Given the strained economic conditions, uncertain outlook for energy prices and the importance of recognising green issues, the loading bay could see some important changes gathering momentum, particularly in the food retailing sector as the leading retailers take more fixed double deckers to heart. Some, like Boots, are committed to full scale conversion of its distribution fleet to double deck trailers. Although such vehicles have been around for decades they have been largely ignored, until now, and the extra catalyst for the momentum shift is the green issue. But that said, the economic issues are also compelling.
It is estimated that Britain’s congested roads cost the economy around £23 billion a year so any move that would reduce that congestion without the need for huge capital investment in roads would be highly cost effective and environmentally friendly. Fixed double-deck 40 ft trailers can play a big part in that because they can carry up to 67% more goods per vehicle than single deckers, reducing mileage, fuel costs and, in some cases, vehicle fleet sizes. But there could be more significant savings, as Business Express-Littlewoods found. By installing dock lifts at all of their flat-floor depots they could transport directly to these sites instead of via the company’s central sortation hub. Such a move provided “considerable logistical savings, faster deliveries and reduced product damage,” said the company’s distribution director.
Conventional dock levellers, however, long seen as the workhorse of the loading bay interface, are unable to cope with double deckers, given their relatively limited working height capabilities. To solve the problem, loading bay specialists have launched a variety of lifts to overcome the height problem. These can be for low payload capacities, like two roll container loads, or 20 tonne capacity lifts of the externally mounted pod kind provided by Transdek.
The attraction of the pod types is that they require no civils, like pits, and can be installed in a day. The smaller models can even be moved around so as to free up yard space if necessary to accommodate forklift traffic flows. The pods are completely self contained and can come with lorry wheel guides, traffic lights, safety lighting, safe, dedicated personnel access, vehicle buffers, bridge plates and door curtain seals. They could also be disassembled for removal to other sites.
Transdek has noticed a trend towards their heavy duty models as their clients like Tesco, Boots and John Lewis move towards more double-deck trailers and conversion of their stores and DC centres to take them. Speed of loading/unloading is an obvious advantage of the 20 tonne models as these allow a DC to service an entire trailer deck with roll containers/pallets in just one lift.
Scissor lifts have long been used to bridge the gap between lorries’ decks and the ground. Even the most heavy duty models require no civils and can be free standing. When their decks are at floor level, a simple ramp arrangement bridges the small height difference. Some of these light duty models, like Edmo’s MultiDock, can be operational within 15 minutes of arrival on site. This is a huge advantage over traditional loading bay lifts which require extensive pit works that could limit work for days. These easily-moved free-standing lifts can be used anywhere in a yard or in front of an existing fixed height dock and so offer maximum flexibility.
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