Main Differences Between Mechanical and Hydraulic Dock Levelers

Loading Dock Expert
Posted by Loading Dock Expert on November 17, 2021

A dock leveler (also known as a dock plate) helps to improve the loading and unloading process in a loading dock by creating a bridge between the trailer bed and the facility’s floor.

Loading Dock Bay with Dock Leveler, Dock Bumpers and Dock DoorDock Leveler (Dock Plate)

There are different types of dock levelers available, but the most common types are hydraulic and mechanical dock levelers

It’s important to take the time to understand the difference between these two dock plates, as if chosen properly, it will be a long-term investment that will improve the productivity in your facility while taking care of your goods.

In this article you will learn:

1. About Hydraulic Dock Levelers (Powered Dock Levelers)
2. About Mechanical Dock Levelers (Manual Dock Leveler)
3. Initial Investment: Mechanical vs Hydraulic Levelers Costs
4. Maintenance Needs


1. About Hydraulic Dock Leveler (Powered Dock Leveler)

Hydraulic dock levelers are the easiest and most convenient to operate, as these don’t require the operator to do any manual work, he/she will use a control panel to engage to the correct height and align with the trailer bed properly. Hydraulic dock levelers use electrical components combined with hydraulic cylinders and pumps to lift the dock leveler and lip, deploying or storing the unit with ease. 

➜ Installing a hydraulic dock plate is the best option if you'll use it frequently during the day, and if there is high-dock traffic in your facility.

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2. About Mechanical Dock Leveler (Manual Dock Plates)

Mechanical dock levelers demand manual effort from the operator due to their mechanical parts. The operator must pull a chain to position the leveler onto the trailer and he must use his body weight to force the leveler down onto the trailer bed once it is in the correct position and the lip is extended.

Mechanical dock levelers are a better option for you if you’re not planning to use it frequently during the day if there is low dock traffic and the loading dock supports operations but is not integral to daily tasks.

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3. Investment Cost
What's Cheaper? A Hydraulic Dock Leveler or a Mechanical Dock Leveler? 

As an initial investment, hydraulic dock levelers are more expensive than mechanical dock levelers, however, mechanical dock levelers usually have a higher cost of operation because these are under tension constantly, as a consequence, this generates more repairs and higher maintenance fees, parts replacements and downtime in the long-term.

Breaking down the cost of life can help you make the best decision. Consider the capital cost of the dock plates, the approximate cost of the maintenance, and the service. In the long term, a hydraulic dock leveler will usually have the lowest cost of living, but if you’re only planning for a short-term period, then a mechanical dock leveler may be a better option.

Loading Dock Bay with Dock Leveler, Dock Bumpers and Dock DoorRecessed or Pit-Style Dock Levelers

4. Maintenance Needs: Mechanical vs Hydraulic Dock Levelers

A mechanical dock leveler requires more maintenance and/or parts replacements as it’s constantly under pressure and bearing thousands of pounds of weight. On the other hand, a hydraulic dock leveler usually requires less maintenance as it has fewer parts

Dock Leveler Installation in Citi-Field StadiumDock Leveler Installation in NYC

→ We also offer: Dock Leveler Repairs & Preventive Maintenance Plans

Suggested Articles:

→ What is a Dock Leveler?
Which Dock Bumper Is for Me?
Do I Need To Replace or Repair My Dock Leveler (Dock Plate)?

Not sure which dock leveler will work best for you? Talk to one of our experts. we will help you decide the best option for you. 

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We also sell, install, repair and service vertical dock levelers, air-powered dock levelers, as well as mechanical and hydraulic dock plates. 

Check out our loading dock equipment catalog. We also sell, install, repair, and service dock shelters, loading dock seals, dock bumpers, vehicle restraints (also known as truck restraints), light communication systems, and more! 

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