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How to Choose a Dock Board - Complete Guide

by Ion Rotaru 30 Jul 2023 0 Comments

If you're reading this, you're probably in the market for a dock board. But you're not sure how exactly to choose the right one. There's many options out there, and there's many factors to consider. Yet this is an important piece of equipment. After all, without it it's impossible to receive or ship goods out of your warehouse.

In this article we'll explain everything to you. We'll go over how to choose the dock board size, capacity, height differential, and metal type. Keep reading to find out more!

How to choose a dock board

Choosing a dock board

First things first, what is a dock board? A dock board is a sturdy platform used to bridge the gap between a loading dock and a truck or trailer. It's designed to facilitate the smooth movement of forklifts, pallet jacks, and other equipment, ensuring that goods can be loaded or unloaded safely and efficiently. They come with raised edges or curbs to prevent accidental roll-offs, and play a crucial roles in warehouses and distribution centers.

Dock board size

The length and width of your dock board are crucial.

Width: The width of your dock plate should be at least 15% wider than the widest equipment or vehicle you plan to use it with. This ensures there's enough room for safe maneuvering. For instance, if you're using a machine that's 5 feet wide, you'd want a dock plate that's at least 5.75 feet wide.

Length: When it comes to length, it will be determined by the height differential. This is the height difference between the dock height and the floor height of the trailer being serviced.

Max height difference = Truck height - Dock height

So if the truck height is 50 inches for example, and the dock height is 45 inches, the Max Height difference will be +5 inches.

From here, use the table below to determine the required dock plate length based on the height differential.

Height differential Dock plate length
1in 24in
2in 30in
3in 36in
4in 42in
5in 48in
6in 54in
7in 60in


Height differential

This refers to the difference in height between the dock and the vehicle. A larger height differential will require a longer dock board. It's essential to get this right; otherwise, you might end up with a board that's either too steep or doesn't reach the vehicle.

Height differential in choosing dock plates


Alright, let's talk numbers. The capacity of your dock board refers to the maximum weight it can handle. This can vary significantly depending on the type of forklift you're using. For instance, a standard forklift might have a capacity of around 5,000 pounds, while a larger, industrial one might handle up to 30,000 pounds or more. You want to make sure that the dock board can handle the weight of the forklift, operator, plus the maximum weight that the forklift can carry. Always aim for a higher capacity than you think you'll need, just to be on the safe side.

You'll also want to look at the type of forklift you'll be using. 3-wheeled forklifts have one less point of contact with the board, meaning that on the side where there's only one wheel, there'll be more pressure exerted and therefore the dock board will need to have a higher capacity. To keep things simple, you can follow this rule of thumb when choosing the right capacity:

4x the carrying capacity for four wheeled equipment

3x the carrying capacity of 3 wheeled equipment

Example: You have a forklift with a 5000lbs capacity.

If it has 4 wheels: You need a 15,000lbs Capacity dock board.

If it has 3 wheels: You need a 20,000lbs Capacity dock board.

Metal type

The type of metal your dock board is made of can make a big difference in its durability and longevity. Common materials include aluminum and steel. Aluminum is lightweight and resistant to corrosion, making it great for outdoor use. Steel, on the other hand, is heavier and can handle more weight, but it might be prone to rust if not properly treated.


Budget is always a consideration, isn't it? While it's tempting to go for the cheapest option, remember that you often get what you pay for. Investing in a high-quality dock board might cost more upfront, but it'll likely save you money in the long run by lasting longer and preventing potential accidents.

Dock Board vs Dock Plate

Now, you might be wondering, 'What's the difference between a dock board and a dock plate?' Great question! While they might look similar, dock boards are designed to handle forklift traffic, while dock plates are meant for hand trucks or pallet jacks.

Dock boards also typically have curbs on the sides to prevent equipment from falling off, while dock plates do not. Another important difference is the weight. Since dock boards are much more sturdy and normally have a higher capacity, they also weigh a lot (think 400lbs+). For that reason, they can only be moved using a forklift.

Dock board vs dock plate comparison

Do dock boards have capacity ratings?

Yes, they absolutely do! Always check the capacity rating before making a purchase. This will ensure that the dock board can handle the weight of your equipment and cargo. And remember, it's always better to overestimate than underestimate.

Find your next dock board

We hope this article helped you in figuring out what dock board you need. If you're in the market for one or still have questions, we're here to help. WarehouseWiz is one of Canada's leading dock board and dock plate providers. We're not resellers, so by cutting out the middlemen we're able to keep prices low and quality high. 

So don't wait, shop our dock boards online or contact us today!

Shop dock boards online

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