Sealing in Value
A dock seal is a system of vinyl covered compressed foam padding which lines the edge of a loading dock door. Dock seals are designed to close and protect the gap between the dock door opening and a truck trailer so that the process of loading and unloading isn’t negatively impacted by the elements or other external variables.
Without efficient seal solutions in place, dock operations are at risk for wind and rain penetration, energy loss, invasive insects and rodents, unsafe loading and unloading conditions, and damage to products and equipment. High performing dock seals are especially important in regulated operations such as food and pharmaceuticals where preventing environmental threats is mission-critical. Most commercial and industrial facilities personnel responsible for materials handling recognise the value of installing dock seals to mitigate external environmental threats. But not all are aware of several key factors which can substantially impact dock seal performance, durability, and long-term costs. These factors include the building design, types of trucks coming into and out of the facility, frequency of trucks, types of materials handled, and how the trucks are being loaded and unloaded.
Low Cost vs Efficiency
When these factors are not properly taken into account, dock seals can easily wear out, often long before their expected service lives. This usually happens as a result of not having enough material in the right places to prevent the seal from deteriorating prematurely. All dock seals are not created equal. Inexpensive, general contractor-grade seals may be appealing in many cases. But low-cost seals typically have only a 22-ounce vinyl covering over the foam and no wear pleats (extra protection on the face of a seal) or wear face (a protective inner layer between the outer fabric and compressed foam). Seals chosen based on price alone may last one to two years depending on the operational circumstances.
The corners of truck trailers put a beating on dock seals, digging into and tearing them over time. The compressed foam deteriorates once the fabric is torn. Then the seals dry out leaving no compression. This unnecessary, premature wear degrades the performance of the dock seals, shortens their useful life, and increases operating costs with more frequent dock seal replacements and related overhead costs. This defeats the goal of keeping out the elements and puts the dock operation at risk.
Thinking It Through
To get the most out of their performance and useful life, dock seals should be planned and specified based on an operation’s unique requirements. Dock door size is an important factor in effectively determining the style of seal needed for a particular application. For doors that are 9’ x 9’ or smaller, a fixed header pad seal solution is typically the best approach. For doors taller than 9’, a drop curtain style seal solution is usually recommended.
There are a variety of options that can help a seal wear more durability in a high traffic dock area. An experienced commercial and industrial dock solution provider can help guide the user to the right selection for situation and applications. The solution provider will analyse user’s operation and help look at options including upgraded vinyl fabric, rain shields (installed above a dock seal to prevent water from entering the building), wear pleats, and inside wear faces. A qualified solution provider can help to obtain all the benefits and advantages of efficient dock seal solutions including maintenance and repair cost reduction, maximum up time for dock operation, and a solid return on user’s investments.
Unlike a dock seal, a dock shelter is a structure with a curtain style cover designed to protect the space between a truck trailer and the building from the elements. Dock shelters cannot be used in conjunction with dock seals and vice versa. Dock shelters are typically installed when dock seals aren’t an effective solution or a building must accommodate a variety of truck styles and sizes.
A dock seal can’t seal every type of truck trailer. Dock shelters work because they allow trucks of various sizes and shapes to back into the curtain perimeter. This creates a vestibule around the truck trailer and accommodates a variety of trucks while providing basic protection from the elements. While this protection is not as effective as a dock seal, it still allows for safe, unrestricted loading and unloading. Where the benefits and advantages of dock seals aren’t required, a dock shelter is far better than no protection at all.
Wood vs Foam
Most shelters in production at commercial and industrial dock operations were built with rigid wood frames before foam frame shelters became available. Wood frame shelters can create significant operational problems relating to costs and downtime. The impact of truck contact will damage or break a wood frame even on one occurrence.
Wood frame dock shelters can be a substantial time and cost burden in many cases. A direct hit from a truck can easily damage or break the wood frame, leading to costly maintenance, repairs, and downtime.
The average repair cost for a damaged or broken wood frame is around USD 900. All it takes is one truck backing in off-centre. By contrast, foam frame dock shelters are damage resistant. Foam frame shelters are built with high-density foam that does not sag or deteriorate over time and can be impacted repeatedly without damage.
Foam frames bend and bounce back when hit while still providing the same level of protection from the elements as wood-frame shelters. Foam frame shelters can help dock operations eliminate costly repairs and downtime. In many cases, a foam frame shelter can pay for itself after the first truck hit.
Just as with dock seals, a qualified commercial and industrial dock solution provider can help guide the user to the right selection for user’s foam frame dock shelter needs and optional features which may be beneficial for your operational requirements.