“Should I buy a steel yard ramp or an aluminum yard ramp?”
We hear this question often. Aluminum yard ramps fill a very specific need in the market place. They are safer to use in “at-risk environments” where combustible or flammable materials are being handled. A steel yard ramp may create a spark when being moved but an aluminum yard ramp will not. Aluminum yard ramps are more expensive and they have a shorter life span so customers that do not have a specific need for aluminum will almost always choose to buy a steel yard ramp.
When making this decision there are three primary factors that are always discussed when choosing between aluminum and steel yard ramps:
1. The application or customer need
2. The cost
3. The durability
The first and most important factor always focuses on how the customer intends to use the yard ramp. The environment in which the yard ramp will be used will determine the type of yard ramp required. There are some circumstances where an aluminum yard ramp is necessitated from a safety standpoint. Steel yard ramps are always less expensive than aluminum yard ramps and will always out last aluminum yard ramps. A more detailed discussion of each of these factors is listed below.
You will notice that weight was not mentioned as a factor. Aluminum yard ramps are substantially lighter than steel yard ramps, however even the lightest aluminum yard ramp will still weigh thousands of pounds and will require a forklift to move it around your yard or warehouse.
We sell both steel and aluminum yard ramps, but because steel yard ramps are lower in cost and have a greater durability, 98% of the yard ramps we sell are made out of steel.
Do you have unique or specific factors or considerations that need to be built into your yard ramp buying decision? We can discuss your specific needs and make sure you get the exact yard ramp you need.
Call Our Yard Ramp Experts at 1-800-876-RAMP
When is an Aluminum Yard Ramp Necessary?
The primary reason that our customers purchase an aluminum yard ramp is because of the materials and products that they are moving. If a company is moving or storing products that are explosive or combustible, we recommend the use of an aluminum yard ramp instead of a steel ramp. Steel yard ramps may create a spark when they are moved (if for example they are scraped along the ground) and if this spark finds its way into some combustible material, you are in for an explosive situation. Aluminum will not create a spark and thus eliminates this risk.
Examples of the types of products and industries that should consider an aluminum yard ramp include: oil production and refineries, munitions production facilities, and the warehousing, distribution, and manufacturing of fertilizer. This is does not mean that these industries cannot use steel yard ramps in some circumstances, nor is it intended to be a complete list of all industries and products that should consider choosing an aluminum yard ramp. As always, our yard ramp specialists can help you with your questions and needs. They can be reached at 1-800-876-7267.
Aluminum Yard Ramps Cost More Than Steel Yard Ramps
Why are steel yard ramps less expensive?
As is typical for most manufacturing, there are two primary costs for building yard ramps, raw materials and labor. The amount of labor required to build a yard ramp is pretty much the same for building an aluminum yard ramp and a steel yard ramp. That means that the difference must be in the cost of raw materials. The cost of steel is lower than the cost of aluminum. This is determined by the commodities markets and the market price for raw aluminum is always higher than steel. Of course commodity prices change daily and steel and aluminum prices don’t always move in tandem, but the market price for aluminum is typically about three to four times higher than the market price for steel.
Aluminum alloys can be just as strong as steel. So it follows that aluminum yard ramps can be built to be just as strong as steel yard ramps. Certain aluminum alloys can be made stronger by a process called tempering, which is the controlled heating and cooling of aluminum at the end of its production run. The trade off is that when aluminum is tempered to achieve greater strength it also becomes less flexible and more brittle. Over time this greater strength/less flexibility may result in stress fractures and a reduction in weight capacity. It is recommended that aluminum yard ramps are inspected frequently for structural integrity. For pictures and examples of some things to look for during an inspection of an aluminum yard ramp, click here to read our aluminum yard ramp article.
Because tempering is achieved through controlled heating and cooling of aluminum, the strength of the yard ramp can be altered by extreme heat. Aluminum yard ramps are assembled through a welding process. The process of welding creates a lot of heat and as a result the tempering of the aluminum and the strength of the aluminum yard ramp is reduced. We take this into consideration when calculating the structural capacity of the yard ramp. As aluminum yard ramps age and require repair, they are frequently repaired using welding. This maintenance will reduce the strength and the structural integrity of the components of the yard ramp and the extent of this weakening is very difficult to measure.
A steel yard ramp will weaken as a result of rust or oxidation. We are all familiar with rust and we have all seen how rust can be accelerated on cars when they are near salt. However, unlike cars, steel yard ramps are made out of steel plate that is at least one eighth of an inch thick and painted with a rust inhibiting paint, so it will take a lot of neglect and many years for rust affect the structural integrity of a steel yard ramp. Touching up scratches with good rust inhibitor paint once every few years will be more than enough to protect a steel yard ramp. It is not uncommon for a steel yard ramp to have a useful life that exceeds twenty years.
Do you have additional questions about yard ramps? Our experts can guide you through any confusion.