If you’re responsible for the efficient operation of a loading dock, you’ve no doubt noticed that small gap around the parked trailer door, and worry about how much heating and air conditioning escapes through it.

What’s worse, those gaps also allow unwanted contaminants like dust, wind and moisture inside, not to mention insects and rodents. The result can be product damage, as well as problems with warehouse inspections. These little gaps may also create uncomfortable working conditions for your employees.

There are two different ways to close these gaps and ensure that each time a freight truck backs up to your dock and opens its trailer doors, there’s no risk of uninvited creatures or debris: dock shelters, and dock seals.

Dock Shelters Surround Truck Trailer Doors with a Universal Fit

Dock shelters use fabric curtains fitted with stays to form a seal pressed around the perimeter of the trailer door(s). Dock shelters are fairly versatile, in that, they fit larger dock door openings, allowing them to be used with a variety of trailer types and heights. That’s great for facilities that ship and receive deliveries from different freight companies with different types of tractor trailer doors. Other pros: there’s minimal damage from daily wear, since they needn’t be compressed by the trailer. These structures are also better for loading and unloading efficiency, allowing unobstructed access to loads. Dock shelters are also a typically less expensive option than dock seals.

Dock Seals act Like Weather Stripping for Overhead Trailer Doors

Dock seals are foam pads. When the trailer backs into the dock bumpers it compresses the pad, forming a seal around three sides of the trailer. This is a tight seal for a relatively small expenditure, and is recommended when there is not much variation in size and design of trailers being served. Dock seals are a great option for companies with fleets, because they deal with all similar freight truck models and thus, similar truck trailer doors. However, seals easily become worn when used at docks with heavy traffic.

A drawback of dock seals is that they can restrict trailer access, as fabric from the dock seal side pads and the foam merge into the trailer opening while being compressed by the trailer. On the other hand, they take up little space on the outside of the dock, so if you’re concerned about space, these may be the better choice for your dock. As with most products, better quality dock seals perform better than those of lesser quality. Investing in better dock seals means less repairs and replacements. As with most things, choosing the more expensive option up front ends up being cheaper than buying the less expensive option and having to constantly replace it. Dock seals have features that protect against trailer pressure and friction, burns from trailer marker lights, and sagging head pads.

If your loading dock needs an upgrade, consider adding dock shelters or dock seals to your loading dock’s overhead doors. After all, with the boost in energy efficiency during loading and unloading, the dock shelters or seals will end up paying for themselves in no time.