Way back in the stone ages when I worked with my father most semi trailers were 40 feet long and 8 feet wide. Many of them were only 12'6” high in order to move easier through Chicago. Now, most of the trailers are 53' long, 8' 6” wide and 13” 6” high. A lot of the building and docks that we have to deal with are simply not designed for today's larger trailers.
Some of these docks are inside docks. When you can, open and close your trailer doors inside the building. That will narrow up your trailer a bit and lessen the possibility of ripping the door of on a wall, door or post. Walk all the way up to the dock plate before you back up to it. You never know what danger could be lurking on the ground. An old bolt seal can puncture a tire and wreck your day. Some of those old inside docks are dark. I place a flashlight on the driver's side of the dock. Someitmes I place one on either side of the dock.
You will see some outside docks that were not designed for the bigger trailers as well. I had one of those recently. I was delivering a load of firewood from Michigan's upper peninsula to Cincinnati. This is the dock shown in the picture. The consignee was great about it. He had patience and just said take my time. He would get to me when I got it in there.
I did take my time. I was able to walk around the lot and saw that I could circle the lot without getting into a place that I couldn't get out of. After doing the circle I could get my unit lined up perfectly straight. Admittedly seeing dents in the wall of the building was a little unnerving. After walking the circle around the yard, I surveyed the dock itself.
Just like any dock, I like to walk back to the dock itself before backing in. Always look for things in your path that can damage a tire. In the case of a dock this tight it becomes even more important. Any pot hole or rise in the pavement can tilt the trailer. That tile of the trailer could make the trailer hit the side of the building. My main goal as a driver is to not run into stuff – like buildings. This dock was in good shape and I was able to back in without incident.
One of the nice things about places like this is that they appreciate a professional driver. They have seen too many drivers that had trouble hitting their dock without hitting the building. They didn't mind my “too” careful ways. Once I was in the dock they unloaded me quickly and put the firewood away after I left. I will trade a too tight dock for professional service – every time.