efficient loading dock, with greater protection against downtime and better safety awareness among all personnel. Maintenance strategies that only include reactive emergency repairs do less to stop costly and potentially dangerous breakdowns. Working with MINER’s experts to set up a more active maintenance approach is therefore valuable.
Are you ready to optimize your loading dock bumpers?
The status of the equipment on your loading dock can determine the effectiveness of your loading and unloading operations and the supply chain as a whole. This even applies to simple assets such as loading dock bumpers.
To get ahead of potential problems, you can start with a safety assessment from MINER right away, determining the status of your present equipment,choosing the best fit for your needs and arranging the ideal maintenance strategy. To get started, request a quote today.