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There are more than two million tractor trailers that move in excess of $1 trillion in North American freight annually (truckinfo.net)—a service that supports countless business segments and economic drivers regardless of size and scope in the U.S. and beyond. These numbers are expected to increase with forecasts predicting more than 18,766 million tons of freight to be hauled by truck annually by 2040.
The most vital components of this massive delivery network are freight terminals: the hubs that connect industrial centers and complete the cycle of supply and demand. From the outside, a given terminal is rarely more complex than a warehouse with loading docks lined along its perimeter walls. However, inside each of these facilities is a flurry of activity that moves interstate commerce at an efficient, masterful pace.
The portals from the exterior to the interiors of these facilities are most often the 9′ x 10′ metal sheet doors that sometimes number in the hundreds at a single facility. These doors are viewed by most as the shipping industry itself is viewed: a necessity that is all but forgotten until it’s not running at peak performance.
According to several industry insiders, doors account for about 10 to 25 percent of the repair work at a given facility. To a freight terminal manager, an inoperable door means real dollars lost—and not just in repair costs. In a system that relies on speed and efficiency, time is money and the costs begin adding up the moment a door goes out of commission. When these doors are rendered inoperable, there’s usually one culprit: the forklift. The damage can be as immediate as a fork through the bottom section of a door, or the cumulative wear of daily dings to a guide track until the door is pinched closed.
Responsible freight terminal managers and vendors alike must appreciate where, why and how damage happens and consistently work to prevent it. An effective manufacturer will likely approach remedies from an equipment standpoint. Bollards (short posts used to divert traffic from a designated area), for example, can guard entryways with a high risk of damage. Signs that remind operators of constant wear and tear issues like using a door chain hoist instead of forklift forks or highlighting an area’s reduced speed can be helpful. There are also many products that assist forklift drivers during day-to-day operations: reflectors, mirrors and painted pathways, to name a few.
Freight terminal managers benefit from identifying and installing doors and related items that will help protect their facility assets and minimize damage, and they can look for product manufacturers that recognize the potential for innovating improvements for freight terminals. One particularly fruitful effort in this arena is the development of a rubber guide track specifically designed for the freight industry that reduces the amount of impact damage done to the most commonly repaired door component and performs even in harsh conditions.
And when the dock doors themselves are damaged, a manager usually needs to completely replace the damaged sheet door because the panels are permanently seamed together, costing the business time and money by the minute. To speed the pace of repairs, facility owners and managers can consider a different type of metal sheet door now offered that features panels engineered with a patented edge that locks into place so damaged panels can be removed one-at-a-time for immediate repairs performed on-site. This means lower repair costs, but it also means managers can keep spare panels on location in anticipation of the inevitable damage due to everyday wear and tear, further reducing the downtime experienced.
Repair costs will always be a factor in freight terminal management. There’s simply no way around it given the speed and constant flux necessary in its operation. The good news is managers can look for doors and related components that mitigate the need for repair. It’s the least that can be done in an industry that quietly keeps this nation moving.
Visit our new website or contact your local sales representative to learn more about DBCI’s freight and warehousing door solutions and specialty commercial components like our proprietary SPIDR Guide.