A large event requires coordination among several vendors, many of whom will need to use the loading dock to get equipment in and out of your event. Most venues have rules and restrictions for using their loading docks. As an event planner, it's important to know those rules so you can communicate them to your vendors.
Here are some loading dock questions you should ask your venue. Do this as soon as possible because everyone (including you) will have to plan ahead to ensure loading dock activities run efficiently and safely.
1. What are your loading dock rules?
Read them right away, so you can clarify any questions that you or your vendors may have.
2. What is the best way to schedule my deliveries and pickups?
Keep in mind that the dock is not used just for outside events. The venue itself has food vendors, maintenance, furniture delivery, and many others that need to use the dock. “Big hotels are essentially small cities, and that dock is an entrance,” notes Dustin Fabian, a production account manager here at Heroic Productions. “Plan accordingly, and let your venue contact and the dock master know what’s going on.”
As soon as you know the time you plan to arrive and leave, let those people know. And tell them which vendor(s) will be working your event.
3. Who is that "Dock Master?"
The “Dock Master” is a person (sometimes security) who is located inside the docking station to ensure it’s secure and that people are moving in and out as needed. “I like knowing who that person is,” Dustin explains. “Treat them with the highest regard because they are helping create a seamless process.”
Get the dock master’s contact information — cell number, landline number, even an email address. Is a dock master always onsite? If not, what hours/days are they available?
4. What are the dimensions of the dock?
Some docks are relatively spacious, some not so much. The size and shape of the space determine how unloading, in particular, will happen, since equipment has to come off the truck and then be reloaded onto dollies for transport to the event space. The crew needs room to move around.
5. What is the route we'll need to take to get the gear from the truck to the event location?
AV and other equipment can be very bulky. Maneuvering around corners or other barriers and into/out of elevators can present logistical problems. And the longer the distance, the longer load in and load out will take, regardless of whether the route is straight-forward or convoluted. Ask if you can walk the route to ensure there are no surprises for your vendors. How long is it? What are the dimensions of the elevators or stairs? If you can’t avoid stairs, do they have sharp turns?
Also, walk the route that your truck will need to take in order to reach the dock. Are there any sharp turns? Obstacles to navigate? Take photos and notes. You may need extra time pulling into the dock.
6. How long can our trucks be parked at the dock?
It takes time to load and unload even when everything is going smoothly. And things do not always go smoothly, especially since you also have to time the truck’s arrival for load out with your crew’s readiness to start packing up the truck. How much timing leeway will you have?
7. Can we leave a truck at the dock?
If the driver and truck arrive before they’re needed, can they wait at the dock? If not, you’ll need a Plan B. Can the truck be left unattended for any period?
Pro hint: You don’t have to plot out load in and load out schedules yourself, but you do have to understand what your vendors are up against! Since your AV team will likely have the greatest need for the dock, ask if they will coordinate with other vendors.
An efficient loading dock schedule goes a long way to make sure your entire event is on schedule. Asking the right questions up front will provide you with the knowledge to help your vendors use their dock time efficiently.