If you’re serious about the safety and reputation of your business, dependable loading arms are worth the investment. While flexible in nature (given their swivel joint technologies), there are other factors to consider before making your purchase. The first is dependent on whether you’re transferring to or from a truck transported tank or rail transported tank. The next factor is where you are loading to and from — through the top or the bottom of the tank. Each arm solution has its own characteristics, and some, like truck loading arm systems, require greater precision to perform productively.
The following are some of the top considerations when choosing your loading arm solution:
Bottom Loading vs. Top Loading Arms
With a bottom loading arm, the operator remains on the ground, meaning his or her safety is better ensured. The overall loading time is reduced through quicker connections, and less turbulence occurs in the tank. Bottom loading arms often feature a powerful swivel with spring capacity, allowing longer arm reach and the potential to reach more openings.
With top loading arms you also have options — and far more than for bottom. The basic single arm with a fixed reach can be used for both tank trucks and railcars. Many manufacturers opt for this single arm loader because of its adaptability. The scissor arm is another option for both railcar loading and tank truck application, as it can handle high flow rates. Yet another is the supported boom arm, ideal for low maintenance service. Though not suitable for heavy loads, it does perform well in high usage installations. The unsupported boom arm is selected when it is impractical to mount a boom arm.
Loading solutions vary depending on swing arm styles, materials and dimensions, and all loading arms should be built to specification so as to meet your organizational needs. Regardless of style, however, well-made loading arms should all minimize downtime and maintenance issues.
Loading Arm Compatibility
While all arms are designed for ease of operation and handling, it’s important first and foremost to determine if prospective loading arms are compatible with your existing truck or railcar loading racks. Seamless integration is the goal so that the supply flow isn’t slowed down in any way. While clashes may not necessarily occur unless they’re purchased from different suppliers, there may be issues surrounding safety equipment, such as safety cages or platforms hindering movement. Quality loading solution providers will be able to integrate loading arms with the systems you have in place already including gangways, platforms and fall prevention cages. It’s always important to speak with an expert and compare products and services as necessary.
Breakdown of a Loading Arm
With a purchase of this magnitude designed to last a lifetime, it’s probably a good idea to work with a company that has a long, solid reputation and a lot of experience. You’re going to need to work with them to determine the design specifications you need for your job, and you’ll want to count on their expert guidance along the way.
That said, it still helps to know the key loading arm parts:
- Swivel joints: One of the most critical components of a loading arm, swivel joints are available in standard or custom fabricated joints. They move along a plane to help the arm rotate in various directions.
- Dry disconnects: Dry disconnects help to prevent a spill when loading and unloading road or rail cars — especially when working with harmful or toxic chemicals.
- Couplers: Couplers are part of the dry disconnect fitting. Across industries, they ensure that the liquid transfer operation is secure and will not allow disconnection or leakage if the valve is open.
One of the more remarkable features of the loading arm is the redundant seal system that incorporates the main seal, as well as a back-up seal, environmental seal and even leak protection. If for some reason the seal leaks, then the back-up seal catches the fluid. The fluid is then channeled to a detection port, which indicates that service is necessary. The third seal stops the liquid from ever entering the environment.
Another valuable feature is the spring-balance units. These have unique benefits that allow for a full range of adjustments just by simply turning off the wrench. This is a considerable improvement from earlier models where you had to keep the loading arm in a vertical position to complete your adjustments. On many spring balance loading arms, adjustments can be made from any position for ease. The benefits of spring balance units are that the precise spring balance adjustments that can be made, eliminating labor-intensive routines. They’re also safe and performance-guaranteed.
Take for example the Endura™ series, a suite of loading arms that has all of these features and more. It also includes heavy-duty construction with lifelong hassle-free performance. This is the kind of service one would expect from a well-constructed loading arm. With a simple, three-piece design, disassembly is quick, resulting in less labor cost and downtime.
Due to the overall complexities of a loading system, it’s generally worth ensuring that you take advantage of free consultations offered by your loading arm supplier.