Being that nine times out of ten dry van trailers are standard dock height, it is easy to overlook docks that are lower or higher than usual.  As with anything trucking, complacency will easily get the best of you if you let it!  If there are no ramps present, it is usually safe to assume dock-height dry vans would not have to make any height adjustments prior to loading and unloading. What should you look for if you pull up and see a dock with a set of ramps though?

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Ramps are typically all the same, spread the width of the trailer axle and beveled on one side for the approach up them.  The main thing is to note their placement prior to pulling up onto them and ask questions if you aren’t sure.  One thing I always pay attention to is their distance from the dock wall.  For instance, in the pic above you will notice the ramps are very close to the dock wall, as where in the picture below they are placed a few feet away from the dock wall.  This is a telltale sign of where your axles should be on final approach up the ramps, to ensure proper height with the dock and rubber bumpers.  

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If you slide your tandems to the rear for more rear height on a ramp that doesn’t require slid tandems (usually a few feet from the dock wall), you may come in high and overshoot the dock bumpers all together, possibly hitting the dock door or wall. Likewise if you don’t slide your tandems on ramps designed for tandems slid to the rear (ramps against the dock wall), you could find yourself to low on approach and damage a piece of the trailer frame, hinge bracket, or hinge!  Proper dock height is easy to overlook or become comfortable with relying on assumption for, but you can save yourself unnecessary headaches by looking for the signs when you come up to a dock, especially one with a set of ramps. Take note of their location and take the necessary steps based on their location to adjust for proper loading height.  Be sure to notice other signs as well, like torn-off mudflaps, banged up concrete near the door and dented dock doors!

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Jimmy Nevarez

Jimmy Nevarez is the Owner/President of Angus Transportation, Inc., based in Chino, California.  Jimmy pulls a 53' dry van hauling general dry freight for his own small fleet, operating on its own authority throughout all of Southern California and Southern Nevada.

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