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6 Cargo Loading & Unloading Safety Tips for Truck Drivers

6 Cargo Loading & Unloading Safety Tips for Truck Drivers

Use these Best Practices for Loading & Unloading Cargo from Trucks to Minimize Accident & Injury Risks

Getting cargo on and off of 18-wheelers is one of the many risky aspects of working in the trucking industry. In fact, according to the latest data, about 19% of deadly injuries involving 18-wheelers occur when trucks are not in motion. Tragically, some of these deadly accidents happen while cargo is loaded on or unloaded off of big rigs.

Loading Dock Accidents & Injuries: The Statistics

A look at some recent statistics on loading dock accidents reveals a grim picture, uncovering just how risky loading and unloading semi-trucks can be:

  • For every single accident that occurs at a loading dock, there are roughly 600 “near-miss” events.
  • Accidents at warehouse loading docks have increased by more than 5% since 2016.

While several loading dock injuries occur when objects fall on or crush workers, many are also caused by falls and failures to fully stop or restrain 18-wheelers at loading docks.

Top Risks at Loading Docks

Although different loading docks can have unique risks, generally, the major hazards at these sites include (and are not limited to):

  • Unbalanced or falling cargo
  • Spills and water egress on flooring
  • Debris and/or cargo cluttering the walking areas within loading docks
  • Creeping trailers, which can occur with weight changes as cargo is being loaded and unloaded
  • Forklifts and other heavy machinery routinely moving about the loading dock area
  • Elevated trailers and cargo storage areas, increasing the risk of falls
  • Truckers pulling away from loading docks before cargo has been fully unloaded or loaded
  • Worker or driver inexperience and/or failures to comply with the required cargo loading rules

6 Safety Tips for Properly Loading & Unloading 18-Wheelers

Given that loading docks are busy places where people, cargo, heavy machinery, and big rigs are constantly in motion, it’s clear that these sites can be riddled with hidden dangers. That’s why it’s essential for everyone in these areas — from truck drivers to warehouse staff and loading dock workers — to prioritize safety.

Here are some of the best ways to do that and minimize the risk of cargo loading and unloading accidents and injuries.  

1. Stabilize the Truck First

18-wheelers should be completely stopped, with parking brakes activated, before anything cargo is loaded or unloaded from trucks. Trailer restraint systems and wheel choking systems can be used to prevent trailer creep and stop drivers from taking off before trailers have been fully loaded or unloaded.

2. Use Dock Levelers & Other Safety Equipment

A dock leveler closes the gap between a loading dock and a trailer that are different heights. In fact, because the height of trailers can change, moving up as cargo is unloaded (and weight is reduced) or down as more cargo is loaded onto trucks (and they get heavier), dock levelers can keep trailers stable and at the same height as these weight fluctuations occur.

Keep in mind that hydraulic dock levelers can be safer to use than their mechanical counterparts, which create their own injury risks while coming with higher failure rates.

Along with dock levelers, using other safety equipment — like conveyor belts, bumpers, and well-placed mirrors — can also help cut down the risk of loading dock accidents and injuries.

3. Report Any Spills or Water Egress ASAP

Any liquids on loading dock floors can mean slip and falls, as well as serious injuries. So, report any spillage to the foreman or manager at the loading dock so that these can be cleaned ASAP.

4. Stay Alert & Communicate

With all of the hustle and bustle at loading docks, things can change quickly — and you may not be working around others who are as careful, experienced, or responsible as you may be. So, stay alert to your environment and stay in communication with the loading dock workers in your vicinity. This can help you be informed and responsive, so you can take the right safety actions, no matter what’s happening around you.

5. Follow All Loading Dock Safety Protocols

Read the signs and follow the rules of the loading dock. Those rules are in place for a reason, and loading dock workers will likely expect truckers to be doing certain things or to be in specific areas. The better you can follow the rules and do what’s expected of you at the loading dock, the lower your risk of an accident and injuries will likely be.

6. Regularly Review Loading Dock Safety

This can include everything from general safety best practices to how to use specific safety equipment, the best ways to lift heavy items, and how to properly balance and secure cargo.

Loading Dock Accidents & Safe Cargo Loading: The Bottom Line

By staying up to date with loading dock safety, you can make it second nature, helping you safely unload and load cargo at any loading dock you visit.