One hears a great deal about the need for safety on the loading bay and the latest equipment developments to make life safer in what still remains one of the most accident-prone areas in the supply chain. As a result, the design of loading bays and yards has changed but what of two other areas that will impact their design and overall running costs about which we hear relatively less, namely the impact on the environment and changes in consumers’ buying habits?

Scarcely a day passes and we are not reminded about the air in Britain’s largest cities is unbreathable, and by some estimates is despatching up to 60,000 lives a year to an early grave, and inflicting serious, permanent pulmonary diseases even on the very young. Road traffic is by far and away the biggest contributor to air pollution, so any corporate moves to reduce their mileage rates will not only boost their bottom line but also their public ‘green’ image.

\ A major move in this direction is the trend to double-deck trailers, epitomised by responsible retailers like Boots who last year ordered 60 fixed double-deck wedge trailers from Transdek which should save an average 1,092 trunks a year, cutting up to 216,000 miles from their routes. The trailer’s wedge design allows full height clearance for loading over the neck, which amounts to 23% more loads compared with Boots’ existing step-frame trailers that carry 104 roll cages.

By switching from single-deck to double-deck trailers twice as much load per delivery can be achieved, a key driver in reducing the volume of HGV traffic in very congested cities.

Based on DfT statistics, Transdek calculates that if just 10% of the UK’s 18-tonne rigids were changed for urban double-deckers 104 million road miles a year would be saved; converting half of the trucks would cut 520 million miles. All this is good news in the drive for cleaner air but why then should the same concern be denied to workers inside loading bays exposed to forklift diesel fumes? It is surely not enough to bar diesel trucks from sensitive areas like food and pharma warehouses because ventilators are not good enough. A recent World Health Organisation decision to re-classify exposure to diesel fumes at the workplace as a class 1 carcinogen, meaning it definitely causes lung and bladder cancer, could leave many warehouse operators open to crippling law suits in the future.

This trend to double deckers may alter the nature of loading bay kit like docklevellers to make them cope with various trailer bed heights through, for example, longer leveller decks and telescopic or hinged lips. Alternatively, Transdek offers a fivepallet hydraulic double-deck lift with bi-fold bridge plates designed to allow safer, easier access to the rear doors of trailers after docking, and has provided a 12.5 tonne capacity double-deck modular load house to the NISA food retailer specifically to support high volume loading on major trunking runs. It is equipment like this that is helping NISA save over £400,000 a year and cut CO2 emissions by more than 730 tonnes each year.

In the move to improve ‘green’ credentials one should not ignore the role of humble doors and their relatives like inflatable dock shelters. These play a major role in saving energy and ensuring the integrity of temperature-sensitive food products and pest suppression. Any of the leading loading by door makers will be happy to provide an energy audit to give operators an idea of potential energy savings and estimated door payback.

The changing nature of retailing is imposing more uncertainty about demand levels. This means that loading bay operators ae looking for solutions capable of altering alongside their business; therefore they must be flexible. One solution for coping with peak despatch periods at certain times of the year could be the Rent-a-Ramp from Thorworld, provided internal space is adequate. These ramps also give reassurance of ‘back-up’ cover should a dockleveller fail.