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Title:
Cargo floor extender for trucks and tie-down system
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An extender for a truck of the type which includes a pivoting tailgate includes a panel mounted to the upper edge of the tailgate and a pair of wings mounted pivotally to the ends of the panel. Cargo space is extended by lowering the existing truck tailgate, pivoting the panel to a vertical position and opening the wings on either side to engage the sides of the truck. Cargo space is thus extended by a length approximately equal to the height of the tailgate. A tie-down system which may be used with the cargo extension system or with other types of trucks includes channels, preferably running longitudinally of the truck axis. Tie-down cords are attached at either end of the channels and a drain may be provided in the channels to permit liquids from accumulating in the channels. The tie-down system allows the cargo floor to remain substantially flat while permitting ready access to the expandable cords.


Inventors:
Hofmann, Karen M. (Glendale, CA, US)
Wiedeman, Michael E. (Manhattan Beach, CA, US)
Application Number:
09/755606
Publication Date:
01/17/2002
Filing Date:
01/05/2001
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B60P3/40; (IPC1-7): B61D45/00
View Patent Images:
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Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOLEY & LARDNER,John C. Cooper III (Firstar Center, Milwaukee, WI, 53203-5367, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A cargo floor extension system for a vehicle having a side walls, a cargo floor located therebetween and a tailgate movable between a first raised position in which it is perpendicular to the cargo floor to a second lowered position in which it is generally coplaner with the cargo floor comprising: a rear panel pivotally coupled to the tailgate for movement between a first position in which the panel is parallel to and generally adjacent to the tailgate and a second position in which the panel is angled with respect to the tailgate; and a pair of wing panels coupled to one of the rear panel or the tailgate and being rotatably coupled thereto for movement between a stored position in which the wing panels lie generally parallel to the rear panel and a deployed position in which the wing panels are generally perpendicular to the rear panel.

2. The extension system of claim 1, wherein the rear panel is substantially the same size as the tailgate and is coupled thereto by hinges located at the upper edge of the tailgate when the tailgate is in its raised position and at a first edge of the rear panel.

3. The extension system of claim 2, wherein the rear panel includes second and third edges on either side of the first edge and perpendicular thereto, and wherein the wing panels are coupled to the second and third edges of the rear panel.

4. The extension system of claim 3, wherein each wing panel is generally rectangular and has a first edge coupled to the rear panel and an opposite edge, the opposite edges of the wing panels being coupled to the vehicle side walls when the wing panels are in their deployed positions.

5. The extension system of claim 2, wherein the hinges comprise at least two spaced-apart hinges.

6. The extension system of claim 5, wherein the hinges are located on an inner edge of the tailgate and an inner edge of the rear panel, whereby the hinges are at least partially concealed from view when the vehicle is observed from a distance.

7. The extension system of claim 4, wherein the wing panels are coupled to the rear panels by hinges.

8. The extension system of claim 7, wherein the hinges comprise at least two spaced-apart hinges.

9. The extension system of claim 8, wherein the wing panel hinges are located on an inner edge of the rear panel and an inner edge of the wing panels, whereby the hinges are at least partially concealed from view when the vehicle is observed from a distance.

10. The extension system of claim 1, wherein the cargo floor includes at least one tie-down cord at least partially located within an elongated channel on the cargo floor.

11. A tie-down system for use with a vehicle comprising: an elongated channel having first and second ends, a coupler attaching the first end of the cord to the vehicle adjacent to the first end of the channel; and a coupler attaching the second end of the cord to the vehicle adjacent to the second end of the channel.

12. The tie-down system of claim 11, wherein the cord is slightly taut when it is in a first stored position wherein it is at least partially located within the channel along its entire length and wherein the cord has sufficient elasticity to be extended about an object to be held against the vehicle.

13. The tie-down system of claim 11, wherein the cord is located entirely within the channel.

14. The tie-down system of claim 11, wherein the coupler is a bracket attached to the vehicle.

15. The tie-down system of claim 11, wherein the bracket includes an eyelet and wherein each end of the cord includes a hook adapted to engage an eyelet to attach the cord to the vehicle.

16. The tie-down system of claim 11, wherein the cord is a bungee cord.

17. The tie-down system of claim 11, wherein the channel is located on a generally horizontal cargo floor of a truck.

18. The tie-down system of claim 17, wherein a plurality of channels and cords are employed on a single vehicle cargo floor.

19. The tie-down system of claim 17, wherein the channel includes at least one drain opening to prevent water from accumulating within the channel.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS, IF ANY

[0001] The present invention relates to and claims priority to provisional patent application No. 60/175,091, filed on Jan. 7, 2000.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] The present invention relates generally to the field of cargo management for truck beds, such as truck beds of pick-up trucks and sport utility trucks (“SUT”) (trucks which have two rows of seats and which typically have a reduced length of cargo floor therebehind). Still more specifically, the present invention relates to a system for extending the length of the cargo floor of such vehicles and to a tie-down system which may be used with such vehicles (or with other vehicles requiring cargo management) and which does not interfere with loading of the truck.

[0004] 2. Background of the Invention

[0005] Many different sized and types of trucks having flat cargo beds are known. While SUT's have been popular in Central and South America for some time, they have certain disadvantages. For example, they can carry more people, but they have a reduced length cargo bed. SUT's are becoming increasingly popular around the world since they tend to provide many of the advantages of sports utility vehicles with regard to occupant transportation and a cargo space larger than that provided by most two- or four-door automobiles. However, most of the SUT vehicles do not have a sufficiently long cargo floor to carry such items as motorcycles, snowmobiles, furniture or other goods which could be transported by a typical pick-up truck. The types of trucks with which the present invention is particular concerned are those which have a tailgate which can be dropped from a vertical position to a horizontal position to allow articles to be placed onto the cargo bed, either by lifting the item and placing it on the cargo floor or by sliding it across the tailgate onto the cargo floor. The tailgate is subsequently raised and latched in current practice.

[0006] The tailgates of present vehicles include a hinge coupling the bottom of the tailgate to the rear edge of the cargo floor in a way that does not create an obstruction when an item is being loaded into position on the cargo floor. Also, various latches, such as chains encased in elastomer tubes and the like can be provided for additional support of the rear end of the tailgate if the tailgate is left open to transport large items, such as bales of hay or the like, where the risk of the items sliding rearwardly and out of the pick-up truck is not high.

[0007] A system for enlarging the cargo bed for SUT and other trucks would be a significant advance in the art, especially if the system provided the additional length without requiring substantial modification of the truck frame or existing sidewalls and tailgate.

[0008] Tie-down cords are also known for use in the vehicle field and are commonly provided in the rear compartment of sports utility vehicles, and as accessories for various types of trucks. They typically include an elasticized cord (e.g., bungee cord) having a coupling member at each end which is connected to a receiver mounted on the vehicle. The tie-down straps themselves may be held in a slightly taut condition during storage but have a substantial amount of expansion capability so that they may be placed over large objects to be transported. Tie-down cords particularly useful in situations where it is desired to prevent heavy loads from shifting during transportation. Tie-down cords are also used on the roof of certain vehicles (e.g. vans) to hold such items as skis, bicycles and the like. The present inventors are not aware of any tie-down systems which may be used conveniently in the cargo bed of trucks, especially on the floor thereof, because existing cords would interfere with someone sliding a large object onto a cargo floor.

[0009] A cargo tie-down cord system which overcomes the disadvantages noted above would also represent a substantial advance in this art.

FEATURES AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] A primary feature of the present invention is to provide a system for extending the length of the cargo bed of a truck having a tailgate.

[0011] Another feature of the present invention is to provide a cargo extender which does not require significant modification of the existing truck bed or the sidewalls of the truck.

[0012] A different object of the present invention is to provide a cargo extender which may be used easily and which provides a secure containment for cargo placed in the extended-length cargo bed.

[0013] A different feature of the present invention is to provide a tie-down cord system which may be used with a variety of different types of vehicles and which is recessed into an elongate channel.

[0014] A still further feature of the present invention is to provide a tie-down cord system which includes recessed channel having at least one drain to prevent accumulations of water in the channel while permitting easy access to the cord of the tie-down system.

[0015] How these and other features of the present invention are accomplished, individually and in various subcombinations, will be described in the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment of the invention taken in conjunction with the FIGURES. Generally, however, they are accomplished by providing a cargo extender system on the tailgate of an existing vehicle. The system includes a panel, preferably hinged to the top of the existing tailgate, and which may be rotated 90 degrees so that it becomes perpendicular to the tailgate after the tailgate is lowered to a horizontal position. A pair of wings is pivotally attached to each side edge of the panel and open to provide side containment for the extended cargo area. The free ends of the wings are joined to the sides of the existing truck. The tie-down cord system preferably includes at least one, and preferably a plurality of, elongate channels extending longitudinally of the vehicle axis. Brackets hold elastic cords within the channels in such a way that the floor of the cargo bed remains substantially planar and unobstructed by any component of the cargo tie-down system. In the preferred embodiment, one or more drain openings are provided in each channel to prevent accumulation of water therein. Other ways of accomplishing the features of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art after they have read the following detailed description, and such other ways are deemed by the present inventors to fall within the scope of the present invention if they fall within the scope of the claims which follow.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the cargo extension system of the present invention, shown in a deployed position;

[0017] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the main panel component of the extension system, shown in a stored position;

[0018] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a side wing of the extension system of the present invention shown in a stored position;

[0019] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the tie-down system of the present invention;

[0020] FIG. 5 is a detailed view of one end of the tie-down system of the present invention.

[0021] In the various FIGURES, like reference numerals are used to indicate like components.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0022] Before beginning the detailed description of the preferred embodiment of the present invention, several general comments can be made about the applicability and the scope thereof. First, hinges are referred to for coupling an extension panel and wings to a tailgate, and in the illustrations, two, spaced-apart hinges are used for each component. The number of hinges, and the type of hinges and their location may be variously embodied without departing from the invention's intended scope. For example, hinges similar to piano hinges can be used if desired for either the panel or the side wings.

[0023] Second, reference is made in this application to the use of the extension system for sports utility trucks, but the invention has equal applicability for current pick-up trucks which have only a single row of seating and where it is still desired to provide an elongate cargo bed for the transportation of items such as furniture, motorcycles, snowmobiles, etc.

[0024] Third, the particular materials used for constructing the extension system of the present invention can be selected from those commonly used for constructing vehicle body parts (hardened steel being the most common), but since the panel and the wings are not load bearing, plastic materials, aluminum and other lighter weight materials can be employed.

[0025] Fourth, again referring to the hinges, it is preferred that they be placed on inner surfaces of folding components so that they are not exposed to the exterior of the truck, a feature which enhances the appearance of the cargo extension system and prevents inadvertent damage to the hinges.

[0026] Sixth, the tie-down system is illustrated in connection with the sports utility truck used in FIGS. 1-3, but other types of trucks, ranging from pick-up trucks to large commercial flatbed trucks will benefit from the use of the channels and recessed tie-down cords described in connection with FIGS. 4 and 5. Furthermore, the cords may be arranged in a direction other than longitudinal of the vehicle axis for certain applications (such as in flatbed trucks) and the precise way of coupling the cords to the vehicle can be varied. In the present invention, the illustrations show hooks and eyelets so that the cords may be removed. However, the cords can be permanently fastened (preferably rotatably) at each end so that they will not become misplaced or inadvertently come loose during loading or transportation.

[0027] Proceeding now to the description of FIG. 1, an extension system 10 of the invention includes a main panel 12, a right-side wing 14 and a left-side wing (which, although not shown, is a mirror-image of the right-side wing 14). Extension system 10 is used with a vehicle 20 having a cargo floor 16 and a fold-down tailgate 18. Tailgate 18, as previously mentioned, pivots about its lower edge into a deployed position. In such deployed position, extension system 10 will extend the cargo floor 16 by approximately the height of the tailgate 18.

[0028] Main panel 10, which preferably spans the entire width and height of the tailgate, preferably includes coupling two hinges 22 (only one is shown). The hinges 22, define a common first axis 24 and function to allow pivotal movement of the main panel 12 from a stored position (see FIG. 2) to a deployed position (see FIG. 1). The hinges 22 are preferably located near a first edge 26 of the main panel 12 and a second edge 28 of the fold-down tailgate 18. A third edge on the fold-down tailgate 18 is pivotally connected to the cargo floor 16 with conventional hinges (not shown). The hinges 22 preferably extend from a first inner surface 32 of the main panel 12 and from a second inner surface 34 of the fold-down tailgate 18. In this manner, the hinges 22 are hidden from view when the vehicle is observed from a distance as the extension system 10 is articulated into its stored position (with the fold-down tailgate 18 in an open or a closed position). In the preferred embodiment, hinges 22 allow pivotal movement of the main panel 12 by 90 degrees. In alternative embodiments, hinges 22 may allow pivotal movement within a lesser or greater range.

[0029] Wings 14, which span the entire depth of the folddown tailgate 18, include a pair of spaced-apart side hinges 36. Side hinges 36 define a common second axis 38 and a common third axis (not shown), and function to allow pivotal movement of the wings 14 from a stored position (shown in FIG. 3) to a deployed position. Side hinges 36 are preferably located near a fourth edge 40 on the wings and a fifth edge 42 on the main panel 12. Like hinges 22, the hinges 36 preferably extend from a third surface 44 of the wing 14 and from the first surface 32 of the main panel 12. In this manner, side hinges 36 are hidden when the vehicle is observed from a distance when the extension system 10 is articulated into a stored position.

[0030] Wings 14 are preferably provided with a notched section 46 along a sixth edge 48. The notched section 46 engages a corresponding section 50 of the vehicle bed when the wing 14 is pivoted into its deployed position. At the same time, a seventh edge 52 on the wing 14 engages an eighth edge 54 on the fold-down tailgate 18 to increase the cargo volume of the vehicle.

[0031] Referring next to FIG. 4, the tie-down system 56 of the invention includes a cargo floor 58 having recessed channels 60, tie-down devices 62 and tie-down cords 64. Although the tie-down system 56 of the invention has been specifically designed for SUT vehicle 20, it may be used on any surface of a vehicle, including the interior floor and the exterior ceiling of a van-like vehicle.

[0032] The recessed channels 60 function to allow the permanent placement of the tie-down devices 62 and the tie-down cord 64, yet provide a relatively smooth and vertically uninterrupted surface for the cargo floor 58. This allows sliding movement of cargo into and out of the vehicle 20. In the preferred embodiment, cargo floor 58 includes three recessed channels 60 which are parallel to each other and run longitudinally of the vehicle axis. In alternative embodiments, cargo floor 58 may include more or less than the three recessed channels 60 or may include recessed channels 60 running in different directions. The recessed channels 60 are preferably designed with a channel width “A” just greater than a device width “B” of the cords 64 and with a channel depth “C” just deeper than the cords 64. The recessed channel is preferably formed as an integral part of the cargo floor 58, but it may be formed as an independent part and fastened to the cargo floor 58 with bolts, screws, adhesives or welds.

[0033] As shown in FIG. 5, the tie-down device 62 is preferably fastened to the recessed channel 60 by bolts 66. Alternatively, the tie-down device 62 may be fastened to the recessed channel 60 with other suitable devices such as screws or adhesives, or may alternatively be formed as an integral part of the recessed channel. The tie-down device 62 functions to provide an anchor for the tie-down cord 64. For this reason, the tie-down device 62 includes an eyelet section 68 allowing for the removable connection of the tie-down cord 64. The tie-down device 62 is preferably formed from conventional materials, such as hardened steel or plastic.

[0034] The tie-down cord 64 functions to hold cargo against the cargo floor 58 during transportation. Cord 64 is preferably made from an elastic material, commonly known as bungee cord. Cord 64 preferably also includes a connector 70 at each end to temporarily or permanently connect with the eyelet section 68 of the tie-down device 62. The tie-down cord 64 is also preferably designed to fit within the recessed channel 60 in a relaxed or in a slightly taut state while still having sufficient elasticity to fit around large items.

[0035] The tie-down system 56 of the preferred embodiment of the present invention also includes drainage ports 72 preferably located at opposite ends of each recessed channel 60, the ports 72 functioning to drain liquids from the cargo floor 58. The ports 72 may be connected to a drainage outlet (not shown) by drainage pipes (not shown). Furthermore, they may be covered when they are not needed, for example by elastomeric plugs. The tie-down system 56 may alternately include one or more drainage ports 72 intermediate the ends of channel 60.

[0036] While the present invention has been illustrated and described in connection with a single preferred embodiment, the invention is not to be limited by such description but is to be limited solely by the scope of the claims which follow.