Loading and unloading a trailer is complicated. There are lots of best practices, and lots of rules and regulations, to consider when it comes to loading the trailer. In the fast-moving world of logistics, operators must conduct both processes not just efficiently, but also safely.

Below we look at different types of trailers, weights and payloads, unit load devices (ULDs), equipment for moving pallets and at how to move pallets safely around warehouses and to and from trailers. We start with the different types of trailers.

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different types of trailers


Depending on the needs of the company, a logistics operator will transport goods, materials or other items in one type of trailer or another. Below is a look at some of the different types of trailers you’ll encounter when dealing with logistics operators

box trailers

Box trailers are one of the most common types of trailers you’ll find in the world of road transport. Often, companies will use these to transport high-quality cargo or garments on hangers. Dimensions may vary, but you can find trailers that have an internal length of up to around 13.62 metres, a width of 2.46 metres and a height of 2.7 metres. A box trailer may offer the logistics operator a cubic capacity of around 90 m³ and a payload capacity of around 31,400 kilos.

refrigerated trailers

Refrigerated trailers, as you might imagine, are a type of trailer on which you can control the temperature. Often, these trailers will be box trailers. You’ll also see the term ‘reefer box trailer’ used when referring to refrigerated trailers. These types of trailers are excellent for transporting food, drinks, pharmaceutical products and other temperature-sensitive items. They help to keep them in prime condition during transit until they reach their final destination.

The dimensions of reefer box trailers can vary much more than other types of trailers. They can have similar dimensions to box trailers, such as an internal length of 13.31 metres, a width of 2.48 metres and a height of around 2.60 metres. Their payload may be around 31,000 kilos and their cubic capacity of approximately 85 m³. 

curtain-sided trailer

Operators in a wide variety of industries use curtain-sided trailers. These trailers serve operators for transporting a wide variety of cargo.

The designers of curtain-sided trailers have designed this type of trailer purposely for the users to access cargo easily. The truck has canvas curtains on rails down the side of the trailer that allow the logistics professionals to draw the curtain back and load or unload the trailer easily, and to do so, if necessary, with a forklift truck. Behind the curtains, you’ll find a flat deck, and rails hold up the roof of the trailer. The trailer will have a rigid rear, which may also contain doors and a firm headboard.

Curtain-sided trailers can have similar dimensions to box trailers, offering a possible payload of around 32,800 kilos and a cubic capacity of about 91 m³. You may find they have an internal length of approximately 13.62 metres, a width of 2.48 metres and a height of 2.70 metres.


Euroliners are a type of curtain-sided truck or trailer and, since they’re multifunctional, they can transport a wide variety of goods. Regardless of the nature of the goods, operators can load and unload these trailers easily. Euroliners have a sliding roof, sliding curtains, solid rear doors and firm sides. Operators can load and unload through the sliding curtains, the rear doors and if they use an overhead crane, the sliding roof.

In terms of dimensions, a Euroliner can have a cubic capacity of around 85 m³ and a design gross weight of approximately 39,000 to 41,000 kilos. These trailers can provide an internal length of around 13.62 metres, an internal width of 2.48 metres and an overall height of around 4 metres.

double-deck trailers

Double-deck trailers, as the name suggests, provide two levels of storage, increasing the number of pallets the logistics operator can transport in a single shipment. This makes them an environmentally friendly, cost-effective alternative for companies, and often they’re used to distributing light to medium weight goods.  

Double-deck trailers offer a higher payload, increasing from 66 euro pallets to 86, and there will also be room for cargo in the neck of the trailer. They may offer around 13.60 metres of internal length, 2.5 metres of width and, internally, 1.5 of height, and boast a weight capacity of around 1 900 kilos. A UK double-deck trailer can accommodate approximately 52 pallets, whereas an EU one may take up to anywhere between 66 and 86 depending on the trailer.

weights and payloads in different countries

The payload is an important consideration when it comes to loading a vehicle. This is the amount of weight a vehicle can carry safely, not including the weight of the vehicle itself. The weight of a vehicle without any load is the curb weight, and the weight of the vehicle plus the amount of weight it’s safe to add is known as the maximum gross weight.

Understanding these is important because operators, and the public in general when dealing with trailers of their own, must observe certain limits. Exceeding legal limits can make vehicles unsafe on the roads. If a vehicle does exceed the weight limits, the driver can struggle to stop the truck in an emergency, and they may also find it harder to steer the vehicle.

It’s also in the interest of the operators to respect the limits so that they protect the axles of their vehicles.

Towing capacity

The towing capacity is the maximum amount of weight which the vehicle can tow. A truck’s towing capacity is the gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVWR) — the maximum gross weight of the loaded truck, plus the weight of the trailer —minus the truck’s curb weight.

It’s important to know the tongue weight of the trailer because you have to account for the weight of this part of the trailer in the truck’s payload. The tongue weight is normally 10 to 15% of the weight of the trailer. This means you must calculate the unladen weight of the trailer, add the weight of the load on it and then calculate 15% of this figure. You then remove this 15% from your maximum payload.

the UK

As lorries can differ in size, so can the amount of weight they can handle. In the UK, the number of axles a lorry possesses is a significant factor. Smaller lorries that have two axles may have a maximum gross weight of more than 3.5 tonnes and, depending on certain conditions, 7.5 tonnes. Heavy goods vehicles that have six axles and enjoy certain circumstances may have a maximum gross weight of as much as 44 tonnes.

Goods vehicles must feature a manufacturer’s plate and a ministry plate. The manufacturer’s plate must bear the name of the manufacturer and show the vehicle’s axle weight, gross weight and train weight at which the manufacturer has designed the vehicle to operate. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will issue ministry plates to goods vehicles above 3,500 kilos, and these plates indicate the potential maximum legal weight of the vehicle.

European Union (EU)

When it comes to transporting goods around the European Union, things get complicated, but a vehicle manufacturer, in the case of extreme distribution of mass of non-uniform loads, must state the extreme possible positions of the centre of gravity of the payload and/or interior equipment fittings.

In terms of the maximum permissible mass of vehicles, this will vary depending on the country and on the number of axles. This is measured in tonnes, and for non-drive axles will range from 10 to 12, depending on the weight of the vehicle or other circumstances, and for drive axles from 7 to 12, again determined by the weight of the vehicle or other circumstances.

Lorries that have two axles will find this weight ranges from between 16 and 21.5, depending on the country and on the circumstances of the vehicle. Lorries that have three axles enjoy slightly higher permissible weights of between 21.5 and 30.5, again according to the country and the circumstances of the vehicle.  

Articulated vehicles enjoy much heavier maximum permissible weights. These range from 36 to 50, determined by the country and the circumstances of the vehicle.


In the United States, trailers can be around 14 to 16 metres long (48 to 53 feet), 2.4 to 2.74 metres wide and offer a height of around 4.1 metres. In terms of capacity, a 14.6-metre trailer may bear a gross weight of 20 tonnes (45,000 lbs) and transport 24 pallets, whereas a 16 metre one may have the same gross weight capacity but be able to transport up to 26 pallets.

Often, flatbed trailers reward you with the best payload, whereas dry van trailers have to include a fibreglass plate on top of the body, which reduces the payload. Reefer trailers are even heavier because of the insulation with which the manufacturers must fit them to keep the goods cool or frozen. They must also have a large refrigeration motor at the front of the trailer, plus an extra fuel tank under the trailer.

It's worth noting that individual states have weight carrying limits for intrastate commerce. These allow for higher payloads if the operator instals additional axles to the vehicle. Under federal regulations, the upper limits for trucks are a gross weight of up to 36.2 tonnes (80 000 lbs), 9 tonnes (20 000 lbs) on a single axle and 15.4 tonnes (34 000 lbs) for tandem axle groups. There are no height limits on the federal level.

securing truck loads for safe transport

When securing a load, the system you use to secure the load should be appropriate for the load and for the vehicle. Possible systems you may use to secure loads include:

  • over-the-top lashings;
  • rear kites;
  • intermediate bulkheads;
  • direct lashing to specific anchor points.

Axle weights and vehicle stability are two other important factors to consider. These are fundamental to check before starting out on a journey with a load.

Always ask the following questions when securing loads:

  • Are the anchor points compatible with the equipment you’re likely to use to secure the load?
  • Are the anchor points designed to distribute the weight and forces upon them into the main structure of the vehicle?
  • Do the anchor points feature any moving parts? These parts should move as little as possible when loaded by a restraint. The movement will seriously impact the effectiveness of the restraint.
  • Do the attachments meet the appropriate British Standards?
  • Will you attach the anchor points firmly to the chassis directly or to a metal crosspiece or outrigger? If you’re attaching only to wooden members, these anchor points aren’t likely to be strong enough.

Note that if an anchor point isn’t in use, and if it’s fixed at or in an area to be loaded, this anchor point shouldn’t stick out above the level of the loading area.

If wear or damage forces you to replace any individual parts, be sure to replace the load-retention strapping, lifting cables, demountable lifting chains and other systems in sets if possible.

Here are some more basic tips for securing loads:

Load the vehicle correctly

You should stack the load against the headboard and keep the centre of gravity as low as possible. To lower the risk of the load falling over during unloading, make sure it’s stable without lashings. If it isn’t, contemplate how you can support it. A stillage, placement in a box or a transport frame are three possible ways.

Think, too, about ways you can stop the load moving forward, or if items could slide over it if it’s not against the headboard. Blocking, sails, chocks or extra lashings are possible necessary options.

Choose the right method to secure the load

The securing method must secure the load to the vehicle chassis. You should choose a system that stops the load from moving, but also doesn’t create other risks such as manual handling or working at height. This is because not all loads are the same.

Note that operators often use webbing straps or chains to secure loads; however, these won’t be right for every situation. To prevent damage, fragile loads or live loads will require different securing methods.


Direct lashings are often used for plant equipment and machinery. Often, the operator can attach these to the load and then to a lashing point or the vehicle chassis. To keep the load secure, these are applied in opposing pairs.

Frictional lashings, meanwhile, are used for many different types of loads. They’ll pass from one side of the load over to the other, and the angle of the lashing should be as close to vertical as possible. If the load is low, consider placing a pallet on top of it to increase the verticality of the lashing.

The number of lashings you need to use will depend upon:

  • the load weight;
  • the friction between the load and the load bed;
  • the rating of the lashing;
  • the angle of the lashing relative to the load bed;
  • the number of tensioners you’re using.

Use suitable load restraints

Be aware that dynamic forces are much stronger than static forces. You’ll need more force to secure a load when it’s moving (dynamic) than when it’s still (static). Underestimation of the level of restraint necessary to keep a load secure will cause incidents.

Check the strength of the load restraint system

Even if the vehicle isn’t travelling fast, the forces acting on the load will be enough to move it. Heavy loads move, so don’t rely on the weight of the load alone to hold it in place. Once the vehicle starts moving, the forces to stop the load from continuing to move become higher than if the load was static.

The combined strength of your load restraint system must be able to withstand a forwards force no less than the whole weight of the load to stop it from moving under severe braking, and half the weight of the load moving backwards and to the side.

Securing loads in curtain-side vehicles and trailers

These types of vehicles and trailers may feature a load curtain, but often they don’t provide enough load securing. There are still certain things you can do to make the loads more secure.

If goods or unstacked pallets weigh less than 400 kilos per item, you can use buckle straps that hang from the structure roof. You can also secure them with inner curtains. If the goods or the pallets weigh more than 400 kilos, or if the combined weight of stacked pallets is more than 400 kilos, you can treat them as heavy goods.

In the case of heavy goods that weigh more than 400 kilos per item or pallet, you can secure them with lashing, load-rated nets and tarpaulin with integral straps. The method you choose must be able to restrain half the weight of the load to the side and rear, and the full weight forward. Often, the load itself and the body structure will determine the best way to secure the load.

Securing loads on double-deck trailers

The purpose of double-deck trailers is to maximise the space in the trailer.

Due to the problems working at height entails, which make loading double-deck trailers especially problematic, operators should conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify the most practicable way of securing goods on the vehicle. For instance, it’s possible to attach netting and securing systems to the trailer roof, pull them in place over the load and secure them to the vehicle chassis from ground level. This allows the operator to secure the goods without accessing the load bed.

Carrying palletised loads on double-deck trailers

If a palletised load weighs up to 400 kilos, it’s a ‘light pallet’ load. If it weighs more than 400 kilos, it’s a ‘heavy pallet’ load. Avoid at all times using the upper deck for carrying stacked pallets or pallets that weigh more than 400 kilos.

When securing heavy pallets or stacked light laden pallets, you should use rave-to-rave lashing or a similar method.

Securing loads on the lower deck of double-deck trailers

In general, you should secure pallets that you’re transporting on the lower deck or on the swan neck of a double-deck trailer as if you were carrying them on a single-deck trailer. When you perform your risk assessment, you should be able to ascertain whether, for light goods or crushable loads, it’s practicable to use internal curtains or hanging straps on this lower deck.

Securing loads on the higher deck of double-deck trailers

On the upper deck of curtain-sided, double-deck trailers, you should stack any laden pallets singly. These pallets should weigh no more than 400 kilos. You can mitigate any risk of objects falling while unloading or working at height further by using an extra internal curtain with integral straps that are designed to hug the load on the upper deck.

Any operator or trailer manufacturer can use this. Although the recommendation is especially suitable for new trailers, it’s possible to implement it retrospectively. The benefit of this type of curtain is that it contains the pallets more effectively than mere internal straps, improving road safety and workplace safety.

Rigid-sided vehicles

When it comes to securing loads, rigid-sided vehicles are no different to any other vehicle. They’re still subject to load securing requirements.

Securing loads on gated systems

A lot of rigid-sided vehicles will have a gate-type system. The sides’ security depends on locking the sides to an anchor stanchion (or stanchions) with which the bed of the trailer has been fitted. It’s important to keep these items in good condition. Repair any defects as soon as possible if securing the load relies on the sides of the vehicle.

Securing loads above the height of the sides of the vehicle

If the operator has stacked the load higher than the sides of the vehicle, they’ll have to secure the load by other means. Usually, over-the-top lashings will be the necessary system. You can’t rely upon the sides of the vehicle to secure this type of load. You should also be careful if you’re going to stack the load higher than the sides of the vehicle because it can affect the stability of the vehicle and will also raise the centre of gravity.

Dealing with load shift

Although rigid-sided vehicles offer some load security, you still need to consider the impact of box shift on the stability of the vehicle. Secure any goods in containers to stop them from moving around during the journey.

Securing Euroliners

To secure light palletised goods on a Euroliner, you must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Filling the load bed to stop the contents from moving when the vehicle is in motion.
  • Stacking the load against the headboard, or packing any gap between the load and the headboard to prevent the load from sliding forward.
  • Ensuring the gap between the sides of the load and the frame or beams is less than 80 mm (roughly three inches).
  • Implement additional measures to avoid backward movement if the load doesn’t reach the doors.
  • Make sure the beams are in serviceable condition. There should be no rot, decay, cracks or other signs of damage;
  • The beams contain the load adequately so that there’s no risk of items falling from the trailer when an employee pulls the curtain back. The load shouldn’t be able to escape under, over or through the beams.

If the operator is using the vehicle to transport palletised loads or stacked loads that weigh more than 400 kilos, they’ll need to apply additional load securing. This is also the case if the goods don’t fill the load area, since it will be necessary to prevent uncontrolled movement under driving conditions. Rated lashing heavy-duty straps between raves (hooks) is one potential additional securing method.


Overloading a vehicle can have serious consequences. If a vehicle is carrying too much weight, it can become unstable, difficult to steer and take longer to stop. The consequences can be fatal.

Overloading will also put a huge strain on the tyres, which can overheat and wear quickly, and then lead to early, dangerous and expensive failures such as blowouts. It’s also worth knowing that the illegality of overloading cancels out the operator’s insurance cover. If the vehicle is involved in a crash, the insurance company may refuse to cover you for the damage.

Note that overloading increases your costs because you’ll consume more fuel. It’s unjust towards other operators as well because you’re moving more load per journey by exceeding the legal limits, creating unfair competition.

To prevent overloading, there are several things you should do:

  • Know the weights of the vehicle and the load. If you can, weigh the vehicle to establish the weights of individual axles.
  • To avoid overloading axles, redistribute the weight of any loads evenly.
  • Check the gross vehicle weight before setting out.
  • Remember that you hold the responsibility for not overloading, not the customer. This means you shouldn’t immediately accept the weights declared by customers, the delivery notes or the invoices.
  • Keep in mind that the gross vehicle weight (GVW) and the gross trailer weight (GTW) include the weight of the trailer, the passengers, the vehicle, the load and the driver. Account, too, for the weight of pallets or packages.
  • Ensure you’re using the lift/tag axle correctly. If you don’t, you could be exceeding the gross weight or axle weight legal limits.

moving pallets

Pallets are big, bulky and heavy, and they’re impossible to lift with your bare hands. You’ll need some special equipment to take care of the job. There are several different ways you can move pallets around warehouses or onto truck trailers.

Forklift trucks

Forklift trucks are a simple but efficient way of loading trucks, trailers, railway cars and lifts. During loading and unloading, the forklift truck driver is responsible for the safety and security of the load on their forks and for that of any pedestrians in the area, including the driver who is delivering the goods. The forklift driver should ensure there is a safe distance around the truck whilst they’re operating it.


Like forklift trucks, stackers, also known as ‘stacker trucks’, are designed to lift heavy loads. They can handle up to around 5 tonnes, which makes it much easier to carry large items and heavily stacked pallets. They feature hydraulic pumps or winches and can raise loads to around 2.85 metres (9.3 ft). Some manufacturers design stackers for usage together with ladders for loading and unloading when working with higher storage units.

Stackers operate almost like forklifts. The stacker is equipped with forks that you lock into the pallets so you can lift them off the ground. You’ll call upon either a hydraulic pump or winch (whichever one the stacker is fitted with) to lift the pallets.

If you’re using a hydraulic manual stacker, you’ll use a pump-activated lever that raises the forks off the ground by activating a jack. If you’re using a winch-operated pallet stacker, you’ll turn a winch that is attached to strong wire cables or to link chains to operate the stacker. This type of stacker can lift loads and lower them quicker than a hydraulic stacker, and manufacturers also equip them with special brakes to prevent accidental lowering, so you have complete control over the stacker.

Pallet trucks

Unlike stackers, pallet trucks, which are also known as ‘pallet jacks’, aren’t designed for stacking. They have a low height lift of around no more than 20 centimetres, and they’re best used for handling goods at ground level and transporting pallets. Pallet trucks can be manual, semi-electric or electric, and the use and application of them is extremely straightforward.

You’ll often see operators in the food processing industry, wholesale and retail trades, and transportation. Depending on the type of goods and load you’re moving, your pallet truck could have long forks, be built of stainless steel or other specific material, be fitted with an optional weighing scale or be able to lift higher than standard pallet trucks.

Towable carts

A towable cart is one of the most versatile ways to transport pallets through a facility. They’re fast, convenient and, importantly, safer to operate than forklift trucks. A tugger can transport a chain of pallets to any point or to several points, allowing you to flow more pallets to more destinations in your warehouse or other facilities in a single trip.

These carts come especially into their own when it comes to transporting pallets and large items to workstations since forklifts shouldn’t really enter areas where people are at work, if possible. Tuggers are small and provide better visibility, and can pass through traffic and even rack areas more safely than a forklift truck.

The fact the pallet is already on a cart means workers can move it around without having to use a pallet jack or stacker. They can move it, work on it and leave it for collection when they’ve finished. The only downside to these carts is that it’s not possible to lift or manipulate the pallets once they reach their destination.

Pallet conveyors

Pallet conveyors are superb at allowing workers to build or pick pallet loads as the load goes through the facility. Often, manufacturers will use them as a takeaway from a palletiser or a build process so the pallet can continue on its journey through the facility touch-free once they’ve been built. Conveyors are safer than forklifts and are more efficient if you have pallets or other large loads moving from one point to another, whether with stops or without, but you should remember that they operate in a fixed location.

When processing a load for shipment, you can place it on a conveyor for transportation to a shipping dock where forklift trucks or other means can load them onto trucks. This keeps forklift trucks out of the plant or at least minimises their presence in the plant, and in the loading bay where it’s easier to control them. It also keeps their function to loading and unloading and takes them out of the equation when it comes to transporting pallets around the plant.

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unit load devices (ULDs) for air freight and air cargo

Logistics operators and businesses use ULDs to transport cargo by aeroplane in a process also known as ‘ULD air freight’. It’s possible to carry a wide variety of cargo in a ULD, whether it’s a set of passenger suitcases or perishable goods, or a horse or a racing car.

ULDs come in two main types: aircraft containers and pallet/net combinations. Both facilitate the bundling of large amounts of cargo into a single unit. Operators will use a net to secure cargo on pallets, by attaching the net to the rim of the pallet(s). The containers are lightweight structures and consist of a base, a frame with side panels and roof panels, and either a fabric or solid door.

The role of ULDs

ULDs play an important part in transporting cargo safely, quickly and cost-effectively. They make it possible to assemble single items of cargo, mail or luggage into a single unit, enabling logistics personnel to load them onto the aeroplane swiftly. The first three letters of a ULD code are important because they indicate the size, shape and type of ULD, and help to determine the type of aircraft with which the ULD is compatible.

Of course, the ULDs can move during the flight and, potentially, damage the aircraft, so the plane will have loading and restraint systems to hold the ULDs in place as securely as possible. These systems will interface directly with the ULD. This means the system will, in effect, lock the ULD into place so that it forms part of the aircraft.

The benefits of ULDs

The main and most important purpose of a ULD is to secure the cargo during the flight. Safety is paramount. ULDs also perform other important jobs because they:

  • remove the need for loading and unloading manually;
  • protect cargo contents, allowing goods to arrive undamaged;
  • maximise the use of the aircraft’s cargo space;
  • enable fast, easy transfer of cargo between planes.

Why use a container?

There are several reasons why you might prefer to use a container:

  • containers make it easier to load cargo onto an aeroplane and unload the cargo off it;
  • containers offer better protection against all types of weather;
  • containers protect cargo better against damage;
  • containers offer the aircraft more protection against potential damage by the cargo;
  • containers stop anyone from accessing the cargo who isn’t authorised to do so.

Why use a pallet and net?

There are some circumstances in which you might prefer to use a pallet and net combination instead of a container. Here are a few reasons you could choose to transport your cargo on a pallet instead:

  • pallets cost less to use than containers;
  • pallets can hold cargo that is hard to fit into containers, such as oversized cargo;
  • pallets can take special load cargo that it’s only possible to load on open pallets;
  • pallets are stackable, making it easy to store them when they’re empty and return them by plane.

avoiding injuries: moving pallets safely

Although pallets may seem like harmless objects, you should still be careful how you handle them and how you move them. Below we provide a few tips on how to move pallets safely around your warehouse and load or unload them onto your truck trailer:

The Top 3 Loading Dock Safety Tips 01

Place the load safely

Pallet truck drivers must know how to load pallets safely onto rack beams. You should place the pallets square, and they should overlap uniformly on the front and back. Doing this helps to keep the loads evenly distributed, maximising rack capacity and preventing wear and tear on the beams. If pallets are out of square two rows or more, they can cause accidents easily. If you place the pallets on wire decks, the rack beams won’t support them and you’ll reduce your rack capacity.

The Top 3 Loading Dock Safety Tips 03

Train pallet truck drivers properly

You or anyone else who must operate a pallet truck should have proper training, and you should observe the steps below:

  • always face the direction in which you’re going directly;
  • assess the space in front of you carefully, keeping in mind that pallet truck wheels are small and can jam up easily in narrow spaces;
  • never move your load without securing it first;
  • walk slowly when you push the pallet truck;
  • never load the cart heavier than the stated capacity;
  • when going down an incline, always go in reverse to keep control of the truck;
  • when using the truck, always wear gloves;
  • slow down when turning corners, and avoid making sharp turns;
  • never leave the truck sitting on an incline.

Use guardrails

The ends and corners of rack aisles are immensely susceptible to hits by pallet trucks. Place steel guard rails and post protectors 1 to 3 inches in front of the deck to protect your pallets. Use wire guards or netting to protect your rack bays. They’re not particularly expensive, and in areas in which there’s lots of traffic or order picking, they’ll prove their value.

Never go beyond the listed capacity

Warehouse personnel must understand the capacity of the racks and the average weights of different loads. Racks should bear the capacities on them so that drivers can see how much they can handle.

Many people understand beam capacity easier than upright capacity. The general rule is that the more vertical space there is between beam shelves, the lower the upright capacity is.

Never stack empty pallets on their ends

Empty pallets standing on end will be unstable. They can cause injury if they tip over and land on a foot or a leg, so never stack empty pallets on their ends. Whether a pallet is in use or otherwise, you should always stack it carefully.

Never used damaged pallets

Remove any pallets that are damaged, or which are inappropriate or unsuitable for use, from your workplace. If you’re not sure, avoid using them. Set aside the pallets for recycling if they’re substandard or damaged. They can become a serious health and safety hazard if you use them, especially if they’re on a high shelf and bear a heavy load.

Use personal protective gear

Wear gloves when handling pallets. Put on safety boots, too, to protect your feet in case you drop a pallet on them.

Restrict the height of stacking pallets

When stacking pallets manually, keep the stack height to no more than 4 feet. This will make it easier to handle the pallets. At the point of use, have a forklift truck operator separate full stacks in half.

Use mechanised equipment if possible

Now, we’ve just mentioned stacking pallets manually above, but ideally, you should use forklift trucks or automated pallet dispensers when handling pallets, if possible. These powerful pieces of equipment are specially designed to deal with pallet stacks and do so easily. To avoid injury, you should use them whenever possible.

Manage the manual movement of pallets

The weight of pallets can vary considerably, from around 13 kilos to 32 or more, and that’s without the load. Some pallets may be light and perfectly suitable for lifting alone, but heavier pallets are more common, and unless mechanised equipment is available, employees should work together to lift heavier ones.

Keep the pallet close to you

If you’re lifting a pallet manually, keep it vertical and close to you. This will help to maintain a close centre of balance. Holding out the pallet in front of you will create a higher risk of a fall. At the very least, it will give you a sore back.

working with pallets and trailers

Safety is paramount when loading or unloading pallets from trailers or onto them, especially when you’re working with forklift trucks. Below we look at loading and unloading your trailer safely.

Basic important checks to make before loading or unloading

Before loading or unloading with a forklift truck, the operator should perform some important checks and procedures:

  • Make sure the driver has parked the vehicle correctly and is aware that the loading or unloading is about to start.
  • Confirm the delivery vehicle engine is switched off and that the driver has removed the keys from the ignition. Chock the wheels if you have to.
  • Check the trailer bed is clear and that there are no obstacles. You must be able to lay the pallet or load down on the trailer bed easily.
  • If you’re loading or unloading on the ground, check there’s enough space for the forklift truck on both sides of the vehicle. The ground surface must be firm and even. There should be no potholes or manhole covers that may disrupt the stability of the forklift truck.
  • If loading or unloading from a bay, check carefully the brakes have been applied. The vehicle could move due to the large forces the movement of the forklift truck is exerting on the trailer bed.
  • Is the trailer uncoupled? You may need a prop or jack to place it under the front of the trailer to stop it from tipping over while you’re loading or unloading.
  • Get confirmation of the delivery vehicle’s capacity from the driver to check the vehicle bed and bridge plate are strong enough to withstand the weight of the forklift truck and the load. To avoid exceeding any limits, the forklift truck operator needs to know both.

Basic rules for safe loading and unloading of vehicles

When loading a trailer, there are some basic rules you should follow that will make the operation much safer:

  • If working with a forklift truck, the operator should start loading at the front of the vehicle and work backwards on alternate sides. If you’re unloading, the process is the opposite. This reduces the risk of the delivery vehicle capsizing.
  • To maximise the amount the vehicle can carry, and to prevent the pallets and loads from slipping and sliding around, the pallets and loads should sit close together.
  • Avoid pushing a load from one side to the other. This can cause the delivery vehicle to lean to one side, which can then make it harder for the forklift truck to re-introduce the forks into a pallet or load. In severe cases, the vehicle may tip over.
  • Operators should load in delivery order: the first on is the last off. This stops gaps from appearing as the operator makes their deliveries, and it reduces the need to keep rearranging the loads at each drop-off point. Note that you may have to ignore this rule to achieve the correct axle weight, as you’ll need to distribute the weight evenly over the axles and, to accomplish this, might not be able to load in delivery order.

Using a forklift truck to unload pallets from a trailer

Operating a forklift truck and loading pallets onto one is a responsible job, and you must take care when doing it:

  1. Ensure the forklift has reached a complete stop and that the mast is vertical. You should make sure you line the arms of the vehicle up completely with the pallet you’re removing from the trailer.
  2. Approach the pallet at a safe, reasonable speed to avoid damage to the goods. Insert the forks slowly until the pallet reaches the backrest.
  3. Once the pallet is against the backrest, lift it high enough that it’s clear of the truck tray. Look behind you to check you have a clear path and that there’s nothing behind you. Slowly reverse the forklift away from the truck or trailer after you’ve made the check.
  4. When you’ve lifted the load off the truck or trailer, lower the load and tilt it backwards. This is to make sure the load won’t fall off the arms of the forklift while you move it around to another part of the facility.
  5. heck again to confirm there’s a clear path before you transport the load to its destination. Drive at appropriate speeds and unload the goods gently where they belong. Repeat the process until you’ve unloaded all the items from the truck or trailer.
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Loading pallets onto trailers with a forklift truck

Just as when you’re using a forklift truck to unload a trailer, you must also be careful when loading pallets onto one with these vehicles. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Collect the goods from storage with the same care as you pick them up from the trailer. While you’re moving the pallet, the arms of the forklift must be lifting it backwards so that it won’t fall, but at the same time you should be lifting it and driving reasonably towards the trailer.
  2. As you get close to the trailer, lower the arms a little so the goods are at a balanced angle, ready for you to lift them. At this point, check there’s no one loading or unloading inside the trailer and that the space around you is clear for you to lift the goods.
  3. Lift the goods slowly until they’re above the height of the trailer. Take a quick glance to check they won’t hit the bottom of the trailer. Then move the pallet into place, ready for you to lower onto the trailer.
  4. Lower the pallet slowly until the weight disappears from the arms and the pallet is resting comfortably on the trailer, ready for the driver to take away. Check no one or nothing is behind you, and then reverse slowly out of the trailer until the forklift arms are out of reach of the trailer.
  5. Lower the arms to a respectable height and manoeuvre them into the back position so that you can move more pallets if you need to.

Loading and unloading a trailer must be done efficiently, but you must also do it safely. If you’d like to know about how our solutions can help you unload and load your trailers more safely, contact us. Our team will be happy to advise you on the best solution for your business.

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loading your truck trailer with our manual and automated systems

We understand just how demanding loading and unloading truck trailers is, which is why we’ve produced several different systems that can lighten the load.

Our systems allow you to conduct loading and operations safely without sacrificing efficiency. Depending on how much you wish to invest in your system, you can implement a manual loading system or an automated system.

truck loading solutions...

Skate & Track Loading System

Slipchain Pallet Loading System

Built-in Rollerbed System

Moving Floor Conveyor System

manual loading systems

Our manual loading systems reduce the damage from forklift trucks greatly and often require only one or two workers to load or unload the vehicle. Although implementing the system still calls for some manual effort from the workers, this is minimal, and they’ll be able to load or unload trailers quickly. The manual nature of these loading systems makes them a great alternative when you’re looking to keep your costs down but increase the efficiency of your logistics.

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Built-in rollerbed system

The Built-in Rollerbed System a rollertrack system that allows you to maximise internal height and boasts a lifting capacity of up to 550 kilos per module, which enables you to load pallets of almost any size. You can build this system into the existing floor of vans, trailers and trucks.

The built-in pneumatic fall-and-rise rollerbed systems are suitable for handling air cargo pallets and containers, as well as the majority of block pallets, whether these are plastic or wood. The heavy duty steel of the rollertracks enables the system to withstand the movement of forklifts and pallets even when the system isn’t in use.

Choosing a fixed rollerbed makes it possible for you to load air cargo without a forklift truck and will shorten the time it takes you to load the pallets onto the trailer or vehicle. The twin rollertrack with which the system is fitted demands 20% less effort in loading and unloading compared to standard roller systems.

The auto lowering of the rollers, quick exhaust valves and pallet stops make the built-in rollerbed immensely safe. When set in the down position, the rollers sit entirely below the top plating opening, which means people can walk over them and not trip over. Operation of the system also takes place outside of the trailer, using pendant controls as an option.

Built-in Rollerbed Systems
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Modular rollerbed systems

Our Modular Rollerbed Systems are modular by nature, meaning you can install them on any flat surface, whether it’s a trailer floor or a van one, or a factory floor or warehouse one. They’re also easy to install. We can do this for you in hours so you can quickly begin to enjoy the benefits of the system, such as swifter loading and unloading and the capacity to do so without the help of forklifts.

You can use these systems for loading air cargo, ULD containers or standard pallets, and just roll the cargo in or out. When you want to use the system, just lift the rollers; and lower them when the cargo is in transit. This auto down/up when loading makes the system extremely safe.

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Skate & track

The skate and track loading system can withstand up to 3.5 tonnes, and is specially designed for use in trucks or light vehicles. It’s ideal for shifting pallets, drums, machinery and other heavy goods or items into trucks or out of them. The system uses a set of manually operated skates that run in special tracks built into the floor of the trailer or container. This spares you from having to drive a forklift truck into the cargo area because you push the pallet into the truck to load it or pull the pallet to unload it. Since you don’t need to load or unload the trailer with a forklift truck, the goods will suffer less damage during loading and unloading, too.

The skate and track helps you to really make the most of the space in your trailer. You’ll also be able to optimise the use of the logistics workers because only one or two will be necessary to conduct the loading and unloading with this system.

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Powered Cargo Roller loading system 

The Powered Cargo Roller loading system is a rollertrack system and comprises rise-and-fall rollers that combine with a pneumatic rollertrack. You can use this system to load AKE containers and air cargo onto a truck. The powered cargo roller can cope with flat-bottomed ULD containers and transportation pallets up to 20,000 kilos without any damage. You can also use it to load aero engines or other heavy loads.

This is a safe, eco-friendly system and doesn’t require the use of forklift trucks to load the truck. The system retracts during transit to make the load more stable, and the braked motor stops any rollout when the motor is not being applied.

You can load air cargo containers automatically with this system, and there’s no need for side loading. Instead, you load the pallets through the back of the vehicle from a scissor conveyor.

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automated loading systems

If you’re willing to invest a little more, you can purchase one of our automated systems. These require even less effort from workers than our manual loading solutions. All it takes is the push of a button to get things moving.


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Moving floor 

The moving floor automated loading system is a heavy-duty, flexible, slat conveyor belt system that can transfer palletised goods, non-palletised ones and crate-based goods to your trailer or from it. You can connect the system up to a production line conveyor, or you can use an autonomous guided vehicle (AGV) or forklift truck to place the goods onto the conveyor belt, and then load or unload your trailer in just a few minutes.

This system is completely safe during loading and unloading, and since you don’t need any workers to conduct the loading or unloading of the trailer, delivers 100% end of line automation. The automated nature of the system means you’ll be able to minimise any damage to loads.

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The slipchain automated loading system is a superb heavy-duty system for loading and unloading palletised goods. The system combines a pneumatic rise-and-fall chain with a rollertrack system for the trailer and dock. You can integrate this modular system easily into your trailer, with only minimal adaptations to the trailer or building, and connect it to the production line conveyor or place the items on the system by using a forklift truck or AGV. Then you can start enjoying the benefits of this system: the capacity to load or unload 26 pallets in just a few minutes, whereas conventional systems would take around 30 minutes to complete the operation.

Just like the moving floor conveyor system, the slipchain offers 100% automation and, as a result, no workers are required to load or unload the trailer. The system is extremely safe to use when conducting high volumes of loading or unloading, and items will suffer minimal damage, if any at all.

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The trailerskate automated loading system is a simple but highly effective and efficient piece of loading and unloading equipment, and is designed perfectly to automate loading for medium to long hauls. The only technology in the trailer is the set of four tracks on the floor, and the long skates perform all the loading and unloading, even though, with the Riserplate system, the lift is coming from the track underneath. The system ensures the floor is always flat so that forklift trucks can drive over it if necessary.

Like the moving floor conveyor and the slipchain, the trailerskate delivers 100% end of line automation, so you won’t need any workers to assist in loading or unloading the trailer. The trailerskate makes routine high-volume loading and unloading processes extremely safe, and minimises damage to loads. It’s possible to load or unload pallets within just a few minutes.

Loading and unloading a trailer must be done efficiently, but you must also do it safely. If you’d like to know about how our solutions can help you unload and load your trailers more safely, contact us. Our team will be happy to advise you on the best solution for your business.

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solutions for...

van loading solutions

container loading

warehouse loading solutions

why choose us?

60 Years' Experience


Multiple Industries


Fully Accredited


High Quality Design


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our manual loading solutions brochure

If you’re looking for the right manual loading solution for your business and warehouse, download a copy of our free Manual Loading Solutions leaflet. 

From benefits to best practice, discover how to lighten the load with one of our Rollertrack Loading Systems, Powered Cargo Rollers Systems, Container Loading Systems and Container Lifting Systems and many more...


our automated loading solutions brochure

Wondering if an automatic loading and unloading solution is right for your warehouse, factory, or business?

Download our FREE Automatic Loading Systems leaflet to find out how our Moving Floor, Slipchain and Trailerskate systems can help streamline your operations and reduce your environmental impact. Plus, discover the benefits of our different automated loading systems.

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what are modular rollerbed solutions for trailer loading?

Load your trailers the safer, simpler way with Joloda Hydraroll’s modular rollerbed systems. Featuring a pre-installed frame that fits easily onto your trailer floor, our standard Trailer & Track systems can be equipped in a matter of hours.

Designed to streamline the loading process, the system uses pneumatically raised rollers which are only engaged during loading and unloading.

So you can benefit from faster, more efficient loading, and secure transit for your goods.   

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who should use this loading solution?

This solution ideal for anyone with an existing trailer or a refrigerated trailer. It offers airfreight operators added options to buy, hire, contract or operate standard box trailers, curtain siders or reefers. It’s the perfect alternative to avoid long lead times, high costs, bespoke-build units – or to respond to seasonal peaks and sudden demand.

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why choose a modular roller bed loading solution for trailers & trucks?

  • Transform any trailer to a rollerbed vehicle within hours
  • Safely roll in and roll out your cargo without the use of forklifts
  • Lift your rollers when you want to use them. Keep them lowered when in transit; pneumatic rollertrack is much safer than live rollers.
  • Hydraroll Twin Roller track requires 20% less effort compared to standard roller systems
  • Twin roller design and limited top plate roller opening reduces debris by 30%
  • Reduces maintenance and increases airbag life
  • 100% safety due to the Auto down system: up when loading or unloading/ auto-down when in transit!
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we offer free loading assessments

Wondering if a loading solution is right for your warehouse, factory, or business?

We'll call to arrange a convenient time and date to visit your site. We'll analyse your logistics operations, assessing how goods/pallets are loaded and unloaded. Our design experts will work out how best to safely, efficiently and transport loads from the end of production lines into trailers. Next, we'll design you a comprehensive loading solution that can streamline your logistics processes and send this you to via email.

We'll do all this to ensure we fully understand your product loading and unloading requirements and help lighten your load!

Request your FREE, no-obligation loading operations site assessment today!

Book Now
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Our Network

a global leader, with local partners

Around the world, we’re known as the number one; the global leader in loading and unloading solutions. This is not only because we are the largest but also the first too; we've been pioneering loading solutions since 1962.

What truly makes us great is our fantastic product assortment supported by the best partners worldwide. We have an experienced network of 30+ distributors that also support an aftersales network, which is key, especially for automatic loading and unloading. 

Learn more about our global distributor network here.

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About us

take a load off

We help businesses lighten loads and are highly regarded as the world's leading loading and unloading solutions provider in the logistics industry. Over the last 60 years, we've helped thousands of businesses streamline their logistics operations to be more cost-efficient, more sustainable, and more health and safety-conscious. Learn more About Us here.

As experts in all kinds of unloading and unloading solutions, we can help innovate, automate and streamline your end-of-production line problems, wherever you are.

Get in touch with our experts today to learn how we can provide a safe working environment, call our friendly team on +44 (0) 151 427 8954, on our Let's Chat page, via email at sales@joloda.com or on LinkedIn...

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