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How to Use a Dock Leveler - Guide For Every Type

by Carllaen Joshua Gonzales 08 Dec 2023 0 Comments

Operating a dock leveler is relatively easy, and can be done by anyone. But like anything, you need to do it a few times to learn how it works. And of course, there are also different varieties of dock levelers that work in a similar way, but might be operated differently. We have hydraulic levelers, mechanical, vertical, and air-powered models.

But don't worry. In this article, we will show you how to use a dock leveler, no matter the type. Let's get started.

How to use a hydraulic dock leveler

Hydraulic dock levelers are typically operated with a push-button activation. The deck is raised and lowered by means of a hydraulic cylinder, while the lip is usually operated by another.

how to use a dock leveler

Here's a step-by-step process on how to use a hydraulic dock leveler:

  1. First, you'll need to raise the deck. Simply push and hold the raise button, which can be found on the control panel. The deck will then slowly start to rise, and the lip will extend.
  2. Once the lip is fully extended, release the raise button to allow the deck and lip to lower onto the bed of the truck automatically. Ensure that the lip is securely locked in place before loading cargo.
  3. Press and hold the button once more to raise and lower the dock leveler to its starting position after the loading procedure is finished.

See below what a standard control panel might look like. Note that they will differ from brand to brand:

Hydraulic dock leveler control panel

How to use a mechanical dock leveler

Mechanical dock levelers use a mechanical compression spring system to raise the leveler. This means that the leveler is always forced to rise up, but is being restrained by the hold-down to prevent this motion during its stored position.

how to use a mechanical dock leveler

Here's how you can use a mechanical dock leveler:

  1. To raise the leveler, simply pull the release chain to release the hold-down, which allows the platform to rise and the lip to extend.
  2. To lower it and allow the lip to rest on the bed of the truck, you have to walk on the platform and use your weight. This will force it to go down.
  3. The hold-down will secure the leveler and lip and you can start the loading/unloading process.
  4. If the truck/trailer bed is below dock level, pull and hold the front pull chain to lower the platform to the desired position as you walk on the platform.
    how to use an air dock leveler release ring
  5. After the loading/unloading process, pull on the release chain to raise the leveler and detach the lip from the bed of the truck. Walk on the platform to lower the leveler and lip back to its initial position.

See below a video that shows how a mechanical leveler is operated:

How to use an air dock leveler

Air dock levelers use a pneumatic bag system to go up and down. It is push-button operated, just like a hydraulic dock leveler, but it needs an electrical power supply with a standard 110v power source.

how to use an air dock leveler

To use an air dock leveler, follow these steps:

  1. First, you'll need to raise it. Push and hold the raise button located on the control panel to raise the dock leveler. This will activate an electric blower motor that pumps air onto an air bag, causing the leveler to rise.
  2. Once the lip is fully extended, release the raise button to let the dock leveler and lip to lower to the level of the truck bed.
  3. Once the loading/unloading process is complete, push and hold the raise button until the lip folds enough to clear the truck/trailer bed. Release the button to lower the leveler and fold the lip back to its starting position.

See below what the control panel and raise button normally looks like with an air dock leveler:

How to use an air dock leveler - control panel

How to use a vertical dock leveler

The vertical dock leveler is stored vertically and is powered by hydraulics. This way, the leveler can be kept inside the building, and the dock door can be closed on concrete rather than over the leveler. This is ideal for cold-storage facilities since it helps keep out humidity and prevent contaminants from getting inside.

how to use a vertical dock leveler

Here's how to operate a vertical dock leveler:

  1. Once the truck is backed up to the dock, open the door from inside the building.
  2. Then, push and hold the down button to lower the leveler until the lip is secured on the truck bed. Loading/unloading process can take place like with a standard dock leveler.
  3. If the truck is lower than the dock, push and hold the down button to lower the leveler and lip to your desired position.
  4. After the loading/unloading is done, simply push and hold the raise deck button to store the leveler back in its initial position.


There are many types of dock levelers out there, but most aren't all that complicated to operate. Each dock manufacturer might have a different control panel, but they'll all work in mostly the same way. Remember to familiarize yourself with the manufacturer documentation before jumping in, and always put safety first.

You can also read our article on dock leveler safety to learn more about that. As well as our article on how to maintain your dock leveler if you're looking to make yours last a long time.

We hope this article has helped you learn how to use a dock leveler!

    Looking for your next dock leveler?

    If your business is in need of a new and affordable dock leveler, then look no further than WarehouseWiz. We offer many products in the warehouse equipment space, including different types of affordable and high quality dock levelers. They're made here in Canada, and can even be installed by our specialists depending on your location.

    Contact us and get a quote today!

    Get a quote

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