Architectural Solutions for Loading Dock Design and Layout

The loading dock is an integral part of warehouses, grocery stores, retail outlets, plants and other material handling companies. The right combination of products and design can increase productivity. But, a lack of attention to loading dock design can cause major issues from the start. These flaws include: poorly planned approaches, doorways that are too small, too many slopes, gravel, misplaced bumper projections and more. We’ve aided in the design of docks for all types of businesses. We’re able to provide comprehensive solutions that cover safety, building code compliance, dock area design, dock design, doorway design, and dock products.


A productive loading dock saves money, but an unsafe dock can eat into those profits and cause harm to your employees. By starting with safety as a major consideration during the design process, we’re able to help you plan an environment that ensures maximum productivity and safety.

Building Code Compliance

Complying to the latest building codes can be complicated. There are many agencies and regulations your facility must comply with including the ADA, OSHA, the ICC and many more. We bring decades of building code experience to the planning process in order to help you build a compliant loading dock.

Dock Area Design

The layout of the dock area is just as important as the loading dock itself. Calculating the appropriate apron space, number and area of truck bays, and the best dock approach is key to the productivity of your facility.

Apron Space

Apron space refers to the approach that leads to the loading bay door. Vehicles must be able to maneuver into position to effectively reach the loading dock doors. Apron space is especially important to consider during loading dock expansion. Calculating and creating the necessary space for more vehicles to move freely around the dock area can be challenging. Consulting an expert is essential to correctly accounting for apron space.

Truck Bays

The Truck bays themselves are especially important to consider. Loading docks with many bays need a dock designed to reduce a bottleneck effect from multiple vehicles looking to enter and leave the facility throughout the day. The size of the truck bay, also known as the “staging area,” will differ by industry.

Dock Approach

The ideal approach grade for a loading dock is a 1%-2% incline. The amount of grade allows the top of the trailer to be further away from the wall while also permitting water to runoff away from the facility in order to reduce the potential for flooding. Sometimes a loading dock will require a different grade at an incline or decline. Careful planning is necessary to ensure that trucks are not damaged by the grade leading up to the loading dock and that product can be effectively loaded and unloaded.

Loading Dock Design

The loading dock itself may need special products to accommodate the trucks and products being transported to and from your facility.

Loading Dock Types

Each major loading dock type has its own benefits and drawbacks. When designing a new dock, you’ll have the opportunity to choose the dock type that works best for your needs.

The most common loading dock designs include:

Cantilever Loading Dock – In this design, the face of the dock projects past the building wall in order to prevent building damage in the event that the loading dock bumper fails.

Enclosed Loading Dock – Common among package handling companies, this type of dock encompasses the truck container in order to prevent theft and improve efficiency and comfort. However, this type of dock is the most expensive dock type both in initial cost and in maintenance.

Flush Loading Dock – This is the most common type of dock in use today. In this dock type, the dock is flush with the exterior wall. Dock bumpers are necessary for flush applications to avoid damage to the facility or the truck.

Open Loading Dock – This design is common for delivery trucks. This open air design features a canopy cover over the dock to keep products from getting wet from rain. But otherwise, the loading and unloading area is completely open. This is an inexpensive option but does not allow for any climate control.

Saw Tooth Loading Dock – This is the ideal solution for loading docks where space is limited. The dock is positioned at an angle so that each truck is able to easily move away from the dock without a lot of maneuvering.

Truck Types and Dock Height

There are a wide variety of truck types that your dock may need to handle. The five most common truck types are:

  • semi trucks
  • container trucks
  • flat beds
  • low boys
  • city trucks

Designing a dock that accommodates the height and other requirements from the trucks your facility commonly receives is necessary for a productive work environment. Dock height in particular is essential to the smooth transfer of products.

Loading Dock Doorway Design

Designing a facility with doorways that accommodate the height and width of the trucks you receive is absolutely essential to productivity. A door that is not wide enough for forklifts to remove products is an absolute killer to workflow efficiency. Similarly, if a door is not tall enough for the height of products or pallets of products being delivered, your loading dock can be rendered useless for proper loading and unloading.

Architectural Products

Industrial Loading Dock Doors

It can be difficult to choose the best loading dock door for your needs. We offer a full-line of high speed, cold storage, impact, and overhead doors to meet virtually any need. Learn more.

Loading Dock Levelers

Dock levelers are essential to protecting workers, preventing damage to equipment, and reducing damage to products. At Johnson Equipment, we offer a number of lever products, customizable to your needs. Learn more.

Vehicle Restraints

Truck restraints are essential to the safety of your loading dock. We’ve been assisting companies with their vehicle restraint needs with Dok-Lok products since 1980. Learn more.

Architectural Services

AIA Registered Design & Safety Presentation

Gain insight into the latest safety systems and regulations for loading dock design through this two-day program. Learn more.

Loading Dock Design Presentation

Discover the industry trends, layout considerations, safety issues, and innovative solutions needed for dock design through this 1 hour presentation. Learn more.

Johnson Architectural Systems

We’ve dedicated an entire division of our company to assisting our partners in the design and implementation of warehouse systems. Learn more.