What is a yard ramp?
Yard ramps are designed for loading and unloading cargo from truck trailers with a forklift. In addition to truck trailers yard ramps can be used on loading docks and platforms, rail cars, and more. Typically yard ramps are constructed of steel with large weight capacities from 15,000 lbs all the way up to 30,000 lbs Most yard ramps have wheels for moving and setting up in a yard or lot and have a raising and lowering mechanism for setting up on the loading surface. Yard ramps with wheels also offer a transport device such as a tow bar, allowing the ramp to be transported with a forklift. Some yard ramps available can be setup as permanent structures with stationary support stands allowing trucks to back up to it, similar to a standard loading dock. There are also yard ramps that have optional hand rails that can be attached allowing for use as walk ramps into and out of trailers.
Standard Yard Ramps vs. "Level Off" Yard Ramps
You may have heard the term "level off" in regards to yard ramps. The difference between a standard yard ramp and a level off yard ramp is quite simple. The level off yard ramp has a flat end which allows for greater maneuverability of forklifts and a standard yard ramp has the same incline throughout the entire ramp. An example of when to use a level off yard ramp is if you are unloading a rail car next to a door. If you turn the corner with a pallet on the forklift with no level off on the ramp you could potentially loose the cargo on the pallet due to the awkward sudden incline of the ramp. With the level off you have a solid level surface to maneuver the forklift around before you begin your decent down the ramp.
How do I know what kind of yard ramp I will need?
When it comes to deciding the specifications of a yard ramp for your needs, you first will need to know what weight capacity is required. To determine the required weight capacity, you need to know the weight of the heaviest forklift that will be used on the ramp combined with the heaviest load the forklift will carry. The ramp you will need should have a weight capacity no less than your calculated combined weight.
Another important factor is the width of the ramp. You will need to know the width of the widest equipment / cargo that will be used on the ramp. The right yard ramp should be 15", or more, wider than the widest equipment / cargo. Also take into consideration the straight ramp or level off design. This is completely dependent upon the loading / unloading application. See "Standard Yard Ramps vs. Level Off Yard Ramps" section above.
Note: If you plan on using a yard ramp on a rail car, measure the rail car door opening to make sure the ramp will fit and also make sure the yard ramp is wide enough to prevent the forklift from hitting the curbs.
Using heavy duty equipment such as a yard ramp or forklift always requires the highest amount of safety. When using a yard ramp on a truck trailer, always make sure the truck is stopped, the wheels are chocked, and the safety chains are attached before using the ramp. Taking the time to do this could prevent a potentially dangerous accident.