Loading Ramp Safety

Richard L. Parish  |  11/20/2004 1:14:03 AM

Loading equipment onto a truck or trailer usually requires the use of loading ramps. There are some safety issues involved in using ramps.

Metal Ramps
Aluminum loading ramps for lawn tractors and ATVs are common (Figure 1). Steel ramps are also available. These ramps are adequate for light machines. Some come in separate pieces; others fold up for hauling. Some aluminum ramps are curved; this can add strength and also provides a flatter angle at the top. Do not exceed the rated load capacity of the ramps.

Wooden Ramps
You can make your own wooden ramps from 2x12 lumber. You can buy kits with brackets for the top, or you can bevel the boards at the top and bolt a piece of angle iron underneath to latch onto the truck or trailer (Figure 2). Wooden ramps tend to be slick - especially when wet - so you should add something to the surface to provide traction. You can tack pieces of ribbed rubber, mesh fencing or expanded metal to the top of the boards (Figure 3).

Integral Ramps
Many small trailers have a combination tailgate/ramp that drops down for loading. These are usually designed only for light lawn and garden equipment or ATVs. In some ways they are safer than other ramps because they are securely fastened and are generally full-width. Larger trailers sometimes have two integral ramps; these also offer the advantage of being fastened to the trailer.

Length and Angle
The longer the ramp, the lower the loading angle. Obviously, lower loading angles are safer, but longer ramps are heavier and more difficult to store. With many mowers, a low loading angle is needed to avoid having the mower bottom out on the top of the ramp when the machine rolls off the ramp and onto the truck or trailer.

Anchoring
Most ramps have a lip or flap that hooks over the bed of the truck or trailer, but many of the lips or flaps are flat and do not keep the ramp from moving backward. A common type of accident occurs when a driver starts down a ramp and suddenly hits the brakes. The momentum of the tractor or ATV can move the ramps backward away from the truck or trailer and cause the ramps to drop to the ground.
 
It is important to fasten the ramp to the truck in some way (for example, with anchor chains or a locking lug on the flap) to prevent the ramp from coming off the truck or trailer bed. Also, be sure to set the parking brake on the truck to keep it from moving while loading or unloading.

Support
Some machines are light enough that no support is needed, but, when loading heavier lawn and garden equipment such as compact tractors onto trailers, the weight of the machine going up the ramp can raise the rear of the truck. This can be prevented by putting blocks or jackstands under the rear of the trailer. Do not put the blocks or jackstands under the ramps; that can allow the ramps to come loose from the trailer when the machine rolls onto the trailer. You should not block clear up to the trailer; leave room for some lowering under load.

Direction
Always keep the drive wheels uphill when loading or unloading. For a tractor, a mid-deck zero-turning-radius mower or an ATV, that means you should back up the ramps and drive down.

Loading lawn and garden equipment onto a truck or trailer is intrinsically dangerous, but you can reduce the risk of an accident by using good ramps, anchoring the ramps correctly and backing up the ramps.

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