Sometimes, the smallest pieces of loading dock equipment can make the biggest difference to your operation.

On a day-to-day basis, you might not even notice your dock bumpers. They practically blend into the side of your building. But if they fall into disrepair or fall off altogether, your facility is at risk of damage each and every time a trailer backs into your loading dock. Once a small crack or crevice forms on the exterior of the building, it doesn’t take much for it to grow – in size and in cost to repair.

You may already know the importance of dock bumpers, but do you know which kind you need? There are several basic types of industrial bumpers, including molded, laminate and steel face, all of which come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The kind you need depends on the type of work you do, the models of trailers you work with and more.

Molded dock bumpers

In the past, there was a standard one-size-fits-all dock bumper that most facilities used: bolted-on molded bumpers with a 4-inch projection. They were typically 10 inches long and 14 inches tall. These are still useful for some facilities, especially those with legacy equipment that’s still working effectively.

Molded bumpers are most popular for aftermarket add-ons. Although they work well for some applications, innovations in the industry have resulted in higher quality dock bumpers that protect against more types of damage from a wide range of vehicles.

Laminated dock bumpers

Laminated dock bumpers offer more shock absorption through thicker pads. They’re often made from recycled truck tires cut to size and held together with steel rods and bookended with steel plates. They’re popular in loading docks with pit levelers and provide long-lasting protection for high-traffic dock operations.

Though laminated loading bay rubber buffers offer excellent protection, they are still susceptible to damage in some high-intensity situations. Laminated bumpers aren’t ideal for operations that work with heavier equipment that rides up and down on the dock as it’s loaded. The same goes for businesses using yard jockey trucks or declining loading dock approaches. To accommodate these levels of impact, steel face bumpers may be best.

Steel face dock bumpers

As the name implies, steel face bumpers have an outer layer of steel protection. These buffers are typically made of laminated dock bumpers with the thick steel plate mounted to the outward-facing side.

The added layer of protection keeps the bumpers in good shape while also preventing trailer damage to the building. Because of the steel face, trailers can rub against the bumpers without pulling and tearing on the rubber buffer, and impact to the building is minimized.

Finding the right fit

In addition to the style of bumper, facility managers also have options to determine the right size, projection and orientation of the bumper.

In the past, most bumpers were 10 by 14 inches with a 4-inch projection, but today’s facilities may need larger bumpers or models with deeper projections that offer greater protection. Some bumpers can be made with projections as far as 12 inches, which offers much more effective protection with heavy equipment or yard jockey trucks.

Bumpers can also be installed vertically or horizontally. For facilities where trailers are expected to jostle up and down during the loading process, it may make sense to have vertical bumpers.

Safety assessments help determine the right loading dock bumpers

There is no single best loading dock bumper that offers the right projection for all types of facilities. Just because a laminated bumper with a 6-inch projection works for one of your facilities doesn’t mean it’ll work for another that handles different types of loads. However, choosing the right bumper is important to keeping your facility protected against harm.

Miner offers free safety assessments to help facility managers determine the right bumper for their needs. And because we work with knowledgeable technicians all across the country, we have experts ready to provide a free safety assessment for all of your locations. To begin, request a quote today.