Posted on: 19 October 2021
Stanair Loading Bays

Dock shelters and dock seals are two different security products that come with many benefits. Here we will explain the difference between the two so you can decide which one is right for your business needs.

What are dock seals and shelters for?

When a vehicle is parked at your loading dock, there may be small gaps between the dock and the vehicle. While they may not seem very big, these gaps can let in cold air (or in the summer, hot air), as well as rain, insects and debris. A dock seal or shelter can help you eliminate those gaps and keep your dock clean and insulated, as well as keeping your employees comfortable and reducing any issues during warehouse inspections. 

As a wet floor is a potentially unsafe floor for your workers, shelters and seals can make your workplace safer. When staff members don’t need to worry about equipment or conditions being potentially unsafe, they can work more confidently and faster, with great peace of mind. Dock seals and shelters can also increase the life of your loading dock doors by protecting them from the elements.

Plus, if you’re no longer letting in cold air or bad weather, you’re saving money on heating and reducing your risk of water damage - so there are plenty of benefits to be had from these products.


What is the difference between dock shelters and dock seals?

While they look similar and have similar goals, dock seals and shelters are slightly different to each other.

What are dock shelters?

Dock shelters are enclosures that vehicles can pull into, with the fabric forming a contact barrier around the back of the trailer. Dock shelters create a seal around a vehicle using fabric curtains fitted with fibreglass stays and they work by applying pressure against the sides of the trailer. They are particularly ideal for larger docks and offer excellent durability and unobstructed access when loading. They allow for a large variety of vehicle sizes to pull into them, which means they are more flexible but can be a little more loose-fitting than a dock seal.

Inflatable dock shelters offer excellent thermal insulation and cost savings as they seal your environment, and they can be used with a variety of vehicle heights and widths. Meanwhile, retractable dock shelters are ideal for the food industry and other applications where hygiene is paramount.

What are dock seals?

Dock seals, on the other hand, are foam pads that a vehicle backs into and rests against at the dock. As the name suggests, they provide a tight seal around three sides of the vehicle. Dock seals take up less space than shelters, but they can wear out quickly and aren’t quite as versatile. Foam dock seals can also restrict forklift access, as the foam enters the trailer opening when compressed.


Should you use a dock shelter or a dock seal?

Here are six points to consider when deciding if a dock shelter or a dock seal is right for you:

  • Dock seals have historically provided a better seal, but the newer shelters can match the level of seal performance a dock seal provides. Dock seals enclose three sides of a trailer, while shelters provide a seal around the entire perimeter.
  • Dock shelters are generally more expensive than dock seals. 
  • While dock seals are the more economical option, they are prone to damage, particularly from forklifts. This means that while the initial outlay is cheaper, they could end up costing more in the long run when you need to replace them. 
  • Although dock seals are more prone to wear and tear, this can be reduced by adding features such as replaceable reinforcement boots and friction-resistant fabric.
  • Dock shelters are easy to repair and replace due to their modular design, and they are less prone to damage as the curtain slides out of the way when in use.
  • Dock seals are appropriate for smaller dock openings with fewer variations of trailer sizes, and where space between door openings is limited.

Call 01536 482187 or contact us online to find out more about our dock loading solutions and discuss which product may be best for you.