skip to main content

VelocityEHS ergonomist Jonathan Valencia speaks with Chad Dillavou about Rite-Hite’s loading dock levelers, which help to alleviate the “dock shock” or whole-body vibration caused by bumps and gaps in loading dock areas.

Video Transcript

Jonathan: Hi, I’m Jonathan Valencia, a consultant with Humantech (now VelocityEHS Ergonomics), and today I’m here with Chad from Rite-Hite. We’ll be discussing some of the ergonomics of some loading dock equipment. So Chad, tell us a brief history of how Rite-Hite came to be and how they came up with the idea for the loading dock levelers.

Chad: Sure, Rite-Hite is a family-owned business founded in 1965, and for many years, dock levelers were our key business. We now have many other products that can help you around the facility, but the dock leveler is really where we got our start. If you think about a dock leveler, it’s a bridge that gets you from inside of a building out to that trailer. Bridges need to be both strong and flexible, and a lot of companies do a great job of building a strong bridge with a little bit of flexibility. Right Height really takes pride in the fact that we build both a strong and flexible bridge, which really helps when we’re talking about ergonomics at the loading dock.

Jonathan: Yeah. That’s one thing I hear quite a bit when I’m on-site from forklift drivers, that transition between the dock and a trailer can have a big, jarring impact on the loading docks. Can you tell us a little bit more about how Rite-Hite mitigates that risk?

Chad: Sure, we’ve approached that ‘bump-bump’ as we call it when the forklift transitions into the trailer in several different ways. We’ve designed a special rear hinge that has only a 1/8 inch gap at the back of the leveler. So as you’re transitioning from the concrete onto the leveler itself, it’s a very small and constant gap, so you don’t have the large bump that you would experience with some other designs. Towards the front of the leveler, we’ve built in a constant rate, excuse me, a 2-point crown control, which helps to keep the front of the leveler flatter without harming the integrity of that front header, which flattens it out and makes it a little bit easier. We’ve also optimized our lip chamfer, which is the part of the lip that transitions from the thickness of the lip down to the trailer bed. We’ve optimized that to make it a smooth transition from start to finish.

The last part of that smooth transition story from Rite-Hite perspective would be a trailer restraint we call the stabilizing trailer restraint. If you think about going in and out of a trailer with a 12,000 pound forklift and a 5,000 pound load, you drive that onto the trailer, and it has quite a bit of drop to it, sometimes up to 10 inches, which can really be harmful to a person’s body as that drop hits their spine and neck. Rite-Hite uses a stabilizing restraint that uses hydraulic cylinders to lock that restraint in place. So, we minimize that drop to about one to two inches, which is much easier on the human body.

Jonathan: Chad, you mentioned that the bridges need to be both strong and flexible. Can you tell us a little bit more about how Rite-Hite integrates that flexibility into their loading docks?

Chad: Absolutely, all dock levelers flex about four inches, and they have to be designed that way because a truck doesn’t always back in when it’s leveled. A unique thing that Rite-Hite does is our dock levelers flex four inches underneath their own weight. Typically, what happens is a truck backs in, it’s unlevel, the dock leveler is put in position, and the dock leveler then will snug itself to the trailer bed only with the weight of the forklift on the leveler. That works really well when you’re going into the trailer, but as soon as you’re into the trailer, now that leveler pops back up. And now you have a tremendous speed bump coming back out and you’re usually turned around, so it’s hard on your back and neck because you hit that bump. Rite-Hite’s leveler flexes under its own weight, so we maintain contact with the trailer bed throughout the entire loading process. It’s much easier on the body that way.

Jonathan: Awesome, very good. So, I know Rite-Hite offers three different types of dock levelers: hydraulic, pneumatic, and mechanical. Can you tell us a little bit more about the difference between the three and when you would recommend one over the other to a client?

Chad: Sure, the shell of the unit for the three is basically the same; it’s just how you’re going to operate it. You can use Springs, which is the mechanical version. Those Springs are always under tension, which means that leveler is always working. It has a lot of mechanical parts, so your maintenance is going to be high there. If you step up from that, you go to a pneumatic leveler, which has mechanical lip linkage, but then it has an air bladder of some sort underneath that acts as the power source. So, you do need electricity for that, but because you don’t have mechanical springs raising the leveler, you lower your maintenance costs a little bit, decreasing the lifetime ownership costs. The last should be hydraulic, which has a hydraulic lip cylinder and a hydraulic main lifting cylinder. It has fewer moving parts, and it’s just easier on the leveler. It’s not working all the time; it’s only working when you’re pushing that button. So, it definitely has the longest lifetime ownership cost as well as lower maintenance costs throughout the life of the leveler.

Jonathan: Awesome, that’s great to hear. So, I know you guys offer other equipment from a safety and health perspective. Can you briefly touch on any of those?

Chad: Sure, as I mentioned, Rite-Hite manufactures loading dock and industrial door equipment. We’re into the high-speed door business. We can help with HVLS fans. And an exciting thing for us, being a small family-owned business, is that we’re a global company. We have manufacturing facilities on four continents, and we have a representative network that stretches to almost every corner of the globe. So, it doesn’t matter where a client is, we can get somebody there, and we’re probably going to manufacture that product right in their backyard.

Jonathan: All right, thank you, Chad, for being with us here today. I really appreciate your time and explaining the dock levelers and the solutions Right Height provides.

Chad: Thanks for having me. It’s been my pleasure.

Jonathan: Absolutely, we’ve had a lot of fun today. Again, my name is Jonathan Valencia, and we’ll see you next time.