Things to Know About Yard Ramps – Part II

The ground to dock application seems, at first, to be pretty straight forward.  There are a couple of “gotch-ya’s” to consider.

The lie of the land in front of the dock can make for tricky math as it slopes one way or the other from the dock.  A laser level can be handy in doing measurements both for yard ramps and for rail boards to determine the height difference. Most internal combustion forklifts can work up to around 19% grade. So with a 48″ dock a 30′ incline yields 13.33%.  The geometry of most commercially produced yard ramps will have them working from the high 30″ range to somewhere in the 60″ range.  See Drawing

Width is normally not an issue when going into the building.  A more narrow ramp in the 70″ range will work for most equipment since there is no need for maneuvering.  As long as the equipment and driver are comfortable with the climb it is a less costly solution.  There is likewise no need for a level-off at the top of the incline since the warehouse floor works nicely.  The connection of the ramp at the door can be of concern.  There is a need for the dock door to close and the necessary purchase of the top apron of the yard ramp on the dock floor may conflict with that.  There are work-arounds for almost any situation and a digital photo and some measurements will normally point to the most cost effective of them.

Capacity – again three times forktruck capacity is a good way to establish a minimum capacity for the ramp.  Therefore, a 5,000# capacity forklift going from a flat approach to a 50″ dock and being worked a normal one shift day would probably require a 16,000# capacity 30′ all incline 70″ wide yard ramp.

Another consideration on width.  The justification for many yard ramps is that they can be used to bring vehicles into the building.  Some insurance carriers offer rate reductions if the fleet is not left outside overnight.  This photo is of an 84″ overall width ramp (78″ clear usable) with a Ford F-150 Lariat …front view….side view.  Bluff goes up to 120″ wide.

One last thing, most of the major builders of yard ramp solutions are close in price because some things just cost what they cost.  Be very careful of the solution that is offered that cost a lot less.

Things to Know about Yard Ramps – Part I

When I was a dealer (material handling heavy into casters) I had not read the catalog explanation about yard ramps prior to quoting my first one.  That is a mistake you have all made about some product.  Admit it.  I was able to salvage my creditability and the sale by some quick thinking on my part and big-time help from customer service at Bluff.  It is with that understanding that I offer some very basic information on yard ramps and their use.

Yardramp into truck

By definition a yard ramp would typically be used in the “yard” (dock area, parking lot, etc.).  But we know that they are regularally used in the field for agricultural applications like cotton bales or feed loading or unloading.  They are used in brick yards and lumber yards and really anywhere that has a need to get something from one level (ground) to another (truck or dock).  How do we know what we need?

Length – can be dictated by the height of the upper level above the ground.  For instance, a truck van is typically around 52″ above the ground.  30′ of incline gives us a gives us a grade of 14.4% which is inside the operating envelope of most propane trucks.  Lower trucks will make grades less and higher more.

Width – as you work a truck, loading or unloading, the back two pallets are the most problem for ramps.  Once they are removed (the pallets) the space they empty up becomes maneuvering room.  So the need for maneuvering room for those two pallets tells us the following;  a ramp in the 80″+ range is necessary for side to side and a flat area at the top (level off) is necessary to allow the forks to be lined up with the pallet.

You just spec’d a 36′ yard ramp 84″ wide with a 6′ level off.  If you take the capacity of the forklift being used and multiply by three….you are finished.  Here is a short (36 second) video of how it works.

Next time we will discuss yard to dock applications.  Write me if you would like to see a topic discussed and we will “get r done”.

Basic Information

My company has been going thru a year long initative on training. We have always trained in our functional areas and even did cross training inside of our departments. We are betting that we can become a better company if we allow all employees the opportunity to learn more about all areas. The more we each understand….the more perspective we have….the better we function. Having said that, a large portion of the reason for this blog is to train. First ourselves, then our dealers and their salespeople and then the public at large about our industry and how it affects each of us. So lets start with a basic knowledge block.

A dock plate is just that. It is a plate made from either aluminum or steel that has no other structure that adds to its ability to carry weight. It is made for handtrucks and other non powered equipment. Each size is assigned a capacity for that specific size driven by span, width and material thickness. They will have legs (in most cases) that lock the plate into place for use and some accomodation for handling. Either hand cutouts or handles.

DockplateA dock board on the other hand is the plate with other structure that adds to the capacity. This is in the form of curbs and sometimes box structure on the underside. There are various methods of fixing the board in place. They include lock legs, drop pins and positioning rings to name a few. The capacities are a function of the plate thickness and the supporting structure and typically range from 10K to 90K.Dockboard

A rail board is a board with a large supporting understructure that serves to keep the board in place while adding to the capacity. It will use lock rings to take up space and insure a snug fit. Each railboard is fabricated for a specific dock/railcar application.


Use standards to your advantage

Sometimes I buy something that is a replacement for something I have owned for a time and have either lost or just worn out. Often I am disappointed that the replacement is not of the same quality as the original. What has happened is that the marketplace has been at work while I was doing other things. Competition, the development of new technology or the dreaded “globalization” has caused the rules to change.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all product change is negative. Often times the “new one” is more functional, has more features or in some other way is a better value. Also, as a culture we have buy-in to the “throw it away and get another” mentality. Actually, that works to our favor in areas of rapidly changing technology. The computer of 5 years ago is not quite up to speed and you find the new polymer replaces the metal on your car without any loss in durability.

What happens when the true value of a product demands a minimum level that cannot be seen and its failure might result in very negative consequences. Enter….stage left…..STANDARDS. Standards are the metrics that allows the public to compare prior to purchase. Many manufacturers have turned to standards to combat cheap and poorly made products. Read the following from Bluff Manufacturing’s reasoning behind development of the new ANSI standard for dockboards and dockplates.

…….“The products of the loading dock industry were historically pretty much the same. The steel or aluminum historically has come from the same domestic sources. Manufacturing techniques and processes were very similar. A lot has changed in recent years in the availability of plate materials. No longer do we have US Steel, Inland Steel, and Lukens as suppliers of heavy steel floor plate. No longer do we have Reynolds and Kaiser as aluminum plate sources. Alcoa has its hands full supplying the aircraft industry. In their place, foreign sources have filled our needs with a variety of aluminum alloys.

It is important therefore to devise standards by which manufacturers can test their products to guarantee that they are as safe as ever……..” Read the full text.

When we buy or sell, standards are important. Remember, sometimes it is OK to sell a cheap product (toy plastic soldiers)…..sometimes its not (bridge carrying a person driving a $30,000 piece of equipment).