Dock Safety During Loading/Unloading

Any time trailers, forklifts and cargo come together at the loading dock, the chances of an accident increase considerably. By establishing comprehensive dock safety procedures and training employees on those procedures, you can reduce the likelihood of an accident. The following guidelines can provide a framework as you develop your own operating procedures customized to fit your operations.

Trailer Position

A primary responsibility of the truck driver is to position the vehicle and trailer into the correct dock space as efficiently and safely as possible. Experienced drivers can usually back into position with relative ease. However, newer drivers may find this task challenging. New drivers should practice backing maneuvers in a safe location and trucking company officials should provide training, evaluation and practice space for this purpose.

Once at the dock facility and safely off the street, the driver should get out of the cab and survey the grounds prior to backing. The driver may determine that a guide or flagger is necessary for tight spaces or if public areas and streets must be used. If a guide or flagger is used, the driver should keep this person in view at all times. A set of mutually agreed upon signs and signals should also be established. During the final few feet of backing, best practice includes the driver exiting the cab to check for clearances and obstructions. The driver should make sure open doors are securely latched, warn any personnel in the vicinity and sound the horn or backup alarm before moving into final position.

Trailer Securement and Restraint

Once into position at the dock, parking brakes must be activated. All available or required truck locking devices should be applied. Perhaps the most commonly used supplemental trailer securement devices are wheel chocks. As best practice, wheel chocks should be used in addition to other dock mounted automatic locking devices that might be available. Chocks should be applied to the rear wheels both at the front and back of the tire combination. Dock plates of sufficient width and strength should be used to cover any gap between the truck and trailer. Even while using chocks the driver must watch for trailer creep, especially if the conditions are wet or icy. Trailer creep can occur when forklifts and pallet jacks move in and out of the trailer pushing the trailer away from the dock.

If the trailer is to be uncoupled from the power unit, at least two jack stands must be used to support the nose of the trailer in addition to the standard landing gear. Depending on the trailer manufacturer, the loads involved and the loading operations, additional jack stands may be necessary for other load-bearing portions of the trailer framework.

The driver must follow any driver/dock communication system, whether verbal or visual. It’s important that the driver and dock personnel be in agreement about each step of the loading and unloading process.


Even if the driver is not responsible for the actual loading or unloading of the trailer, he/she must oversee the specific location of the load for proper weight balance. The driver will likely perform or supervise the application or removal of any load-securing devices. Drivers should inquire about and follow the facility operator’s rules and procedures.

For additional information on loading/unloading cargo, or for other safety topics, please contact your Sentry agent or your regional Sentry Safety Consultant at 1 800 443 9655.

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