The Main Difference Between a Mechanical and a Hydraulic Dock Leveler.


Difference between a Mechanical Dock Leveler and a Hydraulic Dock Leveler

What Is the Difference between a Mechanical Dock Leveler and a Hydraulic Dock Leveler?

Dock levelers are essentially a ‘bridge’ from the building to a trailer and work to maintain a smooth and safe loading/unloading process in a facility. There are two main types of dock levelers: a mechanical dock leveler and a hydraulic dock leveler. Each dock leveler has its pros and cons.

Mechanical Dock Leveler

A mechanical dock leveler requires manual effort to operate. The operator has to position the leveler onto the trailer by pulling a chain at the rear of the dock, which causes the leveler’s platform and dock lip to lift and extend from the dock towards the secured trailer. The operator must then walk onto the leveler and use his or her weight to lower the platform and dock lip for proper alignment with the trailer bed.

Mechanical levelers comprise a series of parts such as lip-latches, springs, hold-downs, and other moving parts. These parts are consistently under pressure from forklifts or other warehouse operator equipment that perform heavy loading and unloading of cargo, which means they may require frequent maintenance and replacements.  When deciding which leveler to select, it’s important to review the total lifetime cost of ownership as well as initial capital investment.

Hydraulic Dock Leveler

A hydraulic dock leveler works automatically with the push of a button. The leveler is programmed to lower to the proper height and align with the trailer bed without inconveniencing the operator. Another push of a button allows the hydraulic leveler to assume its original position.

Hydraulic levelers are more convenient and easy to operate, but more expensive up front and require electrical components. When deciding which leveler to select, it’s important to consider how much time could be saved in the long term with a hydraulic system and factor this in when budgeting.

Which Dock Leveler Is Best Suited to Your Facility?

You should consider several factors when choosing the right dock leveler for your facility. A few of these considerations are cost, maintenance, convenience, load capacities, and daily use. A mechanical dock is ideal for a low cycle, low capacity, and standard building applications. A hydraulic dock is ideal for a high cycle, high capacity, and custom building applications.


A mechanical dock leveler is a more affordable option up front but the upfront price does not account for long-term costs, such as losses due to maintenance fees, part replacements, and lost time. A facility manager should always conduct a formal analysis to determine if long-term costs are worth upfront savings.


A hydraulic dock leveler requires less maintenance than a mechanical leveler as it consists of only (3) main parts: The power pack, the deck cylinder, and the lip cylinder. These components require little and are built to withstand high cycle use. A mechanical leveler uses small moving parts that must withstand thousands of pounds of weight and pressure on a regular basis. These parts need to be maintained or replaced throughout the year.


A hydraulic dock leveler is more convenient due to its easy pushbutton controls. The design is both easy to use and ergonomic, benefiting the facility manager and workers. This seamless technology allows for faster cycle times and promotes efficiency in the facility. A mechanical dock requires more force not only to raise the dock but also to deploy onto a trailer as the deck needs to be walked down.

Daily Use

The frequency with which a dock leveler is used greatly informs a facility manager’s decision. If the dock leveler is used frequently throughout the day and the facility manager values the speed of cycle completion, a hydraulic dock leveler is a natural choice. If the dock leveler is an auxiliary technology that supports operations but is not integral to day-to-day work, the facility could save money by using a mechanical leveler.

Load Capacities

Higher capacity loads require more force and a bulkier piece of equipment so heavier products such as steel, liquids, or paper rolls would be better suited for hydraulic docks. On the contrary, lighter products such as packaging, food products, or clothing would be better suited for mechanical docks. Important to note, mechanical docks are only rated up to 50,000 LB capacities so if total loads (including warehouse lift equipment) exceed this, a hydraulic dock is required.

Do You Still Need Help Selecting the Right Dock Leveler?

If you have any outstanding questions or would prefer to engage in a one-on-one inspection of your facility to make a final decision, we are here to help. Book a free consultation with an experienced Lenworth representative, and we will walk you through your options when it comes to dock levelers, as well as any additional facility needs.


Book a free, no-hassle consultation here >>

As the VP of Sales & Marketing, Spencer is an energetic and company-oriented manager that places an emphasis on continuous organizational improvement. Spencer's acute focus on building a customer-centric business drives his team to consistently go above and beyond customers' expectations. At Lenworth, Spencer places the customer as the focal point of all decisions.

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