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OPW Engineered Systems



Emco Wheaton

Choosing the Right Loading Arm For Your Operation

Is 2021 your year of kicking workplace safety and efficiency into high gear? If your team is ready to take command and streamline operations even further, loading arms, like those made by OPW Engineered Systems & Emco Wheaton are an invaluable investment. Designed to be flexible, stable, and to eliminate the many risks associated with loading trucks and rail cars, loading arms are versatile and perfect for a wide range of applications.

If you’ve been considering making the investment in a top or bottom loading arm, and are wondering what the best fit for your setup is, Northern Platforms is here to help. As Western Canada’s largest source for OPW Engineered Systems & Emco Wheaton, we’re here to connect you with the solutions you can depend on. Below, we’ll cover a few aspects to consider when choosing a loading arm for your operations. Read on to learn more!

Bottom Loading vs. Top Loading Arms: What You Need to Know

As the names suggest, there are some distinct differences in how bottom and top loading arms operate, as well as unique benefits to both. Bottom loading arms are designed to be operated from ground level, which provides additional safety and the robust swivel and spring counterbalance of units allows the arm to reach farther, making it easier to reach more openings.

Top loading arms, again, are true to the meaning of their name, and load railcars or trucks from above. One of the biggest benefits to top loading arms is that they have a huge range of options available and are typically designed for your specific application to safely load and unload railcars and truck, all while handling high flow rates with ease. With multiple models available, finding the right fit for your application is easy, and when partnering with a licensed distributor like Northern Platforms Ltd, you can rest easy knowing that you have the perfect match for your exact needs.

Hoses and Compatibility

The debate between hoses vs loading arms when it comes to safe onboarding and offloading is always a point of contention when it comes to finding the right loading solution. While it’s important to remember that most loading arms are designed for overall ease of use and handling, before you commit to investing in one, you will want to ensure that your trucks and/or railcars are compatible with a non-hose option. Seamless integration is generally very easy and custom solutions and modifications greatly reduce the risk of issues, however, at times clashes may occur. Here are some things to consider with each option:


Loading Arms

Hoses require annual pressure tests, are very heavy to use with valves at tanker connection points, and cannot be easily heated or fitted with vent/purge valves. They are difficult to stow when not in use, are prone to wear, and can be driven over or dropped — potentially leading to catastrophic failure. They also pose a tripping hazard for workers.

  • Hoses require annual pressure tests
  • Are difficult to stow neatly when not in use
  • Can be driven over
  • Can be dropped
  • Are very heavy to use if fitted with a valve at the tanker connection point
  • Cannot be easily heated or have vent/purge valves fitted to it
  • Prone to catastrophic failure
Loading arms are more balanced and much easier to move — even by a lone operator. They can reach more openings and are designed to not hit the ground, which protects valves and couplers. They can be left hanging in the air while the operator prepares the tanker truck connection, and can be parked easily and neatly. They can also be fitted with manual or actuated liquid valves, as well as optional purge/vent facilities.

  • Balanced and easy to move throughout the movement envelope
  • Designed not to hit the ground – protecting the valves and couplers
  • Allows for a one-person operation
  • Fitted with manual or actuated liquid valves.
  • Fitted with optional purge/vent facilities
  • Can be moved into position with ease and left hanging in the air while the operator prepares the tanker connection
  • Parked neatly.

When looking to integrate a loading arm with your existing loading or unloading operation, we highly recommend partnering with an experienced team who will be able to evaluate your current operation. When it comes to finding the right loading arm for your specific application, it’s critical to take into consideration existing equipment like piping & metering, gangways, truck & railcar information and overhead obstructions to be sure the loading arm is an optimal fit. Drawing on over 50 years of combined industry experience, Northern Platforms is always happy to send one of our experts to your site to conduct a thorough evaluation to guarantee a perfect match, every time. If you need help finding your safety match, just give us a call!

SafeRack Equipment, Only at Northern Platforms

Northern Platforms is the largest distributor of OPW Engineered Systems & Emco Wheaton products throughout Western Canada, making us your first choice for loading arms and more. Our inventory features several of our manufacturers products, including API couplers and more! Contact our team today to learn more about loading arms as well as Northern Platforms’ extensive range of safe access and loading solutions!