Title:
Loading dock door seal
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to a loading dock door seal for sealing the space between a loading dock door opening and a vehicle backing up to the opening and an elongated longitudinal pad member for use in the loading dock door seal. The elongated longitudinal pad member comprises a mounting face for mounting said pad member to a surface; a sealing face for sealingly engaging the rear edge of a vehicle which backs up to and abuts against the pad member; whereby the pad member is formed of a first compressible resilient material, having a first predetermined degree of flexibility and having at least one flexing zone therein, the at least one flexing zone permitting the forced movement of the sealing face relative to the mounting face and thus the surface, to accommodate the movement of a vehicle in abutting and sealing engagement with the pad member. The loading dock door seal comprises at least a pair of the elongated longitudinal pad members arranged in a substantially laterally spaced apart relationship about the opening with the longitudinal axes being substantially vertical and substantially parallel to each other.



Inventors:
Dibiase, Joseph J. (Woodbridge, CA)
Application Number:
09/829958
Publication Date:
10/17/2002
Filing Date:
04/11/2001
Assignee:
DIBIASE JOSEPH J.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
52/173.2, 52/174, 52/180, 52/309.6, 52/309.7, 52/503
International Classes:
B65G69/00; (IPC1-7): E04B5/48; E04C1/00; E04F15/00; E04H14/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
A, PHI DIEU TRAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Heenan Blaikie LLP (Toronto, ON, CA)
Claims:

The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are as follows:



1. An elongated longitudinal pad member for use in a loading dock door seal, said pad member comprising: a mounting face for mounting said pad member to a surface, a sealing face for sealingly engaging the rear edge of a vehicle which backs up to and abuts against said pad member; whereby said pad member is formed of a first compressible resilient material, having a first predetermined degree of flexibility and having at least one flexing zone therein, said at least one flexing zone permitting the forced movement of said sealing face relative to said mounting face and thus said surface, to accommodate the movement of a vehicle in abutting and sealing engagement with said pad member.

2. The pad member of claim 1 further comprising an inner face and an outer face wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from said inner face through said first compressible resilient material to said outer face.

3. The pad member of claim 1 further comprising a first end and a second end wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from said first end through said first compressible resilient material to said second end.

4. The pad member of claim 1 further comprising an inner face and an outer face wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one cavity extending from either said inner face or said outer face a predetermined distance into said first compressible resilient material.

5. The pad member of claim 1 further comprising an inner face, an outer face, a first end and a second end, wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one chamber located within said first compressible resilient material between said mounting face, said sealing face, said inner face, said outer face, said first end and said second end.

6. The pad member of claim 1 wherein said at least one flexing zone comprises a second compressible resilient material having a second predetermined degree of flexibility, said second predetermined degree of flexibility being substantially greater than said first predetermined degree of flexibility.

7. The pad member according to claims 1 to 6 further comprising an outer protective covering of substantially abrasion resistant resilient material which substantially extends around at least a portion of the outer surface thereof and substantially conforms to the contour thereof to protect said pad member from damage.

8. The pad member of claim 7 wherein said covering is movably mounted to said surface allowing said covering to substantially move with said pad member when a vehicle is in abutting and sealing engagement with said pad member.

9. The pad member of claim 1 wherein said surface is a support having a front face which is adapted to be affixed to said mounting face of said pad member and a rear face which is adapted to be affixed to the outer wall of a loading dock about the opening therein.

10. The pad member of claim 9 wherein said front face of said support has a predetermined surface area which is substantially less than the surface area of said mounting face of said pad member.

11. A loading dock door seal for sealing the space between a loading dock door opening and a vehicle backing up to said opening, said loading dock door seal comprising: a pair of substantially vertically elongated longitudinal side wall pad members arranged in a substantially laterally spaced apart relationship, one side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members located substantially adjacent each of the opposite sides of said opening with the longitudinal axes being substantially parallel to each other, each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members comprising: a mounting face for mounting said pad member to a surface, a sealing face for sealingly engaging the rear edge of a vehicle which backs up to and abuts against said side wall pad member; whereby each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members is formed of a first compressible resilient material having a first predetermined degree of flexibility and having at least one flexing zone therein, said at least one flexing zone permitting the forced movement of said sealing face relative to said mounting face and thus said surface, to accommodate the movement of a vehicle in abutting and sealing engagement with said side wall pad member.

12. The loading dock door seal of claim 11 wherein each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members further comprises an inner face and an outer face and wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from said inner face through said first compressible resilient material to said outer face.

13. The loading dock door seal of claim 11 wherein each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members further comprises a first end and a second end and wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from said first end through said first compressible resilient material to said second end.

14. The loading dock door seal of claim 11 wherein each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members further comprises an inner face and an outer face and wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one cavity extending from either said inner face or said outer face a predetermined distance into said first compressible resilient material.

15. The loading dock door seal of claim 11 wherein each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members further comprises an inner face, an outer face, a first end and a second end, and wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one chamber located within said first compressible resilient material between said mounting face, said sealing face, said inner face, said outer face, said first end and said second end.

16. The loading dock door seal of claim 11 wherein said at least one flexing zone of each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members comprises a second compressible resilient material having a second predetermined degree of flexibility, said second predetermined degree of flexibility being substantially greater than said first predetermined degree of flexibility.

17. The loading dock door seal according to claims 11 to 16 wherein each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members further comprises an outer protective covering of substantially abrasion resistant resilient material which substantially extends around at least a portion of the outer surface thereof and substantially conforms to the contour thereof to protect said side wall pad member from damage.

18. The loading dock door seal of claim 17 wherein said covering is movably mounted to said surface allowing said covering to substantially move with said side wall pad member when a vehicle is in abutting and sealing engagement with said side wall pad member.

19. The loading dock door seal of claim 11 wherein said surface is a support having a front face which is adapted to be affixed to said mounting face of each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members and a rear face which is adapted to be affixed to the outer wall of a loading dock about the opening therein.

20. The loading dock door seal of claim 19 wherein said front face of said support has a predetermined surface area which is substantially less than the surface area of said mounting face of each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members.

21. The loading dock door seal of claim 11 further comprising a substantially horizontally elongated longitudinal top wall pad member located substantially above said opening substantially spanning the distance above and/or between said pair of side wall pad members with the longitudinal axis being substantially perpendicular to that of said pair of side wall pad members, said top wall pad member comprising: a mounting face for mounting said top wall pad member to a surface, a sealing face for sealingly engaging the rear edge of a vehicle which backs up to and abuts against said top wall pad member; whereby said top wall pad member is formed of a first compressible resilient material having a first predetermined degree of flexibility and having at least one flexing zone therein, said at least one flexing zone permitting the forced movement of said sealing face of said top wall pad member relative to said mounting face of said top wall member and thus said surface, to accommodate the movement of a vehicle in abutting and sealing engagement with said top wall pad member.

22. The loading dock door seal of claim 21 wherein said top wall pad member further comprises an inner face and an outer face and wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from said inner face through said first compressible resilient material to said outer face.

23. The loading dock door seal of claim 21 wherein said top wall pad member further comprises a first end and a second end and wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from said first end through said first compressible resilient material to said second end.

24. The loading dock door seal of claim 21 wherein said top wall pad member further comprises an inner face and an outer face and wherein said at least one flexing zone is at least one cavity extending from either said inner face or said outer face a predetermined distance into said first compressible resilient material.

25. The loading dock door seal of claim 21 wherein said top wall pad member further comprises an inner face, an outer face, a first end and a second end and wherein at least one flexing zone is at least one chamber located within said first compressible resilient material between said mounting face, said sealing face, said inner face, said outer face, said first end and said second end.

26. The loading dock door seal of claim 21 wherein said at least one flexing zone of said top wall pad member comprises a second compressible resilient material having a second predetermined degree of flexibility, said second predetermined degree of flexibility being substantially greater than said first predetermined degree of flexibility.

27. The loading dock door seal of claims 21 to 26 wherein said top wall pad member further comprises an outer protective covering of substantially abrasion resistant material which substantially extends around at least a portion of the outer surface thereof and substantially conforms to the contour thereof to protect said top wall pad member from damage.

28. The loading dock door seal of claim 27 wherein said covering is movably mounted to said surface allowing said covering to substantially move with said top wall pad member when a vehicle is in abutting and sealing engagement with said top wall pad member.

29. The loading dock door seal of claim 21 wherein said surface is a support having a front face which is adapted to be affixed to said mounting face of said top wall pad member and a rear face which is adapted to be affixed to the outer wall of a loading dock about the opening therein.

30. The loading dock door seal of claim 29 wherein said front face of said support has a predetermined surface area which is substantially less than the surface area of said mounting face of said top wall pad member.

31. An elongated longitudinal pad member for use in a loading dock door seal, said pad member comprising: a mounting face for mounting said pad member to a surface; a sealing face for sealingly engaging the rear edge of a vehicle which backs up to and abuts against said pad member; at least one coupling connecting said mounting face and said sealing face and located therebetween; whereby said pad member is formed of a first compressible resilient material, and said at least one coupling is adapted to permit the forced movement of said sealing face relative to said mounting face and thus said surface, to thereby accommodate the movement of a vehicle in abutting and sealing engagement with said pad member.

32. The pad member of claim 31, wherein the at least one coupling is in the form of spaced sections of said first compressible resilient material.

33. The pad member of claim 31 wherein the volume between said mounting face and said sealing face and which includes said coupling has a degree of flexibility that is substantially greater than the flexibility of said mounting face and said sealing face, to facilitate the accommodation of vehicle movement.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to a loading dock door seal to be secured about an opening of a building structure to provide an abutting seal engaged by a truck trailer unit or the like to close the space between the building structure opening and the truck trailer unit. More particularly, the present invention is concerned with a loading dock door seal which allows fluid movement of the seal with the rolling and pitching motion of a docked truck trailer unit or the like during the loading and/or unloading operation.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] During the loading and/or unloading of truck trailers and the like, it is highly desirable to close the space between the building structure opening or doorway and the truck trailer from the outside environment. Various forms of foam pad structures have been suggested. Generally, they employ similar side pads and a top pad secured to the edge of the opening of the structure. The pads are made of a compressible resilient material such as solid blocks of polyurethane foam. The truck trailer is backed into abutting and compressing engagement with the sealing pad and thereby enclose the space between the door structure and the truck trailer.

[0003] Prior art seals have a fixed position about the door opening. Accordingly, when the truck, which is pressed against the pads of such prior art door seals, rises and descends as a result of forklift traffic in and out of the trailer during the loading and/or unloading operation, there is considerable abrasion between the rear edge of the truck and the pads. This tends to wear out the pad covering and to exert undesirable dislocating forces on the pads and pad mountings, sometimes resulting in tearing of the fabric covering and/or pulling the pads from the dock wall.

[0004] Prior art attempts to solve these problems have, for the most part, been limited to reinforcing the fabric covering to resist wear and/or to reduce the dislocating forces exerted on the pads and/or the pad mountings. A well-known prior art attempt to provide a solution to the problem of abrasion consists of providing along each side pad, a vertical array of overlapping, flexible, wear resistant flaps or plates sometimes called armor pleats. See for example U.S. Pat. No. 3,181,205 to C. P. Frommelt et al. Such armor pleats however, afford only limited protection. For instance, once compressed, these armor pleats have limited or no movement with the trailer due to the compression between the trailer and foam seal. This limits the possibility of adequate motion which could prevent wear and tear on the fabric covering. As well, the most common method of fastening armor pleats to the fabric covering is by sewing or stitching.. Any upward or downward motion of the trailer tends to concentrate stresses at the stitch lines attaching the armor plates to the fabric covering. As a result of their limited ability to move with the trailer, armor pleats have been known to be torn off the foam seal at the stitch or fabric weld which holds the armor pleat to the fabric covering, thus leaving behind a damaged product. Also, the fitting and stitching required for attaching armor pleats to the fabric covering is costly, and it is impractical to provide them on a door seal already installed for use. Furthermore, the multiple needle holes may create a location for water to seep through the fabric covering to be absorbed by the compressible resilient material within the door seal. Water entering into a door seal can become frozen in the winter months thus preventing compression and any vertical and/or horizontal movements of the seal. A docking trailer would typically crush these fabric covered blocks of ice against the building wall causing the ice to break through the fabric cover and damaging the seal.

[0005] Other methods to reduce the abrasion have been developed sold which purport to allow up and down movement of the dock seal with the motion of a trailer being loaded and unloaded. Prior art designs make use of springs, bracketing devices and other mechanisms. For example U.S. Pat. No. 3,461,627 to Gary Conger discloses a resilient foam pad structure secured to the building by a plurality of resilient foam mounting blocks or the like. The side wall or edge pads have special central supporting structures, such as cable members between the top and bottom mounting pads. The mounting pad structure provides for a generally universal movement of the door sealing arrangement or units. Thus, if during the movement of the truck trailer into abutting engagement or during the loading and/or unloading there is any lateral, horizontal or vertical movement, or any tilting movement, the pad assembly can move as a unit with the truck-trailer thereby essentially eliminating the usual relative movement between the truck and the seal unit or front surfaces of the sealing pads.

[0006] Such mechanical systems fail as a result of damage which occurs to them when hit by docking trailers or as a result of rust freezing the motion of such mechanical devices. As well, mechanical systems require the seal projection to be built out in order to create space for the “up and down” bracketing or springs. This creates a need to install bumpers which also project further from the wall in order to protect the mechanisms from damage due to docking trailers. Installing dock bumpers with larger projections may cause an unsafe situation if the dock leveler is also not advanced as a result of lost “lip purchase”. Lip purchase can be defined by the amount of dock leveler lip that rests on the trailer bed. Ten inches of “lip purchase” is recommended and must be maintained when modifying bumper projection. These modifications add significant cost. Increased overall dock seal projection creates extra pressure on the building wall. These mechanisms are vulnerable to damage due to their nature of design and location.

[0007] U.S. Pat. No. 3,613,324 to Gary Conger discloses a resilient foam pad structure secured to the building by a plurality of resilient foam mounting blocks or the like. The side wall pads include a plurality of rearwardly projecting mounting blocks vertically spaced throughout the length or depth of the pad. The blocks are formed by recesses in the backside of the pad structure to purportedly provide a continuous integral support while allowing the total unit to move with the truck. This type of mounting does not allow for the full length contact and adherence of the foam to the surface for securely fastening the seal to the building wall. As a result, the dislocating forces exerted on the pads and pad mountings by the rolling and pitching motion of the truck during the loading and/or unloading operation may pull the pads away from the dock wall.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved loading dock door seal which overcomes the disadvantages of prior art loading dock door seals.

[0009] It is another object of the present invention to provide a loading dock door seal which substantially eliminates abrasion between the rear edges of a truck trailer and the loading dock door seal.

[0010] It is another object of the present invention to provide a loading dock door seal having a substantially longer wear life than prior art loading dock door seals.

[0011] It is a further object of the present invention to provide a loading dock door seal that allows fluid movement of the seal with the rolling and pitching motion of a docked trailer during the loading and/or unloading operation.

[0012] In accordance with an aspect of the present invention there is provided an elongated longitudinal pad member for use in a loading dock door seal, said pad member comprising:

[0013] a mounting face for mounting said pad member to a surface, and

[0014] a sealing face for sealingly engaging the rear edge of a vehicle which backs up to and abuts against the pad member;

[0015] whereby said pad member is formed of a first compressible resilient material having a first predetermined degree of flexibility and having at least one flexing zone therein, the at least one flexing zone permitting the forced movement of the sealing face relative to the mounting face and thus the surface, to accommodate the movement of a vehicle in abutting and sealing engagement with the pad member.

[0016] In an embodiment of the present invention, the pad member further comprises an inner face and an outer face wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending through the first compressible resilient material from the inner face to the outer face.

[0017] In another embodiment of the present invention, the pad member further comprises a first end and a second end wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending through the first compressible resilient material from the first end to the second end.

[0018] In another embodiment of the present invention, the pad member further comprises an inner face and an outer face wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one cavity extending from either the inner face or the outer face a predetermined distance into the first compressible resilient material.

[0019] In another embodiment of the present invention, the pad member further comprises a first end and a second end wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one cavity extending from either the first end or the second end a predetermined distance into the first compressible resilient material.

[0020] In another embodiment of the present invention, the at least one flexing zone is at least one chamber located within the first compressible resilient material between the mounting face, the sealing face, the inner face, the outer face, the first end and the second end.

[0021] In another embodiment of the present invention, the at least one flexing zone comprises a second compressible resilient material having a second predetermined degree of flexibility, the second predetermined degree of flexibility having a substantially greater degree of flexibility than the first predetermined degree of flexibility.

[0022] In another embodiment of the present invention the pad member further comprises an outer protective covering of substantially abrasion resistant resilient material extending substantially around at least a portion of the outer surface thereof and substantially conforming to the contour thereof to protect the pad member from damage.

[0023] In another embodiment of the present invention the covering is movably mounted to the surface allowing the covering to substantially move with the pad member when a vehicle is in abutting and sealing engagement with the pad member.

[0024] In one instance, the surface is the outer wall of the loading dock. In another instance, the surface is a support having a front face which is adapted to be affixed to the mounting face of the pad member and a rear face which is adapted to be affixed to the outer wall of the loading dock about the opening therein. In one embodiment, the front face of the support is of a predetermined surface area which is substantially equal to the surface area of the mounting face of the pad member. In another embodiment, the support is of a predetermined surface area which is substantially less than the surface area of the mounting face of the pad member.

[0025] In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a loading dock door seal for sealing the space between a loading dock door opening and a vehicle backing up to said opening, said loading dock door seal comprising:

[0026] a pair of substantially vertically elongated longitudinal side wall pad members arranged in a substantially laterally spaced apart relationship, one side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members located substantially adjacent each of the opposite sides of said opening with the longitudinal axes being substantially parallel to each other, each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members comprising:

[0027] a mounting face for mounting said pad member to a surface,

[0028] a sealing face for sealingly engaging the rear edge of a vehicle which backs up to and abuts against said side wall pad member;

[0029] whereby each side wall pad member of said pair of side wall pad members is formed of a first compressible resilient material having a first predetermined degree of flexibility and having at least one flexing zone therein, said at least one flexing zone permitting the forced movement of said sealing face relative to said mounting face and thus said surface, to accommodate the movement of a vehicle in abutting and sealing engagement with said side wall pad member.

[0030] In an embodiment of the present invention, each side wall pad member of the pair of side wall pad members further comprises an inner face and an outer face wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from the inner face through the first compressible resilient material to the outer face.

[0031] In another embodiment of the present invention, each side wall pad member of the pair of side wall pad members further comprises a first end and a second end wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from the first end through the first compressible resilient material to the second end.

[0032] In another embodiment of the present invention, each side wall pad member of the pair of side wall pad members further comprises an inner face and an outer face wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one cavity extending from either the inner face or the outer face a predetermined distance into the first compressible resilient material.

[0033] In another embodiment of the present invention, each side wall pad member of the pair of side wall pad members further comprises an inner face, an outer face, a first end and a second end, wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one chamber located within the first compressible resilient material between the mounting face, the sealing face, the inner face, the outer face, the first end and the second end.

[0034] In another embodiment of the present invention, the at least one flexing zone of each side wall pad member of the pair of side wall pad members comprises a second compressible resilient material having a second predetermined degree of flexibility, the second predetermined degree of flexibility being substantially greater than the first predetermined degree of flexibility.

[0035] In another embodiment of the present invention, each side wall pad member of the pair of side wall pad members further comprises an outer protective covering of substantially abrasion resistant resilient material extending substantially around at least a portion of the outer surface thereof and substantially conforms to the contour thereof to protect the side wall pad member from damage.

[0036] In another embodiment of the present invention, the covering is movably mounted to the surface allowing the covering to substantially move with the side wall pad member when a vehicle is in abutting and sealing engagement with the side wall pad member.

[0037] In one instance, the surface is the outer wall of a loading dock. In another instance, the surface is a support having a front face which is adapted to be affixed to the mounting face of each side wall pad member of the pair of side wall pad members and a rear face which is adapted to be affixed to the outer wall of a loading dock about the opening therein. In one embodiment of the present invention, the front face of the support has a predetermined surface area which is substantially equal to the surface area of the mounting face of each side wall pad member of the pair of side wall pad members. In another embodiment of the present invention, the front face of the support has a predetermined surface area which is substantially less than the surface area of the mounting face of each side wall pad member of the pair of side wall pad members.

[0038] In another embodiment of the present invention, the loading dock door seal further comprises a substantially horizontally elongated longitudinal top wall pad member located substantially above the opening substantially spanning the distance above and/or between the pair of side wall pad members with the longitudinal axis being substantially perpendicular to that of the pair of side wall pad members, the top wall pad member comprising:

[0039] a mounting face for mounting the top wall pad member to a surface,

[0040] a sealing face for sealingly engaging the rear edge of a vehicle which backs up to and abuts against the top wall pad member;

[0041] whereby the top wall pad member is formed of a first compressible resilient material having a first predetermined degree of flexibility and having at least one flexing zone therein, the at least one flexing zone permitting the forced movement of the sealing face of the top wall pad member relative to the mounting face of the top wall member and thus the surface, to accommodate the movement of a vehicle in abutting and sealing engagement with the top wall pad member.

[0042] In another embodiment of the present invention the top wall pad member further comprises an inner face and an outer face wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from the inner face through the first compressible resilient material to the outer face.

[0043] In another embodiment of the present invention the top wall pad member further comprises a first end and a second end wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one passageway extending from the first end through the first compressible resilient material to the second end.

[0044] In another embodiment of the present invention the top wall pad member further comprises an inner face and an outer face wherein the at least one flexing zone is at least one cavity extending from either the inner face or the outer face a predetermined distance into the first compressible resilient material.

[0045] In another embodiment of the present invention the top wall pad member further comprises an inner face, an outer face, a first end and a second end wherein at least one flexing zone is at least one chamber located within the first compressible resilient material between the mounting face, the sealing face, the inner face, the outer face, the first end and the second end.

[0046] In another embodiment of the present invention the at least one flexing zone of the top wall pad member comprises a second compressible resilient material having a second predetermined degree of flexibility, the second predetermined degree of flexibility being substantially greater than the first predetermined degree of flexibility.

[0047] In another embodiment of the present invention the top wall pad member further comprises an outer protective covering of substantially abrasion resistant material extending substantially around at least a portion of the outer surface thereof and substantially conforms to the contour thereof to protect the top wall pad member from damage.

[0048] In another embodiment of the present invention the covering is movably mounted to the surface allowing the covering to substantially move with the top wall pad member when a vehicle is in abutting and sealing engagement with the top wall pad member.

[0049] In one instance, the surface is the outer wall of a loading dock. In another instance, the surface is a support having a front face which is adapted to be affixed to the mounting face of the top wall pad member and a rear face which is adapted to be affixed to the outer wall of a loading dock about the opening therein. In one embodiment, the front face of the support has a predetermined surface area which is substantially equal to the surface area of the mounting face of the top wall pad member. In another embodiment, the front face of the support has a predetermined surface area which is substantially less than the surface area of the mounting face of the top wall pad member.

[0050] In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an elongated longitudinal pad member for use in a loading dock door seal, the pad member comprising:

[0051] a mounting face for mounting the pad member to a surface;

[0052] a sealing face for sealingly engaging the rear edge of a vehicle which backs up to and abuts against the pad member;

[0053] at least one coupling connecting the mounting face and the sealing face and located therebetween;

[0054] whereby the pad member is formed of a first compressible resilient material, and the at least one coupling is adapted to permit the forced movement of the sealing face relative to the mounting face and thus the surface, to thereby accommodate the movement of a vehicle in abutting and sealing engagement with the pad member.

[0055] In an embodiment of the present invention the at least one coupling is in the form of spaced sections of the first compressible resilient material.

[0056] In another embodiment of the present invention, the volume between the mounting face and the sealing face and which includes the coupling has a degree of flexibility that is substantially greater than the flexibility of the mounting face and the sealing face, to facilitate the accommodation of vehicle movement.

[0057] In accordance with another aspect of the present invention there is provided a loading dock door seal for sealing the space between a door opening in a structure and a vehicle, comprising a pair of laterally spaced elongated longitudinal side wall sealing pad members formed of a resiliently compressible material, each of said pad members having a mounting face which is adapted to be secured to the structure with one pad member adjacent each of the opposite sides of the opening, each of said pad members having a sealing face which is adapted to abut and sealingly engage the rear of the vehicle, each of said pad members having at least one flexing zone therein, said flexing zone permitting the forced individual and simultaneous lateral horizontal and vertical movement of said sealing face relative to said mounting face and thus said structure, to accommodate the individual and simultaneous lateral horizontal and vertical movement of the vehicle in abutment and sealing engagement with said pad member.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0058] The present invention will be further understood from the following description with references to the drawings in which:

[0059] FIG. 1 is a front view of a loading dock door seal according to one embodiment of the present invention wherein the loading dock door seal comprises two vertically elongated longitudinal side wall sealing pad members and a horizontally elongated top wall sealing pad member mounted on the outer wall of a building structure about a loading dock door opening through which the rear end of a truck trailer may extend.

[0060] FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of a loading dock door seal according to another embodiment of the present invention wherein the loading dock door seal comprises two vertically elongated longitudinal side wall sealing pad members mounted on the outer wall of a building structure about a loading dock door opening through which the rear end of a truck trailer may extend and illustrating the arrangement of the at least one flexing zone of the side wall sealing pad members.

[0061] FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 1 illustrating the arrangement of the at least one flexing zones of the side wall and top wall sealing pad members.

[0062] FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of a loading dock door seal according to another embodiment of the present invention illustrating a different arrangement of the top wall sealing pad member and a different arrangement of the at least one flexing zone of the top wall sealing member.

[0063] FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of a loading dock door seal according to another embodiment of the present invention illustrating a different arrangement of the top wall sealing pad member.

[0064] FIG. 6 is a front perspective view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 3 illustrating a different arrangement of the at least one flexing zones of the side wall and top wall sealing pad members.

[0065] FIG. 7 is a front perspective view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 3 illustrating a different arrangement of the at least one flexing zones of the side wall and top wall sealing pad members.

[0066] FIG. 8 is a side horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 4 illustrating the mounting of the side wall and top wall sealing pad members directly to the outer wall of the building structure.

[0067] FIG. 9 is a side horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 3 illustrating the mounting of the side wall and top wall sealing pad members to a support which is in turn mounted to the outer wall of the building structure.

[0068] FIG. 10 is a side horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal according to another embodiment of the present invention illustrating the arrangement of the at least one flexing zones of the side wall and top wall sealing pad members.

[0069] FIG. 11 is a side horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 3 illustrating a fragmentary portion of a truck trailer backed into abutting and sealing engagement with the seal illustrating the downward movement of the truck trailer during the loading, operation and the accommodating forced downward movement of the sealing faces relative to the mounting faces of the side wall and top wall sealing pad members.

[0070] FIG. 12 is a side horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 3 illustrating a fragmentary portion of a truck trailer backed into abutting and sealing engagement with the seal illustrating the upward movement of the truck trailer during the unloading operation and the accommodating forced upward movement of the sealing face relative to the mounting faces of the side wall and top wall sealing pad members.

[0071] FIG. 13 is a side horizontal sectional view of a sealing pad member mounted to a support illustrating a different arrangement of the support wherein the support has a predetermined length which is substantially less than the length of the mounting face.

[0072] FIG. 14 is a side perspective view of the sealing pad member of FIG. 13 illustrating the covering of the sealing pad member with a cover and the attachment of the cover to the support via pivoting brackets.

[0073] FIG. 15 is a side view of the pivoting bracket attached to the cover of FIG. 14 illustrating the pivoting movement of the pivoting bracket and the movement of the cover.

[0074] FIG. 16 is a top horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 1 illustrating the arrangement of the side wall sealing pad members on the outer wall of the building structure about the loading dock door opening.

[0075] FIG. 17 is a top horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal according to another embodiment of the present invention illustrating a different arrangement of the side wall sealing pad members on the outer wall of the building structure about the loading dock door opening.

[0076] FIG. 18 is a top horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 17 illustrating a fragmentary portion of a truck trailer backed into abutting and sealing engagement with the seal and deflecting the side wall sealing pad members.

[0077] FIG. 19 is a top horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal according to another embodiment of the present invention illustrating a different arrangement of the side wall sealing pad members on the outer wall of the building structure about the loading dock door opening.

[0078] FIG. 20 is a top horizontal sectional view of the loading dock door seal of FIG. 19 illustrating a fragmentary portion of a truck trailer backed into abutting and sealing engagement with the seal and deflecting the side wall sealing pad members.

[0079] Similar references are used in different figures to denote similar components.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0080] Referring to the drawings and particularly to FIG. 1, the loading dock door seal 10 according to one aspect of the present invention is shown secured to the outer wall 12 of a building structure such as a warehouse or the like about a door opening 14 raised above the usual ground level. There may be a series of such openings 14 along the wall 12. This is often referred to as a loading dock. A truck trailer or the like is adapted to be aligned with the opening 14 for the purposes of transferring goods between the truck trailer and the building structure. The truck trailer moves into abutting and sealing engagement with the loading dock door seal 10 to provide a relatively weather-tight closure and sealing of the space between the rear edge of the truck trailer and the opening 14. This often is important not only for comfort but also as a way to avoid costly losses of heated or refrigerated air.

[0081] Generally, as illustrated in FIG. 2, the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention includes a pair of similarly constructed vertically elongated longitudinal side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ secured to the outer wall 12 of the building structure immediately adjacent the side edges of the opening 14. The side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ extend and are co-extensive with the height of the opening 14. Each of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ is similarly constructed and consequently side wall sealing pad member 16 will be described in detail, the corresponding elements of side wall sealing pad member 16′ being identified by similar primed numbers. Side wall sealing pad member 16 has a top end 18, a bottom end 20 and four sides including a mounting face 22 for mounting the side wall sealing pad member 16 to a surface, a sealing face 24 which is illustratively substantially parallel to and spaced apart from the mounting face 22 by a predetermined distance, the sealing face 24 for abutting and sealingly engaging the 20 rear side edge of a truck trailer backing up to the loading dock, an outer side face 26 which may illustratively be substantially perpendicular to the mounting and sealing faces 22 and 24, respectively, the outer side face 26 facing away from the opening 14 and an inner side face 28 which may illustratively be substantially parallel to and spaced apart from the outer side face 26 by a predetermined distance, the inner side face 28 facing across the opening 14.

[0082] The top edge of the opening 14 may be provided with a curtain (not shown) or other means for contacting the roof of a truck trailer to prevent passage of air, rain, snow or any other undesirable element through this part of the opening 14. In one embodiment of the present invention, as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 3 to 12, the loading dock door seal 10 may also include a horizontally elongated longitudinal top wall sealing pad member 30 secured to the outer wall 12 of the building structure immediately above the top edge of the opening 14 and spanning the distance above and/or between the two side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ to provide a U-shaped loading dock door seal 10 about the opening 14. Top wall sealing pad member 30 has a left end 32, a right end 34 and four sides including a mounting face 36 for mounting the top wall sealing pad member 30 to a surface, a sealing face 38 illustratively disposed substantially parallel to and spaced apart from the mounting face 36 by a predetermined distance, the sealing face 38 for abutting and sealingly engaging the rear top edge of a truck trailer backing up to the loading dock, an outer side face 40 which is illustratively substantially perpendicular to the mounting and sealing faces 36 and 38, respectively, the outer side face 40 facing away from the opening 14 and an inner side face 42 which may be substantially parallel to and spaced apart from the outer side face 40 by a predetermined distance, the inner side face 42 facing across the opening 14.

[0083] The top wall sealing pad member 30 may be somewhat wider in its vertical dimension than the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ are in their horizontal dimension. This is because while all truck trailers have substantially the same width, there is a considerable variation in the height of the roof line of various truck trailers. This may make it desirable to have a wider top wall sealing pad member 30. In one instance, the side wall sealing pad members 16 and 16′ vertically extend to the full height of the opening and the top wall sealing pad member 30 bridges the top of the opening 14 and occupies the space between the top ends 18, 18′ of side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′. In this instance, the top wall sealing pad member 30 may be made vertically adjustable relative to the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′. As a truck trailer approaches the opening 14, an operator may manually pull down the top wall sealing pad member 30 to align it with the roof edge of the truck trailer. The truck trailer will then abut and sealingly engage the top wall sealing pad member 30 in unison with the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′. In another instance, the side wall sealing pad members do not vertically extend the full height of the opening 14 and the top wall sealing pad member 30 bridges the top of the opening 14 with its left and right ends 32 and 34, respectively in effect constituting top portions, or extensions, of the top ends 18 and 18′, respectively of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′.

[0084] The sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 may be formed of a first compressible resilient material 44, having a first predetermined degree of flexibility. The first compressible resilient material 44 may be formed of any well known suitably compressible resilient material, such as, for example, but not limited to, polyurethane foam. The first compressible resilient material 44, having a first predetermined degree of flexibility after being deformed out of its usual shape, will return to such usual shape when pressure on the same is released. Thus, the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 will exert yielding pressure against the rear edges of a truck trailer and their flexibility will enable them to cooperate with truck trailers of different widths and shapes. There is no limitation to the compression of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 of the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention. Each of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 may be formed as a single longitudinal pad, generally in accordance with the well known pad construction. Alternatively, each of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 may be constructed of multiple pads arranged end-to-end in a stacked relationship.

[0085] Each of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is mounted and secured to a surface. In one embodiment, as illustrated in FIG. 8, the surface is the outside wall 12 of the building structure and each of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is mounted and secured directly to the wall 12 about the opening 14. In another embodiment as illustrated in FIGS. 9 to 14 and 16 to 20, the surface is a support 46, such as, for example, but not limited to, a wooden backboard, mounting frame or the like and each of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is mounted and secured to the support 46 which in turn is mounted and secured to the wall 12 about the opening 14. The sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 may be secured to the surface by any suitable or usual means, such as, for example, but not limited to, by cement, adhesive or the like. The support 46, when present, may be secured to the wall 12 in any suitable or usual manner, such as, for example, but not limited to, by mounting anchors or the like.

[0086] The sealing faces 26, 26′ and 38, respectively of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 are sensitive to damage, particularly when engaged by any irregularities on the rear edges of a truck trailer, such as, for example, but not limited to, door hinges or the like. It is therefore desirable to substantially surround the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 with a cover 48 as illustrated in FIGS. 8 to 12, 14 and 16 to 20. The cover 48 may be formed of any well known tough, flexible material, such as, for example, but not limited to, a woven fabric or a synthetic sheet material, for example, a nylon fabric of about 40 oz. per square yard in weight. The cover 48 offers a high resistance to tearing and protects the exterior of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 from damage. At the same time, the cover 48 is sufficiently flexible to conform to the shape of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 whether in their normal or deformed positions and does not interfere with the compression and/or flexion of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. The cover 48 desirably has a moisture-proof coating to protect the first compressible resilient material 44 from the weather. The cover 48 may be fastened to the surface by a suitable means, such as, for example, but not limited to, staples, nails or the like. The cover 48 may be provided with air vent openings covered by a loosely woven fabric patch (not shown). The cover 48 may also include at least one guide stripe (not shown) located centrally on the sealing faces 24 and 24′ of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ along the opposite sides of the opening 14. In one embodiment, the at least one guide stripe may be formed of a reflective material and may be bright yellow in color. The at least one guide stripe, when present, aids drivers in backing the ends of truck trailers into a docked position in abutting and sealing engagement with the loading dock door seal 10.

[0087] The sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 may be formed with at least one flexing zone 50 within the first compressible resilient material 44 as illustrated in FIGS. 2 to 14. The at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 may take the form of any structure which permits the forced movement of the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively, relative to the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36, respectively, and thus relative to the surface, to accommodate any movement of the truck trailer 52 in abutting and sealing engagement with the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. During the loading and/or unloading operation, a truck trailer in abutting and sealing engagement with the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 may move in a direction such as, for example, but not limited to, up and down in a vertical direction, side to side in a lateral horizontal direction, front to back in a forward/rearward horizontal direction or in any combination of these resulting in angular and/or tilting movement of the truck trailer. The aforementioned independent or simultaneous movements of a truck trailer during the loading and/or unloading operation is often referred to as a rolling and pitching motion. The at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 permits the forced movement of the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively, relative to the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36, respectively and thus relative to the surface, to accommodate the rolling and pitching motion of the truck trailer in abutting and sealing engagement with the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. In one instance, the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 comprise a single flexing zone 50 within the first compressible resilient material 44. In another instance, the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 comprise a plurality of flexing zones 50 within the first compressible resilient material 44.

[0088] In one embodiment of the present invention as illustrated in FIGS. 2 to 5, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is at least one passageway extending from the outer side faces 26, 26′ and 40, respectively, through the first compressible resilient material 44 to the inner side faces 28, 28′ and 42, respectively. The at least one passageway may follow a straight or convoluted path through the first compressible resilient material 44 and may be of any size, shape and dimension. In one instance, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is a single passageway extending from the outer side faces 26, 26′ and 40, respectively, through the first compressible resilient material 44 to the inner side faces 28, 28′ and 42, respectively. In this instance, the single passageway may be provided at a predetermined location along the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. In another instance, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is a plurality of passageways extending from the outer side faces 26, 26′ and 40, respectively, through the first compressible resilient material 44 to the inner side faces 28, 28′ and 42, respectively. In this instance, the plurality of passageways may be located along substantially the entire length of the sealing pad members 16,16′ and 30.

[0089] In another embodiment of the present invention, as illustrated in FIG. 3 the at least one flexing zone 50 of the top wall sealing pad member 30 is at least one passageway extending from the left end 32 through the first compressible resilient material 44 to the right end 34. In one instance, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the top wall sealing pad member 30 is a single passageway extending from the left end 32 through the first compressible resilient material 44 to the right end 34.

[0090] In another embodiment of the present invention as illustrated in FIG. 6, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is at least one cavity or hollow section extending a predetermined distance from either the outer side faces 26, 26′ and 40, respectively or the inner side faces 28, 28′ and 42, respectively, into the first compressible resilient material 44. In this embodiment, the at least one cavity or hollow section does not entirely extend through the first compressible resilient material 44 from the outer side faces 26, 26′ and 40 to the inner side faces 28, 28′ and 42 or visa versa. The at least one cavity or hollow section may follow a straight or convoluted path into the first compressible resilient material 44 and may be of any size, shape and dimension. In one instance, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is a single cavity or hollow section extending a predetermined distance from either the outer side faces 26, 26′ and 40, respectively, or the inner side faces 28, 28′ and 42, respectively, into the first compressible resilient material 44. In this instance, the single cavity or hollow section may be provided at a predetermined location along the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. In another instance, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is a plurality of cavities or hollow sections extending a predetermined distance from either the outer side faces 26, 26′ and 40, respectively, or the inner side faces 28, 28′ and 42, respectively, into the first compressible resilient material 44. In this instance, each of the cavities or hollow sections may extend identical or variable distances into the first compressible resilient material 44 and each may be may be of an identical shape, size and dimension or alternatively of a different shape, size and dimension. The plurality of cavities or hollow sections may be located along substantially the entire length of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30.

[0091] In the embodiments wherein the at least one flexing zone 50 is at least one passageway, cavity, or hollow section, the at least one flexing zone 50 may be formed in the first compressible resilient material 44 by any suitable means, such as, for example, but not limited to, by boring, cutting, drilling, punching, stamping or otherwise.

[0092] In the embodiments wherein the at least one flexing zone 50 is at least one passageway, cavity, or hollow section, the at least one flexing zone 50 may be filled with a second compressible resilient material 54 having a second predetermined degree of flexibility which is substantially different from that of the first predetermined degree of flexibility of the first compressible resilient material 44 making up the remainder of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. In the instance wherein there are a plurality of passageways, cavities, or hollow sections, all may be filled with the second compressible resilient material 54. Alternatively, only a portion of the plurality of passageways, cavities, or hollow sections, may be filled with the second compressible resilient material 54. Typically, the second predetermined degree of flexibility of the second compressible resilient material 54 is substantially greater than that of the first predetermined degree of flexibility of the first compressible resilient material 44.

[0093] In the embodiments wherein the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is at least one passageway, cavity or hollow section, and at least one of the at least one passageway, cavity or hollow section is not filled with a second compressible resilient material 54, the at least one flexing zone 50 prevents water from accumulating within and/or being absorbed by the first compressible resilient material 44. Any water which enters the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 will drain out of the least one passageway, cavity or hollow section and thus will not accumulate and/or be absorbed by the first compressible resilient material 44. This ensures the compression of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 and the movement of the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively relative to the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36, respectively at all times even in the winter months.

[0094] In another embodiment of the present invention as illustrated in FIG. 7, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is at least one chamber located at either a predetermined or random position within the first compressible resilient material 44. In this embodiment, the at least one chamber is completely surrounded by the first compressible resilient material 44. The at least one chamber may be of any shape and dimension. In one instance, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is a single chamber located at either a predetermined or random position within the first compressible resilient material 44. In another instance, the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 is a plurality of chambers located at either predetermined positions or dispersed randomly within the first compressible resilient material 44. In this instance, each of the chambers may be of an identical size, shape and dimension or alternatively of different sizes, shapes and dimensions. The plurality of chambers may be located along substantially the entire length of the sealing pad members 16,16′ and 30.

[0095] In the embodiments wherein the at least one flexing zone 50 is at least one chamber, the at least one flexing zone 50 may be formed within the first compressible resilient material 44 by any suitable means, such as, for example, but not limited to, introducing air into the first compressible resilient material 44 while it is in a liquid or semi-solid state in a mold to form at least one air pocket therein such that when the first compressible resilient material 44 solidifies to form the sealing pad member, the at least one air pocket forms the at least one chamber therein.

[0096] In an embodiment of the present invention, the at least one flexing zone 50 comprises a second compressible resilient material 54 having a second predetermined degree of flexibility which is substantially different from that of the first predetermined degree of flexibility of the first compressible resilient material 44. Typically, the second predetermined degree of flexibility of the second compressible resilient material 54 is substantially greater than that of the first predetermined degree of flexibility of the first compressible resilient material 44. In this instance, the second compressible resilient material 54 is dispersed throughout the first compressible resilient material 44. In this instance, the at least one flexing zone 50 may be formed by an suitable means, such as, for example, but not limited to, mixing together the first and second compressible resilient materials 44 and 54 while in a liquid or semi-solid state in a mold and allowing the first and second compressible resilient materials 44 and 54 to solidify to form the sealing pad member. Alternatively, the at least one flexing zone 50 may be formed by mixing together the first and second compressible resilient materials 44 and 54 while in a solid state and in the form of particulate matter together with an adhesive or the like in a mold to form the sealing pad member.

[0097] The at least one flexing section 50 of the present invention formed within the first compressible resilient material 44 allows the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to comprise substantially uninterrupted and continuous mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36 along substantially the entire length thereof and thus allows substantially full length contact and adherence of the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to the surface. This results in stronger adherence of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to the surface and thus, prevents the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 from being pulled away from the surface by excessive dislocating forces exerted thereon by the movement of a truck trailer in abutting and sealing engagement therewith during the loading and/or unloading operation.

[0098] Prior to the arrival of a truck trailer or the like 52 at a loading dock comprising the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention, the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 are in their rest positions (mid position in the range of their individual and simultaneous lateral horizontal and vertical shifting movement) as illustrated in FIGS. 7 to 9. When a truck trailer 52 backs into the loading dock, the rear side edges of the truck trailer 52 will abut and engage the respective side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ and the rear top edge of the truck trailer 52 will abut and engage the top wall sealing pad member 30. Under typical back pressure, all sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 will be substantially equally compressed by the truck trailer 52 to provide a weather-tight seal around the rear top and side edges of the truck trailer 52 thus resiliently locking the truck trailer 52 to the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30.

[0099] Assuming that an unloaded truck trailer 52 backs into the loading dock, the suspension is unflexed, thus to support the truck trailer 52 in an elevated position. The added weight of the loaded contents on the truck trailer 52 causes the suspension to flex, and the truck trailer 52 will descend as illustrated in FIG. 11. If the truck trailer 52 is fully loaded when it backs into the loading dock, the converse occurs. As the contents are unloaded, the decrease in weight on the truck trailer 52 causes the suspension to unflex, and the truck trailer 52 will rise as illustrated in FIG. 12. As well, during the loading and/or unloading operation, the movement of a forklift or the like into and/or out of the truck trailer 52 causes the truck trailer 52 to roll and pitch.

[0100] In accordance with loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention, during the loading and/or unloading operation, there will be no displacement between the rear edges of the truck trailer 52 and the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. This is because, as the truck trailer 52 moves up, down, forward, backward, sideways and/or tilts (i.e., rolls and pitches), the at least one flexing zone 50 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 allows the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively, which are locked to the truck trailer 52, to “float” or ride with the truck trailer 52 relative to the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36, respectively, and thus the surface. Accordingly, the seal is not broken during such movement and there is no tendency of the truck trailer 52 to scrape against the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30, or exert dislocating pressure against the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. Therefore, there will be no abrasion or wear occurring between the rear edges of the truck trailer 52 and the cover 48 on the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 and the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 will be freed of any dislocating forces. In effect, the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 become temporarily part of the truck trailer 52 and all of the relative displacement between the truck trailer 52 and the loading dock occurs on the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 and not on the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36 of the sealing pad members 16,16′ and 30.

[0101] The loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention substantially eliminates any abrasion between the rear edges of the truck trailer 52 and the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 during the loading and/or unloading operation because the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 fluidly move, in one instance, individually and simultaneously in a vertical and lateral horizontal direction with the truck trailer 52 relative to the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36. The moveable sealing face design of the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention drastically reduces the wear and tear on the fabric component of the seal and thus, the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention lasts longer than prior art loading dock door seals. In one instance, Applicant has conducted tests which demonstrate a four times greater life expectancy of the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention as compared to that of prior art loading dock door seals.

[0102] When the truck trailer 52 leaves the loading dock, the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 are automatically restored to the positions in which they occupied prior to the arrival of the truck trailer 52. If the truck trailer 52 had moved the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to a low position as illustrated in FIG. 11, the resilient nature of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 will restore the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to their rest positions. If the truck trailer 52 had lifted the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to a high position as illustrated in FIG. 12, the resilient nature of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 will return the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to their rest positions.

[0103] It is therefore clear from the foregoing description that the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 are free to move in any direction along with the truck trailer 52. Accordingly, in one instance, a truck trailer 52 which is backed tightly against the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 can move individually and simultaneously in a vertical and lateral horizontal direction and the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 will freely move with the truck trailer 52 as aforesaid.

[0104] In another embodiment of the present invention, as illustrated in FIGS. 13 and 14, the support 46 is cut shorter on the top and bottom ends thereof relative to the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′. In one instance, the support 46 is cut approximately 6″ shorter on the top and bottom ends thereof relative to the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′. Because of this, there is no requirement to apply adhesive to the top and bottom portions of the mounting faces 22, 22′ of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′. This further aids in the vertical movement of the sealing faces 24, 24′ relative to the mounting faces 22, 22′ and thus relative to the support 46 and in turn relative to the outside wall 12. This also allows the cover 48 to move more fluidly with the first compressible resilient material 44 it is covering.

[0105] In another embodiment of the present invention, the support 46 is cut narrower at the sides thereof relative to the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ (not shown). In one instance, the support 46 is cut approximately 6″ narrower at the sides thereof relative to the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′. Because of this, there is no requirement to apply adhesive to the outermost side portions of the mounting faces 22, 22′ of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′. This further aids in the lateral horizontal movement of the sealing faces 24, 24′ relative to the mounting faces 22, 22′ and thus relative to the support 46 and in turn relative to the outside wall 12. This also allows the cover 48 to move more fluidly with the first compressible resilient material 44 it is covering. It will be apparent to persons skilled in the art that the support 46 may be cut narrower at the sides thereof in addition to being cut shorter on the top and bottom ends thereof relative to the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′.

[0106] In another embodiment of the present invention, the support 46 is cut shorter on the left and right ends thereof relative to the top wall sealing pad member 30. In one instance, the support 46 is cut approximately 6″ shorter on the left and right ends thereof relative to the top wall sealing pad member 30. Because of this, there is no requirement to apply adhesive to the left and right portions of the mounting face 36 of the top wall sealing pad member 30. This further aids in the lateral horizontal movement of the sealing face 38 relative to the mounting face 36 and thus relative to the support 46 and in turn relative to the outside wall 12. This also allows the cover 48 to move more fluidly with the first compressible resilient material 44 it is covering.

[0107] In another embodiment of the present invention, the support 46 is cut narrower at the sides thereof relative to the top wall sealing pad member 30 (not shown). In one instance, the support 46 is cut approximately 6″ narrower at the sides thereof relative to the top wall sealing pad member 30. Because of this, there is no requirement to apply adhesive to the outermost side portions of the mounting face 36 of the top wall sealing pad member 30. This further aids in the vertical movement of the sealing face 38 relative to the mounting face 36 and thus relative to the support 46 and in turn relative to the outside wall 12. This also allows the cover 48 to move more fluidly with the first compressible resilient material 44 it is covering. Again, it will be apparent to persons skilled in the art that the support 46 may be cut narrower at the sides thereof in addition to being cut shorter on the left and right ends thereof relative to the top wall sealing pad member 30.

[0108] In another embodiment of the present invention as illustrated in FIGS. 14 and 15, rather than traditional staples, nails or the like adhering the cover 48 to the support 46, the cover 48 is removably attached to the support 46 via pivoting brackets 56. Each pivoting bracket 56 is attached to the cover 48 on one side and to the side of the support 46 on the other. Typically, the one side of the pivoting bracket 56 is sewn to the inside edge of the cover 48 in three locations. The other side of the pivoting bracket 56 has a grommet, bearing or the like 58 whereby the pivoting bracket 56 is fastened to the side of the support 46 by any suitable means, such as, for example, but not limited to, a screw or the like. The pivoting brackets 56 aid in the ability of the cover 48 to move more fluidly with the sealing pad members 16,16′ and 30.

[0109] In the embodiments wherein the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 are mounted directly to the outside wall 12 of the building structure, the side of the pivoting bracket 56 comprising the grommet 58 is fastened to the wall 12 by any suitable means, such as, for example, but not limited to, a screw or the like.

[0110] FIG. 16 illustrates one arrangement of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ on the outer wall 12 of the building structure about the door opening 14. In this embodiment, the vertical centerlines of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ may be spaced laterally apart a distance equal to the conventional spacing of the rear edges of the sides of a truck trailer (usually about 8 feet). The side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ are arranged on the wall 12 adjacent to the opening 14 but do not extend across same. This arrangement serves to abut and sealingly engage truck trailers which may be wider than the opening 14, and which when backed against the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′, will form a suitable obstruction to the passage of air into the opening 14 beyond the sides of the truck trailer.

[0111] FIGS. 17 and 18 illustrate another arrangement of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ on the outer wall 12 of the building structure about the door opening 14. In this embodiment, the opening 14 may be made of greater width than the width of a truck trailer so that truck trailers of different widths can be readily backed into operative relation to the opening 14. When the opening 14 is wider than the width of the truck trailer, it is necessary to provide side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ that extend somewhat across the opening 14 as illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4. As well, the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ may be made wide enough so that the truck trailer need not be precisely aligned therewith in order to abut and sealingly engage the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ and effectuate a seal against the loading dock.

[0112] FIGS. 5, 19 and 20 illustrates a further embodiment of the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention wherein the shape of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ is modified. In this embodiment, the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ have a substantially tapered cross section, having narrow mounting faces 22, 22′ relative to wide sealing faces 24, 24′. The outer side faces 26, 26′ are substantially perpendicular to the mounting and sealing faces 22, 22′ and 24, 24′, respectively. The inner side faces 28, 28′ are substantially tapered. As a result, the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ extend from the side edges of the opening 14 outwardly and inwardly laterally of the opening 14 with the outermost portions defining sealing lip portions 60, 60′ generally extending inwardly of the opening 14. The spacing between the sealing lip portions 60, 60′ is such that the opening therebetween is somewhat less than the width of a regular or conventional truck trailer. Thus, when a truck trailer 15 moves backwardly into abutting and sealing engagement with the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′, it generally abuts and sealingly engages the inwardly projecting sealing lip portions 60, 60′. The truck trailer 52 may then actually move slightly inwardly between the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ with the sealing lip portions 60, 60′ deflecting inwardly, with some sealing compression of the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′, to establish a weather-tight seal between the rear side edges of the truck trailer 52 and the side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′. The top wall sealing pad member 30 may also have a substantially tapered cross-section (not shown), having a narrow mounting face 36 relative to a wide sealing face 38. The outer side face 40 is substantially perpendicular to the mounting and sealing faces 36 and 38, respectively. The inner side face 42 is substantially tapered.

[0113] The loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention may include two vertically elongated longitudinal side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ approximately 8 feet in length only and/or one horizontally elongated longitudinal top wall sealing pad member 32 approximately 10 feet in length or may include two vertically elongated longitudinal side wall sealing pad members 16, 16′ approximately 10 feet in length and one horizontally elongated longitudinal top wall sealing pad member 32 approximately 10 feet in length.

[0114] In any of the foregoing embodiments, the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 could alternatively be considered to comprise mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36, respectively and sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively which are coupled to each other so as to allow relative movement between those faces in response to movement of the truck trailer 52. In particular, at least one coupling may be provided such that the volume of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 between the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36, respectively and the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively has a different level of resiliency and/or flexibility than the remainder of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to thereby allow relative movement between the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38 and the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36 to accommodate the rolling and pitching motion of the truck trailer 52. According to the foregoing embodiments of the broader inventive concepts, the at least one coupling may be in the form of sections of the first compressible resilient material 44 extending from the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36, respectively to the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. These sections are the material left after the area defining the at least one “flexing zone” 50 has been removed from the first compressible resilient material 44 and/or filled with the second compressible resilient material 54. These sections can take a variety of forms, shapes and sizes. It is envisioned that alternative materials could be used to form the at least one coupling connecting the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36, respectively and the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to provide the desired relative movement. For example, in another embodiment of the present invention, the at least one coupling may be in the form of at least one spring, such as, for example, but not limited to, at least one helical spring. In another embodiment of the present, the at least one coupling may be in the form of at least one hydraulic cylinder pivotally attached at each end thereof to the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36 respectively and the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30. Removing volumes of the first compressible resilient material 44 from the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 to leave behind sections that provide the coupling, however, is believed to be a cost-effective and advantageous means to achieving the desired relative movement between the sealing faces 24, 24′ and 38, respectively, and the mounting faces 22, 22′ and 36, respectively, of the sealing pad members 16, 16′ and 30 and thus the surface.

[0115] Applicant has found that the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention provides a relatively inexpensive and reliable tight seal about a truck trailer or the like having exceptionally long life, with a better seal than that obtained with the conventional solid rectangular foam pad. The present invention thus provides an improved loading dock door seal which can be economically constructed, readily applied to the outside wall of a building structure about a door opening and provides a long life and a reliable door seal. Due to the simplicity of the design of the loading dock door seal of the present invention, there are no added components and/or parts. This translates into, in one instance, a lower cost in the manufacture of the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention. Other advantages and benefits of the loading dock door seal 10 of the present invention are made readily apparent to person skilled in the art by reading the above description.

[0116] While the foregoing provides a detailed description of preferred embodiments of the present invention, it is to be understood that this description is intended to be illustrative only of the principles of the present invention and not in a limiting sense. Numerous modifications, variations, and adaptations may be made to the particular embodiments of the present invention described above without departing from the scope of the present invention, which is defined in the claims.