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How to Unload a Semi Truck

by Amelia Allonsy

Semi trucks, also known as tractor trailers, are used to haul almost every commodity we use from one location to another. When a truck reaches its destination with a load of goods, the truck needs to be unloaded. The massive size of the truck and its load means that extra precaution and careful procedures should be followed when unloading a truck. Following proper steps ensures that the goods are received in good condition and all employees are safe. Semi trucks are sometimes unloaded at loading docks, but trucks will often need to be unloaded along streets without loading docks.

Unloading at Docks

Step 1

Back the semi truck up to the dock, getting as close to the dock as possible.

Step 2

Open the trailer door slowly and stand out of the way as much as possible in case the load is unsteady and falls out of the trailer.

Step 3

Put dock plates in place to fill the gaps between the trailer and the loading dock. If the dock is shorter or taller than the trailer, then add a ramp.

Step 4

Put a roller conveyor into place that extends from the back of the truck to the area where the load will be stored. If your entire load is wrapped and placed on skids, then skip this step.

Step 5

Pick up one box at a time from the trailer and place it on the roller conveyor; lift with two people if boxes are heavy. With a slight push, the box will roll to the end of the belt where other employees can stack it in the designated storage area.

Step 6

Lift each pallet off the truck with a forklift and place the pallet in the proper storage area; make sure the forklift operator is licensed. All other employees must stay out of the way of the forklift because the forklift operator will not be able to see around him at all times.

Clean up any packing material that may have stripped off the load contents, close the trailer and pull away after you are sure there is no oncoming traffic in the loading area.

Unloading Without Docks

Step 1

Park the semi truck as close to the door of the receiving party as possible. Ideally, you should park on level ground to prevent the contents of your trailer from becoming unbalanced and spilling out of the trailer.

Step 2

Turn on your truck's four-way hazard flashers to alert other drivers that you are parked. In many cases, semi trucks will have to double park in a traffic lane in order to unload the trailer.

Step 3

Engage the truck's emergency brake and place wheel chocks at each wheel to prevent the semi truck from rolling backwards during the unloading process. The wheel chocks will serve as backup in case the emergency brake fails.

Step 4

Open the doors of the semi truck slowly and stand out of the way in case the load is unstable, causing contents to spill out of the door.

Step 5

Position a roller conveyor that connects from the back of the trailer to the designated storage area; adjust the height of the conveyor to be level with the trailer. Use a loading ramp, which is especially helpful if the receiver does not have a roller conveyor.

Step 6

Remove one box at a time, place it on the roller conveyor and give it a push so that it travels to the designated storage or receiving area.

Step 7

Unload one pallet of wrapped goods at a time with a fork lift; always use a licensed fork lift operator. This option may not be possible, particularly if you have to unload the truck while double-parked along a street.

Close the trailer doors, remove the wheel chocks and pull away from the unloading site when you are sure that traffic is clear.


  • Equal distribution in the semi truck load will make it easier and safer to unload the trailer.
  • Always use safety equipment such as gloves and bracing belts when lifting heavy objects.

Items you will need

  • Dock plates
  • Loading ramp
  • Roller conveyor
  • Forklift
  • Wheel chocks

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