Title:
Carrier assembly for movably supporting a fifth wheel assembly
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A carrier assembly is mounted on the spaced frame members of a tractor for movably supporting a fifth wheel assembly thereon. An integral one piece slide rail is secured to each of the frame members and has a plurality of individual rack sections separately welded to a U-shaped member of the slide rail. Each of the rack sections contain a plurality of spaced teeth. The teeth extend into a channel formed in mounting brackets of a carriage assembly of the fifth wheel to slidably mount the carriage assembly on the carrier assembly. A leg of the U-shaped member extends into a channel formed in the carriage assembly and is engaged by a set bolt to adjust the carriage assembly for various frame widths. A pair of stop assemblies are adjustably movably mounted across the ends of the slide rails of the carrier assembly. A pair of adjustable plungers secure the carriage assembly in a fixed position on the carrier assembly.



Inventors:
Laarman, Greg (Holland, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/194037
Publication Date:
11/28/2002
Filing Date:
07/11/2002
Assignee:
LAARMAN GREG
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B62D53/08; (IPC1-7): B62D53/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DEPUMPO, DANIEL G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Joseph A. Sebolt (Canton, OH, US)
Claims:

What is claimed:



1. A carrier assembly for movably supporting a fifth wheel assembly on a pair of spaced frame members of a tractor comprising: a pair of slide rails adapted to be mounted on the spaced frame members, each of said slide rails being a integral one-piece member having an attachment leg and a generally U-shaped member extending inboard from the attachment leg; a rack containing a plurality of teeth attached to each of the U-shaped rails extending inboard therefrom; at least one stop plate assembly extending between the pair of slide rails; and mounting brackets for securing the said one stop plate assembly in a selected position on said slide rails.

2. The carrier assembly defined in claim 1 wherein the rack is attached to the U-shaped member by a plurality of welded connections.

3. The carrier assembly defined in claim 2 wherein the rack consists of a plurality of segments, each segment containing a plurality of teeth; and in which each of said segments is attached to the U-shaped member by at least a pair of welded connections.

4. The carrier assembly defined in claim 3 wherein each rack segment has a linear length of approximately 6 inches.

5. The carrier assembly defined in claim 2 wherein each of the U-shaped members has a pair of spaced legs extending outwardly from a base; and in which the rack is attached to the base of said U-shaped member by the welded connections.

6. The carrier assembly defined in claim 1 wherein the stop plate assembly includes a stop plate extending between the mounting brackets; in which each of the mounting brackets include a mounting plate which is secured to opposite ends of the stop plate; and in which at least one of the mounting plates is adjustably mounted on the stop plate.

7. The carrier assembly of claim 6 in which one of said mounting plate and stop plate is formed with elongated openings for varying the width of the stop plate assembly.

8. The carrier assembly defined in claim 7 in which the said one mounting bracket further includes a clamp plate and a plurality of fasteners for securing one of the stop plate ends between the clamp plate and mounting bracket.

9. The carrier assembly of claim 6 in which at least one of the mounting brackets is formed with a curved end which slidably engages an outer edge of the U-shaped member of the slide rail; and in which at least one tooth is formed on said one mounting bracket and engage selected teeth of the rack.

10. A frame rail for mounting on a frame member of a vehicle for movably supporting a fifth wheel assembly thereon, said frame rail comprising: an integral one piece member having an attachment leg for securing the frame rail to the frame member and a U-shaped member extending from said attachment leg, said U-shaped member having a pair of spaced legs extending from an intervening base and forming a slide channel therebetween; and a rack containing a plurality of teeth attached to the base of said U-shaped member and extending therefrom.

11. The frame rail defined in claim 10 wherein the attachment leg is formed with a plurality of holes for receiving fasteners therethrough for attaching said leg to the frame member.

12. The frame rail defined in claim 10 wherein the rack is attached to the U-20 shaped member by a plurality of welded connections.

13. The frame rail defined in claim 10 wherein one of the spaced legs of the U-shaped member is longer than the other of said legs; and in which said longer leg is adapted to be supported on the vehicle frame member.

14. The frame rail defined in claim 10 wherein the slide channel of the U-shaped member is substantially U-shaped in cross section.

15. In combination a pair of spaced frame members on the rear of a tractor and a carrier assembly for movably supporting a fifth wheel assembly on said frame members comprising: a pair of slide rails adapted to be mounted on the spaced frame member, each of said slide rails being a integral one-piece member having an attachment leg and a generally U-shaped member extending from said attachment leg; a rack containing a plurality of teeth attached to each of the U-shaped members and extending inboard therefrom; at least one stop plate assembly extending between the pair of slide rails, said stop plate assembly including a stop plate and a pair of end mounting brackets; and fasteners for securing the stop plate to the mounting brackets.

16. The combination defined in claim 15 wherein the rack is attached to the U-shaped rail by a plurality of welded connections.

17. The combination defined in claim 16 wherein the rack consists of a plurality of segments, each segment containing a plurality of teeth and being attached to the rail by the welded connections.

18. The combination defined in claim 16 wherein each of the U-shaped members has a pair of spaced legs extending outwardly from a base; and in which the rack is attached to the base of said U-shaped member by the welded connections.

19. The combination defined in claim 15 wherein the stop plate assembly mounting brackets are adjustably secured to opposite ends of the stop plate; in which said mounting brackets are formed with curved ends; and in which the said curved ends are slidably received in the U-shaped members of the slide rails.

20. The combination defined in claim 15 in which each of the frame members has a side wall and a top wall; in which the attachment leg of the slide rail extends along and is secured to the side wall of the frame member; and in which the U-shaped member rests upon the top wall of said frame member.

21. The combination defined in claim 20 in which the attachment leg and frame member side wall are formed with a plurality of spaced holes; and in which fasteners extend through certain of said holes for securing the slide rail on the frame member.

22. The combination defined in claim 19 in which slotted openings are formed in one of the stop plate and mounting brackets, and holes are formed in the other of said stop plate and mounting brackets; and in which fasteners extend through certain of said slotted openings and holes to adjustably mount the stop plate on the mounting brackets.

23. The combination defined in claim 15 in which a carriage assembly is movably mounted on the slide rails by spaced mounting brackets; in which said mounting brackets each include a first channel for slidably receiving the teeth of the rack therein; and in which a second channel is formed in each of the mounting brackets for receiving an end of the U-shaped member therein.

24. The combination defined in claim 23 in which clamping bolts engage the end of the U-shaped member to secure the mounting bracket on the slide rail.

25. An adjustable stop member for mounting on a pair of spaced slide rails of a carrier assembly which movably supports a fifth wheel assembly thereon, said stop member comprising: A plate having a pair of opposed ends, said plate adapted to extend substantially between the slide rails of the carrier assembly; and a bracket mounted on each of the plate ends for mounting the plate on the slide rails, at least one of said brackets having an adjusting mechanism for adjusting the length of the stop member.

26. The stop member defined in claim 25 in which each of the brackets is formed with a pair of teeth and a plurality of mounting holes.

27. The stop member defined in claim 26 including a clamp plate for securing each of the brackets on the slide rails.

28. The stop member defined in claim 25 in which one of the plate ends and brackets is formed with slotted openings and the other of said ends and brackets is formed with holes; and in which fasteners extend through said slotted openings and holes to provide the adjusting mechanism.

29. A plunger assembly for securing a carriage assembly of a fifth wheel in a fixed position on a carrier assembly mounted on a trailer frame, said plunger assembly comprising: a pair of spaced plunger plates each having at least one tooth for engaging the carrier assembly; a linkage extending between the pair of plunger plates; and an adjusting mechanism for varying the spacing between the plunger plates.

30. The plunger assembly defined in claim 29 wherein the adjusting mechanism includes a threaded connection between the linkage and the plunger plates.

31. The plunger assembly defined in claim 30 including a spring which biases the said one tooth toward engagement with the carrier assembly.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Technical Field

[0002] The invention relates generally to fifth wheel assemblies for coupling semi-trailers to tractors. More particularly, the invention relates to a carrier assembly which is mounted on the vehicle frame for movably supporting the fifth wheel supporting carriage. Even more particularly, the invention relates to such a carrier assembly which is adjustable for various width tractor frames and which facilitates positioning and replacement of the carriage on the trailer.

[0003] 2. Background Information

[0004] Large highway freight trailers are usually coupled to a tractor by a fifth wheel assembly may include a top plate and a side bracket or carriage assembly having a locking device which engages the slide bracket in a selected position. The fifth wheel top plate is mounted on the carriage assembly which is movably adjustably mounted on a carrier assembly which is secured to the tractor frame.

[0005] These slide plates or carrier assemblies are usually custom made to fit a particular type of tractor due to the size of the tractor frame. For certain applications it is necessary to adjust the position of the carriage assembly on the carrier assembly in order for the locking mechanism to be compatible with the location of the trailer king pin to provide a desired weight distribution on the rear suspension of the tractor. Likewise, this position affects the turning radius that can be achieved between the tractor and trailer. This adjustment of the carrier and carriage assemblies with respect to each other and to the tractor frame is relatively complicated and expensive due to the welding and unwelding of various parts.

[0006] Carrier assemblies have various stop plates welded across the ends of the carrier to limit the position of the carriage assembly to prevent excessive movement of the carriage on the carrier assembly resulting in a dangerous turning radius and undesirable weight distribution on the tractor rear wheels. Heretofore, these stop members were welded into position and required breaking of the weld and rewelding the stop plate in a newly desired position, especially when replacing the slide plate assembly for maintenance or adaptability for use with a different trailer.

[0007] Another problem with existing fifth wheel assemblies and in particular the carrier assembly therefor, is that the racks along which the carriage assembly is movably mounted and subsequently positioned by a pair of opposed plungers or other retention mechanism, are usually single linear lengths of a rack which require replacement of the entire rack should one of the teeth become damaged. This is an expensive procedure requiring numerous welds to be broken in order to remove the rack and then rewelded along the entire length once the new rack is put in place. Likewise, the cost of the new rack is expensive for replacing only one or several broken teeth.

[0008] Still another problem with existing carrier assemblies is the unequal weight distribution of the carriage and slide plate on the carrier assembly resulting in increased maintenance problems.

[0009] Another problem with existing fifth wheel assemblies is that the spring biased plungers which secure a carriage assembly in a fixed position on a carrier assembly, may require replacement in order to match a particular width trailer frame. This is expensive and undesirable. Furthermore, over time, the biasing force of the plunger biasing springs will weaken due to wear, temperature and the harsh environment in which they are located, which could cause premature release of the plungers from the carrier rails.

[0010] Thus, the need exists for an improved carrier assembly for movably supporting a carriage assembly thereon of a tractor fifth wheel to eliminate problems with prior art carrier assemblies.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] The present invention provides a carrier assembly for movably supporting a fifth wheel assembly of a tractor trailer combination which is readily adjustably mounted on the spaced frame members of a tractor by a plurality of bolts along the length of the frame mounting angle.

[0012] Another aspect of the invention provides a carrier assembly having adjustable stop members at opposed ends of the carrier which can be slidably adjusted easily along the length of the carrier in order to properly position the carriage assembly thereon, and which can be easily removed to permit replacement of the carriage and the slide plate assemblies.

[0013] Still another feature of the invention is the forming of the carrier assembly slide rails as integral one piece members having a U-shaped portion on which the rack is welded whereby each of the slide rails is easily mounted on the tractor frame member and is able to receive and distribute the weight of the carrier in a more efficient and effective manner.

[0014] A further aspect of the invention is forming the racks on the slide rails of a plurality of rack segments, each segment being secured to the slide rail by a pair of welds, whereby only a single segment need by replaced should one or more of the teeth be damaged avoiding the heretofore required replacement of the entire rack.

[0015] A feature of the improved carrier assembly is the adjustability of the mounting brackets for the stop members enabling them to be mounted on tractor frame members of various spacings replacing the heretofore single piece stop members that are welded on the space frame members.

[0016] Another aspect of the invention is providing locking plungers for securing the carriage assembly in a fixed position on the carrier assembly which are adjustable in length to compensate for different width trailer frames and to ensure a constant spring tensioning force for maintaining the plunger teeth in engagement with the teeth on the carrier assembly rails to prevent premature release.

[0017] The foregoing advantages, construction and operation of the present invention will become more readily apparent from the following description and accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] The preferred embodiment of the invention, illustrative of the best mode in which applicant contemplates applying the principles, is set forth in the following description and is shown in the drawings, and is particularly and distinctly pointed out and set forth in the appended claims.

[0019] FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic side elevational view of a tractor trailer combination connected together by a fifth wheel assembly;

[0020] FIG. 2 is an enlarged fragmentary side elevational view of the fifth wheel assembly movably mounted on a carriage which is adjustably mounted on the improved carrier of the invention which is attached to the frame members of the tractor;

[0021] FIG. 3 is an enlarged top plan view of FIG. 2;

[0022] FIG. 4 is an enlarged fragmentary top plan. view of the fifth wheel assembly with portions removed therefrom;

[0023] FIG. 4A is an enlarged fragmentary view of the encircled portion of FIG. 4;

[0024] FIG. 4B is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view taken on line 4B-4B of FIG. 4A:

[0025] FIG. 5 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view taken on line 5-5, FIG. 4;

[0026] FIG. 6 is a top plan view of the carrier assembly mounted on the spaced frame members of a tractor;

[0027] FIG. 7 is an enlarged fragmentary view with portions broken away and in section, of the encircled portion of FIG. 6;

[0028] FIG. 7A is a bottom plan view of the stop member mounting bracket of FIG. 7;

[0029] FIG. 8 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view taken on line 8-8, FIG. 7;

[0030] FIG. 9 is a top plan view similar to FIG. 6 showing one of the stop members of the carrier assembly in an adjusted position;

[0031] FIG. 10 is an enlarged fragmentary top plan view showing the two mounting brackets of the carrier assembly stop member mounted on the spaced frame members of a tractor;

[0032] FIG. 11 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view taken on line 11-11, FIG. 10;

[0033] FIG. 12 is a view similar to FIG. 10 showing the stop member mounting brackets in an adjusted position from that of FIG. 10;

[0034] FIG. 13 is an enlarged sectional view taken on line 13-13, FIG. 12,

[0035] FIG. 14 is a fragmentary side elevational view of the carrier assembly mounted on one of the tractor frame members having a damaged rack segment;

[0036] FIG. 15 is a view similar to FIG. 14 showing removal of the damaged rack segment; and

[0037] FIG. 16 is a view similar to FIGS. 14 and 15 showing placement of a new rack segment on the carrier assembly.

[0038] Similar numerals refer to similar parts throughout the drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0039] FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic side elevational view of a usual tractor trailer combination indicated generally at 1, consisting of a trailer 2 and a tractor 3 connected together by a fifth wheel assembly 4. Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, fifth wheel assembly 4 consists of a usual top plate assembly 5 having a V-shaped slotted opening 6 for receiving a king pin (not shown) of trailer 2 within the locking opening 8 of a locking mechanism. The particularly construction of top plate 5 and the manner of operating locking mechanism 9 are well known in the art, and thus are not described in further detail. Top plate 5 is pivotally mounted at 10 on a pair of spaced pedestals 11 to permit pivotal movement of the top plate. Pedestals 11 are mounted on a slide bracket or carriage assembly 13 (FIG. 4) which is adjustably movably mounted on the improved slide plate or carrier assembly, indicated generally at 15. The construction of carriage assembly 13 is well known in the art and is only partially shown in FIG. 4 and briefly described below.

[0040] Carriage assembly 13 has a plunger assembly indicated generally at 17, which includes a plunger support plate 18 and a pair of movable plungers 19 connected together by an adjustable link assembly 20. Each plunger 19 includes a plurality of teeth 22 which are formed on a plunger plate 23 which is mounted on the outer end of an adjustment screw 26 (FIG. 4B) which is pivotally connected to a pair of links 31 which are pivotally connected by a pin 21 (FIG. 4) at the center of plunger assembly 17. The opposite ends of each link 31 are pivotally connected to adjustment screws 26 by pins 32. Teeth 22 are engageable with teeth 24 of a pair of spaced racks 25 to secure carriage assembly 13 in an adjusted position on carrier assembly 15.

[0041] In accordance with one of the features of the invention, adjustment screw 26 includes a threaded end 33 which is threadably received within a threaded opening 34 formed in plunger plate 23 (FIG. 4B). This enables the length of plunger assembly 17 to be adjusted for various width trailer frames and also enables plate 23 to be adjusted with respect to spaced racks 25 as shown by arrow A, FIG. 4B, to change the tension in compression coil springs 39 which bias plates 23 and corresponding teeth 22 toward engagement with the teeth of rack 25. The inboard end of each plate 23 is slidably located within an opening 44A of a mounting plate 44 which is welded to plunger support plate 18.

[0042] Carriage assembly 13 includes a pair of stepped plates 28 on which pedestals 11 are mounted and further includes a cross plate 29 extending between plates 28 for stabilizing carriage assembly 13 together with plunger support plate 18. A link 30 extends diagonally between cross plate 29 and plunger support plate 18 to stabilize carriage assembly 13. Carriage assembly 13 includes a pair of mounting brackets 55 extending across the underside of stepped plate 28 for movably mounting carriage assembly 13 on carrier assembly 15 (FIG. 5). Only one bracket 55 is shown in FIG. 4 and is described further below.

[0043] Improved carrier assembly 15 is shown particularly in FIG. 6. In accordance with one of the features of the invention it includes a pair of adjustable end stop members 35, each of which includes a stop plate 36 and a pair of end mounting brackets 37. Carrier assembly 15 further includes a pair of improved slide rails indicated generally at 40, which are mounted on spaced tractor frame members 27 for movably supporting carriage assembly 13 on rails 40 as shown in FIG. 5. Tractor frame members 27 are usually inverted U-shaped or L-shaped beams as shown in FIG. 5 having a vertically extending leg 27A and a horizontal top leg or wall 27B. Slide rails 40 are preferably substantially similar to each other, and thus only one is described in detail and shown in the drawings.

[0044] In accordance with another feature of the invention, slide rail 40 (FIGS. 2, 5 and 6) is formed as an integral one piece member of rigid metal and includes a flat vertically extending mounting leg 41 containing a plurality of mounting holes 42 for receiving mounting bolts 43 therethrough for rigidly attaching slide rail 40 to tractor frame leg 27A. Slide rail 40 further includes a U-shaped member 45 formed by a pair of spaced legs 46 and 47 joined by a base 48 which form a U-shaped channel 49 therein. Leg 46 extends from mounting leg 41 and forms a substantial 90° angle therebetween and extends along end and rests upon top surface 38 of tractor frame leg 27B.

[0045] In accordance with another feature of the invention rack 25 is formed by a plurality of rack segments 50 which are mounted on base 48 of U-shaped member 45 by a plurality of welded connections 52. Preferably, there are at least two welded connections 52 for each rack segment 50, each connection having upper and lower welds 53. Each rack segment 50 includes a plurality of the individual teeth 24 which extend inboard from U-shaped member 45. In the preferred embodiment rack segments 50 have a linear length of approximately six inches.

[0046] Referring particularly to FIGS. 4 and 5, carriage assembly 13 is adjustably movably mounted on carrier assembly 15 by mounting brackets 55 which extend generally throughout the length of pedestal support plate 28 and are secured thereto by pairs of bolts 58. Bolts 58 also extend through and connect link 31 to an outwardly projecting tab 61, a plurality of which extend outwardly from the corners of plunger support plate 18. Bolts 58 also connect tabs 56 to clamp 55, and to a generally U-shaped bracket 57 through which plunger teeth segments 23 extend for engagement with racks 25.

[0047] Each mounting bracket 55 (FIG. 5) further includes a U-shaped channel 64 formed by a lower leg 62 and stepped pedestal plate 28. Plate 28 terminates in an outboard U-shaped channel forming member 67 having a lower leg 68 which forms U-shaped channel 69 with stepped plate 28. The cross sectional configuration of brackets 55 will remain similar to that shown in FIG. 5 except for a short section (not shown) opposite of plunger segments 23 whereon the vertical wall 54 extending between bracket 57 and pedestal plate 28 is cut away to permit the passage of plunger teeth segment 23 therethrough.

[0048] As shown particularly in FIG. 5, mounting bracket 55 is secured in a selected fixed position on slide rail 40 by a threaded set bolt 72 which is adjustably engaged in a thread hole 74 formed in member 67. The inner end of bolt 72 engages the outer end of leg 47 of slide rail 40, and is secured in the fixed clamping engagement therewith by a lock nut 73. Leg 47 of U-shaped member 45 of rail 40 is received in U-shaped channel 69 with teeth 24 of rack segments 50 extending into U-shaped, channel 64.

[0049] As can be seen in FIG. 5, slide rail 40 provides various areas on which the weight of carriage assembly 13 is supported, such as the upper surfaces of leg 47 and of teeth 24, leg 27B engaging leg 62, and leg 46 supporting bracket leg 68 on top wall 27B of tractor frame 27. These various areas of support are provided by slide rail 40 for evenly distributing and supporting the weight of carriage assembly 13 through mounting brackets 55.

[0050] In accordance with a further feature of the invention, stop members 35 are adjustable in length to accommodate different width tractor frame members as shown particularly in FIGS. 10-12 as well as being movably adjustable along the longitudinal length of carrier assembly 15 as shown particularly in FIG. 9. This width adjustment is obtained by the unique construction of mounting brackets 37. Referring particularly to FIGS. 6-12, each mounting bracket 37 includes a mounting plate indicated generally at 80, having an in-turned end 81 which forms a U-shaped channel 82 for slidably receiving the outer end of leg 48 of U-shaped member 45 therein for slidably adjustably mounting mounting bracket 37 on slide rail 40 (FIGS. 8 and 11). Mounting plate 80 includes a recessed area 83 formed between a pair of teeth 85 into which a tooth 24 extends for engagement with adjacent teeth 85 which engages spaced teeth 24 formed on rack 25 as shown particularly in FIGS. 7 and 7A. Mounting plate 80 includes two pairs of holes 86 and 87 with holes 87 extending through teeth 85 for receiving bolts 88 and 89 respectively therethrough, which are threadably engaged in aligned holes 90 and 91 formed in a bottom clamping plate 93 (FIGS. 8 and 11). Mounting bracket 37 is secured in a selected position along rack 25 by receiving one of the rack teeth 24 in area 83 formed between the pair of teeth 85 formed on the bottom surface of mounting plate 80.

[0051] Stop plate 36 is formed with a pair of opposed ends 95 and 96 (FIGS. 10 and 11), each of which is formed with a pair slotted openings 97 through which bolts 88 extend for securing plate 80 in an adjusted position on the ends of stop plate 36. As shown in FIG. 10, stop member 35 is in its shortest position or narrowest width as indicted by bracket X, due to the location of bolts 88 within slotted openings 97. FIG. 12 shows stop member 35 in its longest position or greatest width as indicated by bracket Y, due to the location of stop bolts 89 within slotted openings 97 of stop plate 36.

[0052] Thus, carrier assembly 15 is adaptable for use with tractor frames having various spacings without requiring substantial modifications thereto by use of bolts 88 and slots 97. This eliminates any welding as required in prior art carrier assemblies. Carrier assembly 15 is adaptable for various tractors having a range of frame spacings which heretofore required separate specially designed carriers for each particular tractor due to this difference in spacing requiring the welding and permanent fixing of cross members thereon. Likewise, bolts 88 and 89 enable stop members 35 to be easily adjusted across the width of the slide rails 40 and longitudinally along tractor frame members 27 to enable carrier assembly 15 to be adaptable to various tractors and also to accommodate trailers having various king pin locations in order to achieve various weight distributions on the tractor rear wheels, as well as effecting the turning radius of the tractor with respect to the trailer. Heretofore, these adjustments were made permanently by welding fixtures to the carrier assembly and did not permit ease of adjustment in the location of end stop members as in the present invention which is accomplished by a plurality of bolts which are readily loosened and then tightened once the desired adjustments have been accomplished.

[0053] Likewise, plunger assembly 17 is easily adjusted as described above, enabling it to accommodate tractor frame members having various spacings therebetween without requiring substantial modifications to the plunger assembly which is achieved easily by the threaded adjustment of adjustment screw 26 in threaded opening 34 of plunger plate 23.

[0054] In accordance with still another feature of the invention as shown in FIGS. 14-16, rack 25 is formed by a plurality of rack segments 50 each of which includes a plurality of the individual teeth 24. The segments are placed in an abutting relationship along slide rail 40 as shown by joint 100. Each segment 50 is secured by a welded connection 52, with each welded connection consisting of top and bottom welds 53 as shown particularly in FIGS. 5, 8, 11, and 13. In the preferred embodiment, each rack segment 50 will have a length L (FIG. 16) of approximately six inches.

[0055] This feature enables a damaged tooth or several teeth as shown by rack segment 50A in FIG. 15, to be easily replaced by an undamaged rack segment 50B requiring only two welded connections 52 to be replaced and reapplied. This eliminates the heretofore replacement of the entire rack 25, which in prior carrier constructions was a single longitudinally extending rack formed as a single piece extending throughout the length of the carrier assembly. Thus, replacement of only one short rack segment is considerably cheaper and easier to accomplish then replacing the entire rack as required in prior carrier assemblies.

[0056] Accordingly, the improved carrier assembly for a fifth wheel assembly is simplified, provides an effective, safe, inexpensive, and efficient device which achieves all the enumerated objectives, provides for eliminating difficulties encountered with prior devices, and solves problems and obtains new results in the art.

[0057] In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity, clearness, and understanding; but no unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom beyond the requirement of the prior art, because such terms are used for descriptive purposes and are intended to be broadly construed.

[0058] Moreover, the description and illustration of the invention is by way of example, and the scope of the invention is not limited to the exact details shown or described.

[0059] Having now described the features, discoveries, and principles of the invention, the manner in which the improved carrier assembly is constructed and used, the characteristics of the construction, and the advantageous new and useful results obtained; the new and useful structures, devices, elements, arrangements, parts, and combinations are set forth in the appended claims.