What Are Loading Docks?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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Loading docks are structures that provide a platform for easily loading and unloading goods from rail cars, trucks and other types of delivery transportation vehicles. Sometimes referred to as a loading pit, the typical loading dock is located near storage areas, making the task of loading or unloading various materials more efficient. In many nations, safety regulations require that loading docks comply with certain standards in terms of configuration, which helps to reduce the potential for injury for anyone currently working in the area.

Basic loading docks will include a relatively flat area that makes it possible for delivery vehicles to be positioned parallel to the flat area, expediting the task of loading and unloading. Some docks will have built-in ramps that can be lowered or raised to accommodate the height of a delivery truck or rail car, while other methods involve the use of a portable loading dock ramp that can easily be moved into position anywhere along the flat area. Access to the flat area is normally managed with the addition of an angled permanent ramp that can easily be traversed by forklifts as well as workers who load and unload goods with the use of hand trucks or dollies.


As part of the materials handling process, many companies choose to locate one or more loading docks in close proximity to warehouse storage areas. In the case of outbound shipments, this makes it possible to quickly transport the goods marked for shipment to the truck or rail car without delay, a feature that can be very important when several orders are being loaded at one time. For inbound orders of raw materials, it is not unusual for some type of space to be nearby, allowing the workers unloading the truck or rail car to quickly remove the materials from the delivery vehicle in increments, with very little time in between each trip. Often, a shipping and receiving clerk will be present at the time of loading and unloading, effectively making sure that the correct goods are loaded on the right vehicle, and that the total number and type of goods listed on an inbound bill of lading is actually delivered.

Many nations require specific standards of both older and newer loading docks. This will often mean the installation and use of materials that help to prevent slipping when the loading area is wet from rain, as well as safety rails that help to minimize the risk of falling off the dock while engaged in some type of work-related activity. Specifics of the regulations that must be met are usually made available through a governmental agency that oversees the function of industry within a given nation, making it easy for entrepreneurs as well as established businesses to make sure their loading docks are currently in compliance with all safety regulations.


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