It’s estimated that one of every four trucks arriving at loading docks can’t be held by their rear impact guards (ICC bars) because they weren’t originally installed on the vehicle, have fallen off or are bent or damaged. Trailers that aren’t secured to the dock can creep away, creating unsafe gaps that in worst case scenarios can tip a forklift moving into and out of a trailer during loading and unloading. There are a number of devices and techniques for keeping trailers at the dock, some of which present simple solutions.
With dock safety problems brewing for two separate companies that handle beer, each turned to the Power Chock vehicle restraint system from GMR Safety Inc., headquartered in Terrebonne, Quebec.
Prior to installation of the equipment at the Toronto facility of Molson Coors Brewing Co., some docks had no restraints and others had hydraulic devices designed to grab and secure the ICC bar at the back of a truck. The brewery handles around 100 inbound and 100 outbound loads each day, according to its distribution manager, Steve Ropp.
“I found the hydraulic dock locks were good for a while but as they started to fail they became very costly,” he says. “With the Power Chock, there’s virtually no maintenance and yet I find them to be a very safe device.”
Mounted to a counter-balanced arm, the 18-in. high tensile steel chock sits on a galvanized steel ground plate. Offered in two models, the devices can include exterior and interior lights, control panels, alarms and sensors. The system used at Molson is integrated with the dock plate. Once a dock plate is in the back of a trailer, if anyone moves the Power Chock, an alarm sounds. When the plate is out of the back of the trailer, the Power Chock can be removed and the and the system’s lights change.
“The neat thing about the system’s warning lights is that no one has to hit any switches to change light colors,” says Ropp. “It’s automated. When the right conditions are met, you have a green-yellow-red scenario. Just look at the light orientation and you know what conditions you’re under. If the inside light is red and outside is green, the truck driver can back the trailer into the dock and put the Power Chock in place. Once the system is set, the inside light turns green, the outside turns red and you know the truck driver can’t pull away. The forklift driver inside is safe.”
Molson has health and safety rules stipulating that workers can’t go into a trailer unless it is chocked. “Even when we have a dock-restraining device that grabs the ICC bar, our rules are written so that the driver has to put a chock in place anyway,” notes Ropp. “Rubber chocks would slide and move but the Power Chock just stays in place.”
Like Ropp, Ron Wenzel, operations manager of Central Distributors of Beer, Inc. in Romulus, Mich., was experiencing high maintenance costs with aging equipment designed to keep trailers in place at the dock. The largest distributor of Annheiser Busch products in Michigan, the distribution center handles about 3,000 loads a year inbound and services 42 of its own outbound routes daily.
When one of the loading dock doors was damaged beyond repair, Wenzel felt it was time to look at the entire system with an eye toward upgrading it. Working with the company’s material handling vendors, managers became acquainted with and chose the Power Chock because of the potential maintenance savings.
Bulk delivery to many of Central Distributors’ chain store customers is increasing. To make these deliveries the company uses a rear end trailer with a lift gate on the back. The lift gates didn’t work with its old dock equipment. With the Power Chock, it’s not a problem.
“We kept it pretty simple,” claims Wenzel. “All of our nine dock doors will have the Power Chock system so a truck has be in place before our dock door will even open. That way we don’t have to worry about open dock doors which is really the only safety issue we have.”
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