Vehicle loading and unloading – what you need to know



Before you start loading you need to ensure the vehicle / trailer is on firm, level ground, the brakes are applied and there is sufficient room for you to access both sides of the vehicle with your forklift truck.   If the driver is present you should obtain the vehicle keys from him until you have completed loading.  If loading a vehicle from a stepped loading dock it is especially important to remove the keys from the ignition so that the driver cannot drive away before you have finished loading.   Some loading docks have various different methods to lock the trailer onto the dock to prevent the vehicle from pulling away and you should be aware of the safety procedures in place at your particular site.


The correct way to go about loading a flat bed lorry or trailer is to start at the head board.  Please note if this is a trailer, detached from the tractor unit, you need to think about how much weight you are putting onto the front as there is quite a long overhang from the legs of the trailer to the headboard and putting too much weight on the front of an unsupported trailer can cause it to tip up, especially if you are double stacking loads.  Ideally, the vehicle trailer will have a tractor unit attached to it or you could think about putting a stack of unladen pallets under the front of the trailer to give the trailer some more stability.  Using standard pallets pick up the pallets on the narrow face and put your first pallet with the wide face of the pallet up against the head board of the vehicle on one side.  Your second pallet will then go onto the other side exactly opposite the first pallet.  Continue loading alternating from one side to another and once you have the same amount of pallets behind the supporting legs of the trailer as there are in front of, you can then remove your stack of empty pallets from underneath the front of the trailer.  Continue loading alternating sides pallet by pallet until you have completed your load.


You can normally get between 20 – 24 standard pallets on a 40 ft trailer.


Offloading a trailer will be the exact reverse of this so take off pallets alternating from side to side, starting at the back of the trailer but again be aware that you may need to support the front end of the trailer if there is no tractor unit attached.


Please note if you are loading a container lorry or trailer from within a stepped loading dock, you need to make sure that the front of the trailer is supported if there is no tractor unit attached before driving onto the bed of the trailer with your forklift truck plus load as the combined weight can very easily tip up an supported trailer.   It is really important to remove vehicle keys to prevent the driver pulling away before you have completed loading.