Loading Dock Evaluation: The Rust Factor

It Never Sleeps

There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.

—Neil Young

Yard Ramp: October 2017
October 2017

Yard Ramp: June 2018
The Same Yard Ramp: June 2018

The two photos above are of the same yard ramp. It has a 20,000-lb capacity with 84” width and 36’ length.

We took the photo on the left in October 2017. The photo on the right? June 2018. Why does October look okay and June look, well, rusty? What happened in those eight months?

Actually, not much. Between last fall and the beginning of this summer, it traveled on rental from Tampa to St. Cloud in central Florida and back again. The yard ramp remains a workhorse, and we proudly present it in inventory. Central Florida is known for being quite humid.

As we’ve explored in a previous entry, rust is a result of oxidation. Exposure to the elements—swings in temperature, humidity levels, the cycles of rain and sunshine—all contribute to that oxidation.

That is: rust is expected. For a new yard ramp, rust will begin to appear some three months after final production. This is completely natural and not a remote concern—for the manufacturer, for the customer, for us.

Steel is a combination of mostly iron and carbon and is one of the strongest metals known. Unless and until the rust completely works through a piece of steel, with structural features showing true deterioration (at which point we’d repair it or take it out of circulation), the yard ramp will function just fine.

After Evaluation: Rejected
This is too much rust!

Which brings us to how we evaluate the condition of each and every yard ramp we offer for rent and for sale. A number of factors contribute to our categorization, including age of the ramp and its structural condition.

(We use the term “structural” as a main determining factor; in our experience, we offer some ramps that look more worn than that photo above on the right, and they continue to serve our customers safely and efficiently.)

After our inspection of each ramp, we list them with one of five conditions:

RAMP CONDITION:

NEWLIKE NEWEXCELLENTVERY GOODGOOD
Direct from the factory or parked at one of our depots, this ramp is no more than six months old. It includes safety chains and a mobility device (if applicable). There are no blemishes other than limited oxidation from normal exposure. Hand-cranks or hydraulic systems are new and function as such.
The same as “New” but it left the factory more than six months ago (and/or has been parked inside and shows little aging). It includes safety chains and mobility device (if applicable). There are no blemishes other than limited oxidation from normal exposure. Hand-cranks or hydraulic systems are also like new and function as such.
The same as “Like New” but this ramp has been parked outside and has normal oxidation. In every other way it’s terrific.
The same as “Excellent” but this ramp is probably 4-15 years old. It shows reasonable wear and tear. Hand cranks or hydraulic pumps may require general maintenance but no major repairs. Its mobility device (if applicable) and safety chains are included.
The same as “Very Good” but this ramp shows its age and use like a grizzled warrior. Buyer may need to purchase or fabricate a missing mobility device or set of safety chains. General maintenance to hydraulics would be highly recommended (really, for any used ramp to establish a maintenance baseline before using). Some repairs may be in order: dried out gaskets or hoses, a bent section of deck or apron, a few spot welds. Though a little long in the tooth and not the prettiest, it is structurally sound and will provide a reasonable number of additional years of service.

If and when we colonize the moon, The Yard Ramp Guy wants to set up a lunar branch office. Our inventory would remain pristine there. Rust feeds on oxygen, and there’s no oxygen on the moon. Which means no rust on our yard ramp inventory.

Until then, we’re grateful to operate here, where there’s oxygen. Makes it easier to plan the day.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE:

Yard Ramp: 6 Months Old
Yard Ramp: 6 Months Old

Yard Ramp: One Year Old.
Same Yard Ramp: 6 Months Later

Efficient Yard Ramp Repair

The Yard Ramp Guy: Customer Service
Repairing a Damaged Yard Ramp

Making Lemonade

When a mobile yard ramp in circulation sustained damage, The Yard Ramp Guy was on the case.

The ramp in question, a rental, is currently in Brooklyn, and our headquarters are just outside of Chicago. That’s some 700 miles and one hour’s time zone difference. How to efficiently get that repaired? Telephone, email, knowing how to qualify the right craftsmen, and building relationships.

The Challenge:
The support crossbeam connector brace under the ramp had bent, sustaining damage during a repositioning and compromising the integrity of the support legs and wheels. The hand-crank gear box was stripped and the crank handle broken and torn. The short term for this is “user abuse.”

The Approach:

We confirmed availability of replacement parts with the manufacturer. Through our network of turnkey service partners, we contracted a worthy welder. We confirmed with both welder and current renter a date and time. We secured the delivery of replacement parts.

The welding team first removed the compromised leg assembly and connector brace from the ramp.

Beginning the Repair
Removing the Damage

The team then spot welded the new leg assembly and new connector brace, measuring to assure equal height on both sides of the ramp. We appreciated the cautious approach of the welding team, which contacted us during the repair to confirm removal of an extra shaft on the hand crank assembly. We also kept the factory representative in California close-by via phone conversations directly with the welder.

Securing the New Yard Ramp Leg Assembly
Securing the Replacement Leg Assembly

The team applied a comprehensive weld.

Yard Ramp Repair: A Comprehensive Weld
Sparks Flying for All the Right Reasons

The customer tested the integrity of the job through a repositioning of the ramp.

The Results:
The yard ramp has now returned to its strong, intended integrity. The new hand crank mechanism raises and lowers the leg assembly smoothly. The new connector brace is straight. The yard ramp is again a strong, safe piece of equipment that will offer many more years of use.

Yard Ramp Repair: Complete
Communication: The Key to a Successful Repair

Yard Ramp Steel Integrity

The Case for Domestic Consumption

An Indian steel company plans to pump $500 million into a manufacturing plant it owns in Baytown, Texas. Governor Greg Abbott said Monday the state will give the company a $3.4 million grant to jump start the expansion.

— Houston Public Media, March 26, 2018


United States Steel Corporation announced today it will restart one of two blast furnaces (“B” blast furnace) and the steelmaking facilities at its Granite City Works, an integrated steelmaking plant in Granite City, Ill.

— Globe Newswire, March 7, 2018

steel quality
The Ups & Downs of Steel: Price & Quality

Steel has been in the news. We suspect it will continue to make news. And while prices might fluctuate, The Yard Ramp Guy’s commitment to quality remains firm.

We’re keenly interested in steel.

As the largest single component of the majority of our portable loading docks and stationary yard ramps, steel is—literally—the foundation of our inventory.

From the beginning, we made a strategic choice to partner with manufacturers of new yard ramps who met three specific criteria. And so:

  1. All of our new yard ramps are U.S.-engineered.
  2. All are U.S.-made from U.S. raw materials.
  3. All meet U.S. testing standards.

Given that we are a high-volume dealer for our select manufacturers, we’re able to provide significant savings on new purchases for our customers.

It’s not just about the price point. Quality is where we draw the line. This involves the integrity of the design, the quality of the steel, the rigorous standards used in testing that integrity and that quality (core drilling, taking samples, x-raying the layers of metal).

Why this emphasis on ramps engineered, made, and tested in the U.S.A.?

First of all, we share a pride in contributing to the American economy with American-made yard ramps.

Even better is pride with substance: we choose to work with manufacturers that use the best materials. In our view, the highest quality stationary yard ramps and portable loading docks are made in the United States.

In our experience, pride with substance is the better form of patriotism.

Ensure Yard Ramp Safety with Periodic Welding Inspections

Note: Last week, our guest blogger and expert welder Greg Sanders from Crom Weld wrote about welding practices—what to inspect to assure integrity and to be preventive. His terrific insights are specifically targeted at yard ramps; we’re fairly certain they apply to the majority of industrial equipment employing welds. 

This week, he concludes with how to spot weld defects and maintain their integrity. We’re honored to provide space for Greg in this forum.


Toward the Safety and Integrity of Your Yard Ramp

Defects in the Weld
A number of factors can contribute to a weld having initial defects. Some are the result of the metal used, and some indicate the weld itself wasn’t done well.

YRG & Crom Weld: Integrity

  • Cracking can occur due to excess hydrogen, stress level on the weld, high carbon content in the base material, or a concave weld surface. Cracks might be at the toe of the weld, along the centerline of the weld, or at other points.
  • Inclusions can occur when the weld metal is contaminated on the surface of the joint due to improper cleaning between weld passes. Slag forms in the flux used in the welding process and can be trapped in the metal while it solidifies.
  • Undercut is where the thickness of the steel sheets is reduced at the toe of the weld. During the final weld pass, the exposed edges of the weld can have a tendency to melt down into the deposited filler metal in the weld groove, resulting in sharp edges along the weld reinforcement. Undercut develops because of improper welding techniques, incorrect voltage settings, travel speed, and incorrect electrode angle.
  • Lamellar tearing is a problem wherein the rolled steel plates are made of inferior materials with high sulfur or hydrogen content. After welding, shrinkage forces the faces of the plates to pull apart.
  • Porosity (otherwise known as pinholes) happens when gases become trapped in the weld metal as it solidifies. These may arise from damp tools or metal or from dirt, oil or grease, on the metal in the area of the weld.
  • Lack of penetration occurs when not enough filler weld material has been laid into the weld joint so the weld does not go deep enough.
  • Lack of fusion. MIG welding employs a gun that moves wire through it at a certain speed, with a shielding gas to keep out contaminants. The end result is fusion: melting and combining the base metal with filler material to create a joint that’s as strong as or stronger than the original metal. Lack of fusion occurs when the voltage or wire speed is set too low or the operator’s travel speed is too fast. 

 

Ongoing Use/Stress
Whether welding just a few simple parts or manufacturing large, complicated structures, weld fatigue is a very common failure when parts or structures are subjected to heavy loads. Estimates suggest that 90% of failures in steel structures are due to stress and fatigue.

  • Weather. Dirt turns to mud in the rain. Steel generally withstands dramatic changes in temperature and weather. Most portable yard ramps include a serrated grating (and all of The Yard Ramp Guy’s inventory has serrated grating), which provides excellent traction for forklifts. The open design allows water and debris to pass through instead of pooling. If the weld is not tight, water can get between the metal pieces at the joint and over time create a stress fracture.
  • Rated Load. If the ramp is used over its capacity, it obviously will weaken. If you factor in weight on the wear and tear of different components (wheels, ramp clamps, etc.), less is always more. That’s unlikely because you’d probably be tipping overloaded forklifts long before damaging the ramp. Many forklifts run 6,000-9,000 pounds and can carry 50%-75% of their weight; that’s 9,000 to 16,000 pounds going up and down the ramp. Steel ramps are solid and typically can hold up to 25,000 pounds.
  • Movement. This isn’t normally a big issue for welds. Still, since businesses move portable ramps often and on a variety of yard surfaces, some jostling can occur that might stress welds that are otherwise weakened already.

 

Conclusion
Along with quality metal, cut to precision, the welding gives the yard ramp—and the manufacturer, and the dealer—its strength and integrity. Knowing the basics of how to inspect for welding defects and why they happen, a manufacturer can properly oversee and managed the welding process to prevent welding defects from happening in the first place.

Keeping your eyes open for excessive rust or cracks along welds can help you take preventive steps before the point of catastrophic failure.

__________

Greg Sanders is the owner of Cromweld.com, a website devoted to all things welding. Greg is semi-retired from welding but likes to keep learning, as well as sharing his knowledge through his website. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Watching Weld Integrity On Yard Ramps

Note: Greg Sanders from Crom Weld approached us a few weeks ago about a guest post. We appreciate his can-do spirit and the really helpful nature of his website, which provides a great resource for the welding community.

That initial discussion grew into this two-part series, graciously written by Greg. It provides a drilldown to the very weld that determines the integrity of a yard ramp. Greg demonstrates a commitment to the details, which matches the foundation of our own business model.

While we’ve profiled the importance of good welding in a previous blog, we heartily welcome and appreciate Greg’s particular expertise.


YRG: Weld Integrity
It's All About the Weld

Steel yard ramps allow you to move cargo easily from the truck to the loading dock door with a forklift. They are extremely strong, built to withstand inclement weather and heavy loads when loading and unloading shipments from delivery trucks, containers and railcars. Many are portable and, because they’re made of welded steel, they require very little maintenance.

Stress and fatigue failures usually happen suddenly and can have catastrophic results. Quality manufacturers — like those The Yard Ramp Guy works with — let you know, of course, about what to look for and how to properly maintain your ramp.

 

What to Look for During Inspection
For any company or industry that relies on the use of portable steel yard ramps, an annual inspection — or more often, depending on use — should be conducted under good lighting.

If done correctly, a visual inspection can be an extremely effective method of maintaining the ramp as a whole. Keeping an eye on weld integrity is an important part of this. Two particular things to look for are:

  • Corrosion and Oxidation. Rust is natural. It’s always going to exist. However, a high degree of corrosion on the weld itself could indicate a failure of the weld design, welding practice, contamination from moisture, porosity, or incomplete weld penetration. It is a sign that further investigation is needed to be sure that the weld integrity has not failed.
  • Cracks. Welders normally catch cracks during the welding process, but cracks don’t always appear immediately after welding. They can develop over time after the weld has been subjected to loads while in service. If you see them in the inspection process, they need to be taken care of immediately.

 

What Could Cause the Problems
While it rarely occurs, if there is a problem with the yard ramp, it will likely be due to either

  • a defect in the weld, or
  • excessive load or stress over the rated ramp’s capacity.

Most manufacturers strive to ensure that their production process and the quality of their welding is flawless, but there are those occasions where the process breaks down and the weld operator does not properly clean the metal he’s about to weld or take enough time to ensure the weld fuses properly.

While truck or rail operators are well versed in yard ramp safety standards, sometimes they hurry to get materials loaded or unloaded and overload the yard ramp.

Both of these situations create stress on the joints and weld lines in the yard ramp and could ultimately result in the weld cracking, buckling, or breaking.

Next week: how to spot weld defects and prevent compromising the integrity of them.

__________

Greg Sanders is the owner of Cromweld.com, a website devoted to all things welding. Greg is semi-retired from welding but likes to keep learning, as well as sharing his knowledge through his website. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.