If you’re responsible for the efficient operation of a loading dock, you’ve no doubt noticed that small gap around the parked trailer, and worried 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: dock shelters, and dock seals.

Dock Shelters

Dock shelters use fabric curtains fitted with stays to form a seal pressed around the perimeter of the trailer. Dock shelters are fairly versatile in that they fit larger dock door openings, allowing their use with a variety of trailer types and heights. There’s minimal damage from daily wear, since they needn’t be compressed by the trailer. These structures are better for loading and unloading efficiency, allowing unobstructed access to loads.

A typically less expensive option than dock shelters are dock seals.

Dock Seals

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. 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. They have features that protect against trailer pressure and friction, burns from trailer marker lights and sagging head pads.