Loading dock description and use

The loading dock: optimizing its use


by Clémence Levieil, on 7/27/2023

6 min read

What is exactly a loading dock ? What are its characteristics? How is storage organized? What can be done to optimize the time spent in front of the loading docks and reduce loading time ? Dashdoc provides the answers.

Definition of a loading dock

As its name suggests, the loading dock is used for loading and unloading all types of goods for road transport and the logistics site team. It has several features. 

Loading dock: what does it look like?

A loading dock can be either a fixed or mobile platform. It is often equipped with lifting equipment such as cranes or forklifts to help transfer goods.

Loading docks : designed for facilitating the arrival of trucks
Loading docks with its special doors


In the world of logistics, the loading dock is essential for good flow management. They are decisive places for trucks, since more than ⅔ of HGV accidents occur while they are stationary during loading or unloading. Not to mention, of course, that goods can be lost or broken.

Loading dock functions

Loading and unloading goods

Located at the front or rear of a warehouse, the loading dock is the rallying point for trucks to load or unload their goods. It is often the point of departure or arrival for road transport, which means that any unforeseen event can delay the smooth running of the supply chain.

Quality control

Quality control is an essential process on loading docks, and it concerns all types of transport: bulk, express, etc. It enables us to determine whether the products or materials loaded are in good condition, conforming to the required specifications and standards. 

The inspection can be : 

  • Visual analysis of the goods;

  • Inspection of packaging;

  • Checking labels.

All these analyses lead to an assessment of product safety, and the guarantee that end-users will be satisfied with their reception. It can also identify opportunities for improving product and process quality.

Temporary storage

Following quality control comes temporary storage on the loading dock. This is a dedicated area where products and goods are stored for a certain time before being loaded or unloaded onto a transport vehicle. 

Storage time can also be used to separate different types of product, or to protect them from rain or bad weather.

This is why many loading docks are equipped with shelves, pallets or containers: they facilitate handling. 

Loading platform for transportation trucks seen from an upper view
Loading platform seen from an upper view

Equipment required for an efficient loading dock

What makes handling easier?

A range of equipment is required to facilitate the work of drivers and on-site preparation teams: 

  • Weighbridges: this platform contributes to accurate weight measurement. Several load cells are placed under the structure that receives the load, and the weight value is displayed on the terminal, called the "weighing indicator";

  • Electric hoists: the mechanism that reduces the effort required to bring two groups of pulleys together;

  • Lift tables: these mobile platforms link the dock to the vehicle;

  • Handling equipment: hand trucks, pallet trucks, carts and other well-known warehouse equipment;

  • Lifting systems: crossovers, loading bridges, dock elevators, etc.

  • Safety equipment: bumpers, wheel chocks, crutches, trestles, industrial mirrors, access ramps... all these devices help to cushion the impact between the dock and the truck, and protect against danger, which is taken more and more seriously by site managers.

How to equip a loading bay to limit risks?

To achieve this, a number of factors need to be taken into account at different levels.

First and foremost, it's important to differentiate between the yard and dock positioning areas, and the dock area itself.

For the yard and dock positioning area

You'll need : 

  • Plenty of space between the two dock doors that allow drivers to get off. This allows truck drivers to get out of the vehicle safely and to have a pedestrian zone, but also provides room for maneuvering heavy goods vehicles.

  • A non-symmetrical, double-sloped carriageway to ensure virtually horizontal floors and roofs for trailers, etc.

For the dock area

To guarantee maximum safety for all those moving in the dock area, we need to : 

  • Install transshipment tunnels with integrated dock bumpers and levelers;

  • Add dock doors to protect personnel and premises from the vagaries of the weather.

Making appointments for loading dock use

Why are loading bays becoming particularly crowded, and therefore much riskier? 

Loading bay challenges


Truck drivers can lose precious time at the loading dock, impacting the goods' journey and ultimately increasing costs for the carrier. That's why it's so important to prepare your arrival at the loading dock, and to plan your appointments with available time slots. 

This is often due to the fact that the carriers used by suppliers change frequently. This means that everyone needs to adapt to local regulations, familiarize themselves with the type of reception, the way the warehouse operates, and so on.

This is where time slot management system comes into its own.

Lack of collaboration between driver and warehouse

Imagine yourself in the shoes of a truck driver who has no way of warning the warehouse that he'll be late. This immediately becomes a problem for the site, which could have accommodated another truck instead and could have adjusted its schedule, instead of having several trucks at an inopportune moment and therefore a traffic jam.

Inefficient appointment-setting tools

It has to be said that in most cases, appointment scheduling tools are either non-existent or not adapted to the realities on the ground, once again delaying all the teams involved in a transport operation.

The benefits of appointment scheduling

If WMS (Warehouse Management Systems) are useful solutions for automating warehouse processes, appointment scheduling tools are becoming a must. 

Just as transport companies need accurate transport planning, on the shipper's side, a modern appointment scheduling system is more than recommended. It enables : 

  • Set up a shipment or goods-in schedule, and dispatch the right number of people to the site at that precise moment. Dock congestion is no longer a concern;

  • Regular updating of this schedule when the tool is collaborative, as is the case with Dashdoc. A delay, a cancellation? Suppliers, carriers and logistics teams are notified in real time;

  • The connection between the truck driver and the warehouse team, reducing the cost of driver downtime;

  • Better tracking of information, since the transport company is known, as is information on the driver and the vehicle used; 

  • The dispatch of special measures and protocols to be complied with before arriving on site;

  • Finally improved dock management and allocation.

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