How Loading Ramps Work

moving van
A loading ramp can help make it a bit easier to move heavy furniture into a moving van.
Zen Sekizawa/Taxi/Getty Images

The loading ramp is a real-world version of that old friend from high school science class, the inclined plane. Like that old friend, it makes lifting things easier. A loading ramp helps you move heavy objects from the ground into the bed of a trailer (or up a short flight of stairs or into the back of a truck or…well, use your imagination). Loading ramps are indispensable if you have something that needs to go into a trailer and it's too big to lift -- a large box, say, or an all-terrain vehicle. Loading ramps are readily available from towing supply stores, either assembled or as kits, and they usually come with everything you'll need to load your trailer safely, including chains or nylon safety straps to secure the ramp to safety hooks in the trailer. Many loading ramps are designed to fold when not in use, so that you can stow them efficiently in the back of a truck or tuck them out of the way in a garage.

Safety is a very important issue with loading ramps. If used right, they let you move objects safely into a trailer, but they also raise a few safety issues of their own. For instance, loading ramps can shift when heavy objects are placed on them and the spinning tires of a moving vehicle can even knock the loading ramp to the ground if it isn't secured properly. And when driving a vehicle up a loading ramp the vehicle can easily tip over, not only damaging the vehicle but injuring or even killing the driver. On the next page, we'll not only look at some of the things you can do with a loading ramp but at safe techniques for their use.


Using Loading Ramps

military helicopter
Ramps can be found on a number of things, including military helicopters like this one.
Check Six/Collection Mix/Getty Images

The advantages of using a loading ramp to move heavy objects into a trailer should be obvious. It's easier to roll or carry heavy cargo up a ramp than it is to lift it. If you need to put a motorcycle into a trailer, for instance, would you rather lift it and toss it through the door or drive it up a loading ramp? Maybe if you've been pumping up your muscles with free weights, you'd prefer to lift the bike, but most of us would prefer the quick and easy drive.

Not only is it easier to drive the bike up the ramp but it's safer, both for the bike and the person lifting it. There's no risk of straining back muscles or of dropping the bike. However, driving the bike up the loading ramp presents a few risks of its own and considerable caution should be taken along the way. Here's a rundown of some elementary safety precautions to use when driving a motorcycle (or a tractor, an all-terrain vehicle, or any other motorized device) up a loading ramp:


Don't fall over backwards. When driving up an inclined surface, such as a ramp, there's always a danger of tipping over backwards. The risk is greater for vehicles with a high center of gravity (a motorcycle, for instance) than it is for vehicles with a low center of gravity like tractors. But another important factor is whether the vehicle has rear-wheel drive. If it does, the entire vehicle can spin around the powered rear wheels and this can cause it to overturn. The simplest solution, if the vehicle has rear-wheel drive, is to drive it up the ramp backwards, in reverse, so that the powered wheel is uphill.

Don't fall off the side of the ramp. Another danger is slip-sliding off the ramp. The solution: Use a ramp that has a surface designed for traction (many do), and don't drive up a wet ramp.

Don't let the ramp come loose from the trailer. Imagine this scenario: You're driving up the ramp, the front wheel comes down on the trailer bed, and the rear wheel, now slightly elevated, starts to spin. The rotating motion of the wheel can push the loading ramp backwards, away from the trailer and onto the ground. The vehicle and its driver will go tumbling. To make sure this doesn't happen, be sure that the ramp is tightly secured to the trailer, with a chain or safety straps.

Keep the ramp angle low. The steeper the ramp, the greater the likelihood of an accident. Consider putting the trailer on a surface that's lower than the one that the cargo is being loaded from so that the ramp will be fairly level. For instance, consider having the trailer on the street so that the other end of the loading ramp can be positioned on a raised curb.

Adjust your safety chains. If the safety chains attaching the ramp to the trailer are too long, the ramp may sag dangerously or there may be a gap between the ramp and trailer. Consider removing a link from the chain or attaching it by a link other than the one at the end.

Those are just a few suggestions for making your loading ramp experience safer. Most of all, just use common sense when you load cargo via a ramp. Think about ways in which something can go wrong -- and when you find one, do something to keep it from happening.


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