A van is an important tool whether you’re working in logistics or in another trade. The extra space allows you to carry bulky loads and items, equipment tools and more, depending on your van’s commercial purpose. Maybe you’re a supplier, delivering materials to a manufacturer or stock to a retailer. The van will serve you exceptionally well.

Below is an in-depth look at vans. We discuss van sizes and how to understand them, aspects to consider when choosing a van, how to choose the right van and also how to load and unload a van safely. We’ll also explain a little about one of our own loading solutions, the cargo van pallet loading system (our modular rollerbed systems), which can make it much safer and easier to load and unload a van.

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understanding van size and dimensions

When looking for a van, you’ll encounter a range of sizes, so how do you understand the difference between them all?

The first thing you need to know is that the body length of a van is measured by the difference between its front axles and its rear ones. The term for this measurement is the ‘wheelbase’, and, in general, there are four main wheelbases:

  • short (SWB): length— 2.5 m; width— 1.7 metres; and height — 1.4 to 1.6 metres; and payload 900 to 1,200 kilos;
  • medium (MWB): length— 2.9 m; width— 1.7 metres; and height — 1.7 metres; and payload 950 to 1,250 kilos;
  • long (LWB): length— 3.5 m; width— 1.8 metres; and height — 1.8 metres; and payload 900 to 1,20 kilos;
  • extra-long (ELWB): length— 3.9 m; width— 1.9 metres; and height —1.9 metres to 2.3 metres; and payload 1200 to 1500 kilos.

Vans that have longer wheelbases will allow you to transport more goods and heavier ones, but they may be problematic when it comes to parking, loading, unloading and manoeuvring. Fuelling them will also be more expensive.

Manufacturers may also use ‘L’ codes to indicate the length of the van. The code will tell you the relative length of the van to that specific brand, which may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. In general, the codes are as follows:

  • L1: short length;
  • L2: medium length;
  • L3: long length;
  • L4: extra-long length.

The next thing to understand is that vans have internal and external dimensions. You should always check these. Understanding the external dimensions will help you to determine how the van will handle and whether the van will fit comfortably in standard spaces, etc, whereas knowing the internal dimensions, such as the load space, will give you an idea of how much space there is inside the van for your items.

Understanding van height

Van providers or sellers may indicate the size of the van or the van options by height as well as by the wheelbase. Normally, these will be low, medium or high. If you find a van you like but the roof isn’t the right height, check if other options are available. You don’t have to go with it.

As in the case of the van lengths, you’ll also encounter codes for height. Lots of brands use these codes, but the dimensions are likely to be different, depending on the brand. Generally, the codes are:

  • H1: low roof;
  • H2: medium roof;
  • H3: high roof;
  • and in some cases, H4: a super-high roof.

what are the different types of van sizes?

The type of van you choose will depend on your logistical needs. Here are some of the main types of vans that might suit you:

Small vans

Small vans are ideal if you require more space than an everyday car but don’t need the loading bay of a medium-sized or large van. Small vans are economical but, because of their more compact stature, well powered. This makes them good for driving around towns and cities or on longer jaunts. They tend to suit tradespeople such as DJs, local delivery drivers, sports coaches, plumbers, electricians and videographers.

Medium-sized vans

Medium-sized vans are the ones you see most commonly on the road. They suit a whole range of businesses. They offer more space than a small van but still deliver on fuel economy and drive. These vans tend to have two loading areas: a sliding panel and two rear doors. When it comes to passengers, often there will be room for three in the front. Electricians, plumbers, food transporters, window cleaners, roofers, landscapers and decorators often benefit from this kind of van.

Large vans

A large van features around 1200 to 1500 kilos as its payload and, generally, an extra metre in length. They can be much more difficult to drive, but that’s a question of experience, too. Once a driver gets used to being behind the wheel of one, driving the vehicle becomes much less of a challenge. These vans are good for projects that involve transporting bulkier or larger, heavier items that require more space than a medium van but not enough to warrant the use of a Luton van (mentioned a little further down this section). Construction workers use them, as do parcel delivery drivers.

Crew vans

These vans are useful if you’re looking to transport not just larger goods than possible in a standard car, but also a team of workers. Often, these vans enjoy a minibus style design. They work well in professions or trades that involve teams, such as construction or even sports coaching.

Dropside vans

Dropside vans feature an open-air loading bay surrounded by hinged boards that drop below the platform, giving the van their name of ‘dropside’. The large payload makes this type of van an essential tool in many trades. Typically, companies will use it for transporting goods that are not weather risks, such as stone or soil.

Luton vans

Luton vans are long-wheel-based vans that feature a hydraulic lift and have a large loading box attached to the van. They’re much larger than a lot of other vans and provide more space. Of course, their size makes them more difficult to handle. You’ll find these vans a lot in the delivery and removal industries, and they’re extremely useful for lifting and transporting heavy white goods such as fridges and washing machines.

what to consider when choosing a van

Unfortunately, life isn’t as easy as rolling up to a dealership or service provider and just grabbing a van. There are a few things to consider before you buy the vehicle or if you’re looking to hire it, rent it from the provider.


Of course, the most obvious factor to consider is the size of the van. What size do you need: small, medium or large? Consider that if you’re driving around a city, a small or medium-sized vehicle is going to be much easier to guide through the city streets, especially the narrower ones, and to park.


Don’t choose a van or work with one unless you understand the payload, the amount of weight the vehicle can carry. That includes the passengers. If you go over the payload, you could get into serious trouble, as it’s illegal to exceed this weight. It can also be extremely dangerous.

To calculate your payload weight, subtract the maximum gross vehicle weight (the maximum weight your vehicle can hold) from the curb weight (the weight of the vehicle when unloaded).

Be aware that a larger van doesn’t automatically mean the payload is higher; merely that the internal dimensions are greater so you’ll enjoy more space inside for materials or goods.


Just as important as the payload is the load space. Often, this will be measured in litres or in square metres. It’s important to note that some areas of the van will be smaller in width because of the wheel arches.


Accessibility isn’t just about the van; it’s also about the surroundings. You’ll need to consider whether you’ll be driving around narrow streets and whether your van complies with any location height or weight restrictions.


Are you leaving any goods in the van overnight? If so, then you should take extra security precautions. Some vans feature separate locking systems for the crew and the load bay. A van with separate locking where there’s a bulkhead instead is a good idea. This makes it much harder for thieves to break in.

Fuel type

If the journeys consist of short trips around a town or city, you might prefer an all-electric-powered vehicle, whereas a diesel-powered engine may be more suitable if operations involve long stretches of motorway. If you’ll be conducting a mixture of short and long trips, you might feel a petrol-powered vehicle could be the right choice.


Are you going to have to cover long distances in the van? Comfort will be an important feature. Air conditioning, a built-in sat-nav and adaptive cruise control features will all help to make the journey more bearable.

Size-specific considerations when choosing a van:

When you’re using a van for commercial purposes, you’ll have further size-specific considerations to make. Below are some of the most important factors to keep in mind when choosing the van:

  • The length, height and width of the equipment, supplies or goods you’ll be carrying in the van.
  • The occasional need to carry extra, large pieces of equipment or more supplies or items than usual. Does the van have the space and enough of a payload to accommodate them?
  • The space you need to work in the van if you need to work in it at all. Loading or unloading might entail you entering the van space.
  • The potential for your needs to change in the future. For instance, have you been dealing with larger contracts lately that require you to transport more goods or carry more equipment?
  • Location-based restrictions. Think tight city parking spaces, low headroom, etc.

the right van for the job

You have to think about how you’ll be using the van and what you're likely to be moving frequently. For example, if you run a pallet delivery service, you may need a separate pallet truck, a loading ramp or load boards for vans to help load vans quickly. Below is a quick guide to how to select the right van for your requirements. 

Choosing the right payload

You’ll have to think about your business needs and the types of loads you’ll be transporting. You’ll have to think about their size, weight and volume to choose a van that has the right payload for what you’re looking for.

Choosing the right load space

The load space is the space available inside and designed for the van to carry the load. If you’re transporting tools or smaller parts, a small or medium-sized van could do the trick, whereas if you’re going to be shifting pallets, a larger van will be more suitable.

You should also think about how you’re going to access the load. If you’re loading the van with heavy items, you might need to access this cargo with a forklift truck. If you’re working in a town, you might require access to the van from the side instead of the back.

Consider, too, any special requirements of the load itself. For instance, if you’re delivering food, refrigeration could be necessary.

Choosing the right size

Make a list of everything your van is going to carry, whether that’s tools, equipment or other cargo. Being clear on these items will help you determine the dimensions of the van that will best meet your needs. Note that if you’ll be carrying extra equipment, such as hoists, grabs or a tail lift, the wheelbase of your van must be able to accommodate them.

Choosing the right height

Often, anything above a H2 is considered a high-top van. It’s likely to provide enough space for you to stand inside the van if you need to. Normally, the best body type is the one smallest enough to still complete the job because it will also be more fuel-efficient. Before you choose your van, consider the following:

  • How much will your van need to carry?
  • Is it likely to run light or empty?
  • Are you carrying low volume/high weight loads? High volume/low-weight loads?
  • Will you require any specialist loading/unloading capabilities?
  • Are there any height restrictions or limitations in the location(s) where you’ll use your van?

Choosing in line with running costs

Running costs are a key consideration when operating a commercial vehicle. You’ll have to take into account the following when choosing your van:

  • fuel capacity and consumption;
  • maintenance and servicing;
  • van insurance;
  • vehicle excise duty.

Considering passengers

Are you going to be carrying any passengers at all? Will you be transporting a team at all? If so, you’ll have to consider a van that has enough seating for passengers as well as for the cargo itself. Comfort should also be a factor to take into consideration when asking this question.

Choosing the right cabin

Your cabin must be comfortable and provide all the features you need, especially if you’re going to be driving long distances in the van. If it doesn’t, you should look into upgrading to a higher trim level.

how to load a van: simple tips for safety and efficiency

Of course, when loading a van, you’re likely to be working with heavy items, and it’s very easy to injure yourself if you’re not careful. You might even feel under a bit of pressure, as not only will you have to load the van safely, but also efficiently so you can get the supplies to where they need to go on time.

Before anything else, and to confirm you won’t be violating any traffic laws, you should check the loading site before you begin loading. Look out especially for:

  • Double and single yellow lines: The local authorities will have clear time limits and restrictions of their own. Read any signs at the loading site clearly to avoid falling foul of the law.
  • Designated loading bays: These bays will allow commercial vehicles to load and unload for up to 20 minutes. You should check the signage on the site, however, to confirm the exact times permitted and, again, stay within the law.
  • Metered and residential parking bays: unless loading or unloading has been suspended there, these zones will often permit it. Check to be sure, however.
  • Pavements: Unless you have someone to stay with the van, try to avoid parking on the pavement. Avoid parking even partly on it if you can help it.

 Here are a few tips on loading your van safely:

  • Know your limits. What you can lift and what you can lift safely are two different things, so test the load before lifting it. If you’re feeling any strain in your back or muscles, ask a colleague to help you lift the load. You can also split heavy loads into lighter, more manageable ones.
  • Load the van as close as possible to the location of the load itself. Don’t try to carry heavier objects all the way to the van without a break if you have to travel with them. Putting items down for a moment to catch your breath won’t do any harm.
  • Plan the order in which you wish to load items into the van. Doing this now will save you more time than if you were to change your mind during loading.
  • Pack the strongest, heaviest items at the bottom. This may sound obvious, but it’s worth highlighting.
  • Create a barrier between you and the load. Even when you secure the load, you still run the risk of the items becoming loose during transit. Protect yourself in case any small or large items do come your way. Mesh, netting or even a sheet of plywood can all be placed to create a separate goods compartment.
  • To keep furniture or white goods secure, pack them upright and pack goods around them. Any items that have doors or drawers should be secured so that they don’t come open. Balance the weight evenly to ensure the van is safer and easier to drive.
  • Check the items’ final destination. You should know this before you leave so that you can pull up as close to this end destination as possible. Being able to do this will stop you from having to move the items more than necessary.

safe loading and unloading technique

Before you lift a single object, observe the ground to see whether there are any kerbs, potholes or obstructions which you could trip up on or over while you’re making your way to the van with the load. Do you need a midway stopping point? Case out the route beforehand to determine this and where you’ll stop.

The loading site itself should be:

  • out of the way of vehicles or of human traffic;
  • clear of electric cables;
  • on firm, level ground.

Don’t just check the site, though; check your van as well. Any obstructions? Slippery patches? Clear them and clean them up as appropriate.

Then it’s down to loading the van safely. The technique is easy enough to perform, but in the rush to complete loading or unloading and get the van back out on the road, logistics workers can forget this. The technique is as follows:

  1. carry the load close to your waist, with the heaviest side closest to you;
  2. keep your back mostly straight, and try not to twist the waist, especially when you’re lifting;
  3. keep your head up and avoid making jerky movements, allowing them to be smooth instead;
  4. lower heavy items into the van first, and then position them exactly where you want them, not while you’re still lowering them into the van;
  5. even if you’re lifting in pairs, which will enable you to carry the amount you can carry safely by around two thirds, know your limits.

van loading equipment

Naturally, you’d have to be superhuman to work with a van and not use any equipment at all. That’s just not possible, so you’re going to require a few tools. Here are some tools you might find yourself using when operating:


One piece of equipment you may find useful is a ramp. You might choose a heavy-duty folding ramp, which is easy to fold and put to one side, or you might prefer a lightweight aluminium option, which is straightforward to use and store.

Ramps do have their disadvantages, however. One of these is the space they take up behind the vehicle. Another is that they may be good for working with light loads, but anything heavier is going to call for something a lot stronger. A third disadvantage is that moving goods up and down ramps can be hard-going on the workers who have to do all the pushing and pulling.


In conjunction with a ramp, you may use a winch to help you load and unload your vehicle. Electric winches are easy to install and to operate but don’t work well in wet environments, require a lot of energy and are only really good for lighter loads. Meanwhile, hand winches are easy to use in difficult weather conditions but require extra support while you’re operating them. They also don’t work well when you’re dealing with heavy loads.


A step on a van provides greater access to the van and is a good safety feature. Not only does it provide safety when accessing the fan, however, but if fitted on the rear of the van also helps to protect the van from bumps and scratches from other vehicles, especially from forklift trucks. The only issue with steps might be that when loading or unloading the van, you also have to be careful not to trip on them. In other words, they can become something of an obstruction too.

Load security equipment

You may choose to invest in some equipment to secure loads so that they don’t move around while in transit. This could include extra lashing points, which you could fit to the bulkhead, floor or sides of the van; lashing rails, which you can fit to the floor or sides of the van; and floor rails, which assist in the loading of wheeled equipment.

getting the load in and out again

When it’s time to unload your van, you should follow the same precautions as before of checking it’s legal to unload in the spot you wish to; the ground is firm and level; and you’re carrying all the items safely as possible.

Choose your unloading area carefully

You shouldn’t just choose an area to unload because it’s legal, however; there are other considerations to make. There should be no traffic or any other obstructions around. You should be free to unload without causing any inconvenience to others.

Know where you’re unloading

If you’ve not established your final destination, where you’ll be unloading, before you set out on the journey, you’ll end up causing an obstruction. You’ll likely have to move the items twice, too, which isn’t ideal. 

Be aware, too, that it’s not always realistic to move items directly where they’ll end up. You might have to unload them into one part of a building first, rest and then continue moving them to where they need to be.

Beware of items that might have moved

Items will have moved around during the journey, but even if everything appears to be okay, approach the load with caution. Some items may have unbalanced themselves and could fall, so watch out for those. Beware, too, of any broken glass or splinters from damaged items. They could harm your hands or feet. It would be good practice to wear gloves to protect your hands when loading and unloading.

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Ultimate Guide Safe Loading And Unloading Of Vehicles 01

Ultimate Guide

safe and secure loads

When a load moves around inside a truck or a van, the goods can end up damaged and the situation can become hazardous. The load can become unsafe for the person(s) who have to unload the vehicle, as items may fall on top of them, cut them or cause some other injury. The driver and anyone else in the cabin can also become at risk of an accident because the load may cause the vehicle to roll or shift forwards when braking.

This means you should secure the load and, generally, make loading and unloading as safe as possible. You can find out more advice and guidance on loading and unloading vehicles in our Ultimate Guide to Safe Loading and Unloading of Vehicles, in which we also discuss the responsibilities of employees and employees when it comes to safe loading and unloading of vehicles. In the meantime, however, here are some tips on how to secure loads in a van.

check the load will be secure before setting off

Ask yourself the following questions. Can the load:

  • slide forwards, backwards or sideways;
  • become loose during the journey;
  • topple over, fall over or make it unstable?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you should use some load restraints. Relying on friction to hold the load in place is nowhere near enough.

Decide who is responsible for loading

If you’re the person responsible for loading the van, make sure you load the van in such a way that the load is safe when loading, during transit and when unloading. If you’re not responsible for loading, decide who is, what training they should have and how they’ll be supervised.


Accidents and fatal injuries don’t just occur out of the blue. There will often be near misses or minor incidents before something really nasty happens. Report these and other issues so that the relevant people can take preventive action and avoid something more serious happening in the future.

If you’re the driver, and especially if you’ve not loaded the vehicle, you should be supplied with information about the load you’re carrying, how to carry it and what to do if the load shifts. If you don’t receive it, ask for it.

Get involved in the loading process

If you’re the driver, you should be involved somehow in the loading process. That could be just watching the competent person load up the vehicle, if you’re not loading it.

Should you not get the chance to observe the loading of the vehicle, you should be provided with information about how the load has been secured and also the chance to check the load before you set off. If you’re not happy with the stability or the security of the load, make sure that a competent person assesses the load. Then have it resecured.

Choose the right method to secure the load

Your restraining method should secure the load to the chassis of the vehicle and stop movement. Note that some loads are different, so pick a method that prevents the load from moving but also which doesn’t create other risks, such as manual handling or working at a height.

Make sure the restraint is adequate

Accidents happen when drivers or operators underestimate the level of restraint needed to hold the load in place. Dynamic forces are higher than static forces, so it will take more force to secure a load when it’s moving than when it’s static.

Ensure the combined strength of the restraint system is sufficient

The combined strength of the restraint system must be enough to withstand a forward force of not less than the total weight of the load to prevent the load moving under severe braking, and half the weight moving backwards and sideways.

Understand that even at low speeds, the forces acting on a load can be high enough when the vehicle is moving to cause the load to shift. Heavy loads can move and do move, so never rely solely on the weight of the load to keep it in place.

Load the vehicle correctly

You should stack the load against the headboard (or bulkhead, as we’re dealing with vans), and the centre of gravity should be as low as possible. Make sure the load is stable without the lashings to lower the risk of it falling over during transit. If it’s not stable by itself, you should think about how you can support it.

If it’s not possible to stack the load against the bulkhead (or if items could slide over it, use additional lashing and think of other ways you can stop the load moving forward. Extra lashings, sails, chocks or blocking are all potential options. In a van, you should also use straps attached to the vehicle body.

If there’s any damage to a headboard or bulkhead, fix it as soon as possible. The headboard is a crucial element in the load securing system.

Place the load so that the centre of gravity is as low as practicable

The load should be placed in such a way to keep the centre of gravity as low as you can practise and near to the centre line of the vehicle.

Whenever possible, stack heavier loads closer to the centre line of the vehicle, whereas the lighter ones should go to the sides. You should also spread the load to create an even weight distribution across the whole space to make the vehicle more stable when the load is in transit. Avoid overloading the vehicle, again to help keep the vehicle stable.

Use longer load restraints for loads positioned to one side of the vehicle

If a load is positioned on one side of the vehicle and the restraint is looped over it, you’ll require a longer restraint than if you’ve mounted it centrally. Even if the restraint is tight when you first apply it, any movement towards the centre line will cause the restraint to slacken and leave the load insecure. If you must set a load off the centre line, attach the restraint to the side of the loads or by routing the restraint longitudinally.

Check cargo doors are locked

Always check you’ve locked your cargo doors and that your locking mechanisms are in good working condition. After you’ve travelled a few miles, check the load for security and lashing tension, and then do so at several intervals during the journey. Note that weather conditions can interfere with the tension of lashings, which can cause them to loosen up, decreasing the security of the load and increasing the potential for damage to the cargo.

Inspect load securing equipment regularly

Inspect any equipment you use to secure loads for damage regularly. Do this in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Pay special attention to rope and webbing to make sure there’s no visible deterioration as a result of constant use, such as frayed edges. Check, too, that no one has cut them or that they’ve not encountered any other damage through misuse. If you have any doubts about whether the equipment requires repairs, consult the manufacturer or the supplier.

types of van loading systems

Modular Rollerbed Systems

loading your van with a Joloda Hydraroll modular rollerbed system

Our modular rollerbed systems offer the possibility of upgrading your van from a standard unit to a rollerbed vehicle to ease your pallet handling. Our solution for vans is a pneumatically operated pallet loading system, featuring a rise and fall rollerbed to load and unload small vehicles safely and quickly. 

Several lightweight aluminium frames, all connected and equipped with rising and fall pneumatic tracks, comprise the system. You can then install this system in your van — which we can do for you in as little as two to four hours, depending on the configuration — and load much more safely by just rolling euro pallets, block pallets or plastic pallets or other loads in and out of the van.

Systems are powered by a 12v low current compressor, internally fitted within the rollerbed dimensions and connected via the cigarette lighter socket of the transporter van. It has an air operated valve, deactivated via door closure in case of operator error.

Safety is paramount

You can make loading your van and other logistics vehicles such as trailers exceptionally safe by using modular rollerbed systems. We’ve designed the system, especially to handle pallets inside vans and small trucks. Safety is paramount when it comes to loading and unloading a vehicle. Our van loading solution features some simple but effective safety features:

Bulkhead and pallet stops

The floor at the cabin side is fitted with a galvanised steel strip of 50 mm. This strip serves as a bulkhead and stops pallets from hitting the cabin/partition wall. Meanwhile, at the rear door side of the vehicle sit some manually operated flip-up pallet stops. This prevents pallets from rolling out.

Pallet loading systems for vans guides

When providing this system, we can offer you the optional safety feature of pallet guides. We’ll fit the frames with galvanised steel pallet guides on both sides of the platform. This stops lightweight pallets from sliding off the floor while the goods are in transit.

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why choose a modular rollerbed loading solution for your van?

  • Driver does not need to enter van to load or unload the pallets
  • No forklift needed to push or pull pallets in and out; just roll in and roll out
  • Less damages due to simple loading and unloading procedure
  • 100% safe during loading, when in transit and during unloading
  • Connected by 12v low current compressor via cigarette lighter socket
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who should use this loading solution?

Our modular rollerbed solution can be used by anyone who struggles to move heavy pallets in and out of their van. It makes an ideal van accessory for the city and urban delivery of palletised goods in the paper, print, parcel industry, office equipment, and food and drink markets.

why use a modular rollerbed for your van?

Our modular rollerbed will boost not just the safety of your loading and unloading but also the efficiency of the process. The system makes everything more straightforward because:

  • the driver doesn’t need to enter the van to load or unload the pallets;
  • you just roll the pallets in and out, instead of using a forklift truck to push them in or out;
  • loading and unloading causes less damage to items;
  • the goods are safe during loading, in transit and during unloading
  • you can connect the system easily via the cigarette lighter socket.

Safety and security are important when loading and unloading a van so that nobody gets hurt and that the items in the load don’t get damaged. If you’d like to find out more about our van loading system, contact us. We’ll be happy to discuss your requirements.

watch our van loading video

Learn how easy it is to install and operate one of our modular rollerbed systems for vans. We've assembled a video with details on how easy it is to install and operate the system once it's installed. 

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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. 

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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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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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