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Steel vs. Aluminum Dock Boards – you make the call

As the Plant Manager for Bluff Manufacturing, I often find myself looking over our products staged for shipping to our customers and thinking to myself,Why would someone order that product?  This question always comes to mind with respect to large aluminum dock boards, AC and BC products.

Example:  a few weeks ago a customer ordered a BC6096.  This is a 15,000 lb capacity aluminum dock board with bolted-on steel curbs.  Unit weight for the product is 396 lbs.
Why do people buy aluminum products instead of steel?  The most common response I hear is because aluminum is lighter than steel.  A board as described in the example above weighs far too much to be positioned by hand and it appears to be destined for a dock application involving a forklift due to the capacity of the product ordered.  The BC6096 weighs in at 396 lbs.  A 15T6096 all-welded steel dock board weighs in at 840 lbs.  Will a forklift care about the additional weight?  I would suggest that the answer to that question is no.

For people out there shopping for portable dock board solutions that offer superior rigidity, durability and longevity, I would submit to you that all-welded steel dock boards will always prevail over any aluminum dock board product whether welded or bolted.  I will also submit to you that if you shop comparable size and capacity products in steel and aluminum, you will be pleasantly surprised at the value in all-welded steel products.

While we will continue to manufacture aluminum dock board products because they do continue to have appropriate applications, I would always recommend for any forklift application that steel is king.

Plant Manager and former Plant Engineer