Title:
Multi-configuration access ramp
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An adjustable access ramp assembly includes at least one ramp unit that is adjustable between a plurality of positions relative to a platform. An integrated jack may be provided for adjusting the ramp unit. Two ramp units may be provided alongside each other in a switchback orientation with the platform. The ramp assembly can be configured for loading on a wheeled trailer unit to be hauled, and may include one or more stowed components to facilitate connection to a trailer hitch.



Inventors:
Sloniker, John S. (Hamilton, OH, US)
Reilly, Thomas M. (Cincinnati, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/339382
Publication Date:
07/15/2004
Filing Date:
01/09/2003
Assignee:
SLONIKER JOHN S.
REILLY THOMAS M.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65G69/28; E04F11/00; (IPC1-7): E01D1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ADDIE, RAYMOND W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THOMPSON HINE L.L.P. (DAYTON, OH, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. An adjustable access ramp assembly for providing ramped access between two elevations, the assembly comprising: a frame including a raised switchback platform; a first ramp unit having a first end positioned adjacent the switchback platform and a second end positioned away from the switchback platform, the first end of the first ramp unit mounted for pivotal movement to permit its second end to move between a plurality of heights relative to the switchback platform; and a second ramp unit, alongside the first ramp unit, and having a first end positioned adjacent the switchback platform and a second end positioned away from the switchback platform, the first end of the second ramp unit mounted for pivotal movement to permit its second end to move between a plurality of heights relative to the switchback platform.

2. The access ramp assembly of claim 2, further comprising: a rail system including at least a first rail unit mountable on the switchback platform in either of first and second locations and a second rail unit mountable on the switchback platform in either of the first and second locations.

3. The access ramp assembly of claim 2 wherein: the first rail unit and second rail unit are of different configurations; the first amp unit pivots to position its second end in at least both a lowered position relative to the switchback platform and a raised position relative to the switchback platform; the second ramp unit pivots to position its second end in at least both a lowered position relative to the switchback platform and a raised position relative to the switchback platform; when the access ramp assembly is installed with the first ramp unit second end in its raised position and the second ramp unit second end in its lowered position, the first rail unit is positioned at the first location adjacent the first ramp unit first end and the second rail unit is positioned at the second location adjacent the second ramp unit first end; and when the access ramp assembly is installed with the first ramp unit second end in its lowered position and the second ramp unit second end in its raised position, the second rail unit is positioned at the first location adjacent the first ramp unit first end and the first rail unit is positioned at the second location adjacent the second ramp unit first end.

4. The access ramp assembly of claim 1, further comprising: a first integrated jack for raising and lowering the first ramp unit second end; and a second integrated jack for raising and lowering the second ramp unit second end.

5. The access ramp assembly of claim 4 wherein: the first integrated jack includes a fixed part connected to the frame and a movable part connected to the first ramp unit; the second integrated jack includes a fixed part connected to the frame and a movable part connected to the second ramp unit.

6. The access ramp assembly of claim 5 wherein: the movable part of the first integrated jack includes a first rod pivotally connected to a first lift frame, the first lift frame pivotally connected to the first ramp unit; the movable part of the second integrated jack includes a second rod pivotally connected to a second lift frame, the second lift frame pivotally connected to the second ramp unit.

7. The access ramp assembly of claim 4 wherein: the first integrated jack comprises a hydraulic unit; and the second integrated jack comprises a hydraulic unit.

8. The access ramp assembly of claim 1 wherein: the first ramp unit includes spaced apart side rails with a rampway therebetween; and the second ramp unit includes spaced apart rails with a rampway therebetween.

9. The access ramp assembly of claim 8 wherein the first end of the first ramp unit rampway maintains a substantially even height with the switchback platform regardless of position of the first ramp unit second end and the first end of the second ramp unit rampway maintains a substantially even height with the switchback platform regardless of position of the second ramp unit second end.

10. The access ramp assembly of claim 1, wherein: the first ramp unit pivots to position its second end in at least both a lowered position relative to the switchback platform and a raised position relative to the switchback platform; and the second ramp unit pivots to position its second end in at least both a lowered position relative to the switchback platform and a raised position relative to the switchback platform.

11. The access ramp assembly of claim 1 wherein: the frame includes a plurality of height adjustment mechanisms for leveling the switchback platform on uneven ground.

12. The access ramp assembly of claim 10 wherein: a multiplicity of the height adjustment mechanisms comprise support feet threaded onto the frame to permit adjustment via rotation.

13. The access ramp assembly of claim 1, further comprising: at least one means for supporting the first ramp unit in a plurality of orientations relative to the platform; at least one means for supporting the second ramp unit in a plurality of orientations relative to the platform.

14. An adjustable access ramp assembly for providing ramped access between two elevations, the assembly comprising: a frame including a raised platform; a first ramp unit including a rampway having a first end positioned adjacent the platform and a second end positioned away from the platform, the first ramp unit movably mounted to the frame to enable its second end to move between a plurality of heights relative to the platform while the first end of the rampway remains at a height substantially the same as a height of the platform; a second ramp unit including a rampway having a first end positioned adjacent the platform and a second end positioned away from the platform, the second ramp unit movably mounted to the frame to enable its second end to move between a plurality of heights relative to the platform while the first end of the rampway of the second ramp unit remains at a height substantially the same as the height of the platform.

15. The access ramp assembly of claim 14, further comprising: at least one jack connected for moving the first and second ramp units.

16. The access ramp assembly of claim 15 wherein the jack comprises an integrated hydraulic unit.

17. The access ramp assembly of claim 15 wherein: the at least one jack comprises a first integrated jack for moving the first ramp unit and a second integrated jack for moving the second ramp unit.

18. The access ramp assembly of claim 15 wherein: the frame includes a plurality of height adjustment mechanisms for leveling the platform of uneven ground.

19. The access ramp assembly of claim 14, further comprising: a platform rail system including at least a first rail unit mountable on the platform in either of first and second locations and a second rail unit mountable on the platform in either of the first and second locations, the first rail unit and second rail unit are of different configurations.

20. The access ramp assembly of claim 14 wherein the first ramp unit is positioned alongside the second ramp unit and the platform comprises a switchback platform.

21. An adjustable access ramp assembly for providing ramped access between two elevations, the assembly comprising: a frame including a platform; a first ramp unit having a first end adjacent the platform, the first ramp unit movably mounted to the frame to permit a second end of the first ramp unit to be positioned either (i) above the platform such that the first ramp unit leads down to the platform or (ii) below the platform such that that first ramp unit leads up to the platform; and a second ramp unit having a first end adjacent the platform, the second ramp unit movably mounted to the frame to permit a second end of the second ramp unit to be positioned either (i) above the platform such that the second ramp unit leads down to the platform or (ii) below the platform such that that second ramp unit leads up to the platform.

22. The access ramp assembly of claim 21 wherein: a plurality of height adjustment mechanisms are associated with the frame for leveling the platform on uneven ground.

23. The access ramp assembly of claim 21, further comprising: a first integrated jack for raising and lowering the first ramp unit second end; and a second integrated jack for raising and lowering the second ramp unit second end.

24. The access ramp assembly of claim 21, further comprising: at least one means for supporting the first ramp unit in a plurality of orientations relative to the platform; at least one means for supporting the second ramp unit in a plurality of orientations relative to the platform.

25. The access ramp assembly of claim 21, further comprising: at least one means for connecting the ramp assembly to a wheeled trailer unit.

26. The access ramp assembly of claim 21, further comprising: at least one means stowed on the ramp assembly for connecting the ramp assembly to a trailer hitch.

27. An adjustable access ramp assembly for providing ramped access between two elevations, the assembly comprising: a platform; a ramp unit including a rampway surface having a first end positioned adjacent the platform and a second end positioned away from the platform, the ramp unit pivotally mounted adjacent to the platform

28. The adjustable access ramp assembly of claim 27, further comprising: an integrated jack for moving one of the ramp unit and the platform to adjust an incline of the rampway surface relative to the platform.

29. The access ramp assembly of claim 28, wherein the platform comprises a raised part of a frame and the integrated jack is positioned between the frame and the ramp unit to pivot the ramp unit to adjust a height of the second end of the rampway surface relative to the platform.

30. The access ramp assembly of claim 28 wherein the first end of the rampway surface remains at a height substantially the same as a height of the platform during pivot of the ramp unit.

31. The access ramp assembly of claim 28 wherein: the integrated jack includes a rod pivotally connected to a lift frame, the lift frame pivotally connected to the ramp unit.

32. The access ramp assembly of claim 27 wherein the ramp unit comprises a first ramp unit and the access ramp assembly further includes: a second ramp unit including a rampway surface having a first end positioned adjacent the platform and a second end positioned away from the platform, the second ramp unit pivotally mounted adjacent to the platform.

33. The access ramp assembly of claim 27 wherein: a plurality of height adjustment mechanisms are associated with the platform for leveling the platform on uneven ground.

34. The access ramp assembly of claim 27, further comprising: at least one means stowed on the ramp assembly for connecting the ramp assembly to a trailer hitch.

35. The access ramp assembly of claim 27, further comprising: at least one means for connecting the ramp assembly to a wheeled trailer unit.

36. The access ramp assembly of claim 27, further comprising: a rail system including at least two removable rail units connectable at sides of the platform.

37. A method of providing ramped access between first and second different elevations, the method comprising the steps of: providing an adjustable access ramp assembly including a frame having a raised platform, a first ramp having first and second ends, the first ramp movably mounted to the frame with its first end adjacent the platform, and a second ramp having first and second ends, the second ramp movably mounted to the frame with its first end adjacent the ramp platform; positioning the adjustable access ramp assembly at a site of the first and second different elevations; adjusting the frame such that the raised platform is substantially level; positioning the first ramp such that its second end is positioned lower than the platform, at the first elevation, and the first ramp leads up to the platform; and positioning the second ramp such that its second end is positioned higher than the platform, at the second elevation, and the second ramp leads down to the platform.

38. The method of claim 37, comprising the further steps of: the access ramp assembly positioning step involves: connecting the adjustable access ramp assembly to a wheeled trailer; hauling the adjustable access ramp assembly to the site using the wheeled trailer; disconnecting the adjustable access ramp assembly from the wheeled trailer at the site.

39. The method of claim 38 wherein the connecting step involves the use of stowed stabilizer bars within the frame, the stabilizer bars movable to a position extending from the frame.

40. The method of claim 38 wherein the connecting and disconnecting steps involve the use of a chain unit on the wheeled trailer.

41. The method of claim 38 wherein during the hauling step the second end of the first ramp is positioned higher than the platform and the second end of the second ramp is positioned higher than the platform.

42. The method of claim 37 wherein the step of positioning the first ramp involves utilization of a first integrated jack provided on the adjustable access ramp assembly and the step of positioning the second ramp involves utilization of a second integrated jack provided on the adjustable access ramp assembly.

43. A method of providing ramped access between first and second different elevations, the method comprising the steps of: providing an adjustable access ramp assembly including a frame having a raised platform, and a ramp having first and second ends, the ramp movably mounted to the frame with its first end adjacent the platform; connecting the adjustable access ramp assembly to a wheeled trailer; hauling the adjustable access ramp assembly to the site using the wheeled trailer; disconnecting the adjustable access ramp assembly from the wheeled trailer at a site of the first and second different elevations; adjusting the frame such that the raised platform is substantially level.

44. The method of claim 43 wherein the connecting step involves the use of stowed stabilizer bars within the frame, the stabilizer bars movable to a position extending from the frame.

45. The method of claim 43 wherein the connecting step involves aligning at least one frame support member with a correspondingly shaped receiving structure on the wheeled trailer and engaging the frame support member with the receiving structure.

46. The method of claim 43 wherein the connecting step involves connecting a chain on the wheeled trailer to a portion of the adjustable access ramp assembly and operating a chain crank to move the chain and pull the wheeled trailer underneath the adjustable access ramp assembly.

47. The method of claim 43 wherein the adjusting step involves the use of a plurality of height adjustment mechanisms incorporated on the frame.

48. A trailer unit adapted for hauling an access ramp assembly, the trailer unit comprising: a frame including central part including a slot for receiving a lower part of an access ramp assembly I-beam; a chain system with associated hand crank for use in engaging the pulling the trailer unit and an access ramp assembly together; spaced apart wheels connected with the frame for allowing the trailer unit to roll.

49. The trailer unit of claim 48 including spaced apart rollers on the frame for engaging respective access ramp assembly bottom surfaces.

50. The trailer unit of claim 48 wherein the slot is formed between rollers and wear strips.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present application relates generally to access ramps used for providing ramped access between two different elevations and, more particularly, to an adjustable access ramp that facilitates use in numerous settings to provided ramped access between a variety of different elevations.

BACKGROUND

[0002] It is common in many areas of the country to utilize modular buildings such as trailer home style units at facilities needing extra space in order to avoid the expense associated with constructing new space at the facilities. In many situations the modular buildings must be ADA accessible, meaning that code compliant, ramped access must be provided. In the past it has been common to “stick build” ramps at the site where the modular building is placed, meaning that the necessary ramp is built out of wood, which typically requires the effort and time of two men for 2 days or more. Another option that has been used in the past is a modular style ramp where pre-built ramp sections are connected together at the site in order produce the necessary ramp. However, such modular ramp systems are limited in their use at locations where the ground is uneven, and such modular ramp systems still require a significant amount of labor to install.

[0003] Accordingly, it would be advantageous to provide an access ramp assembly that can be easily installed at different sites having different contours, and that can be adjusted to provide suitable ramped access at the different sites.

SUMMARY

[0004] In one aspect, an adjustable access ramp assembly for providing ramped access between two elevations includes a frame and first and second amp units. The frame has a platform. The first ramp unit has a first end adjacent to the platform and is movably mounted to the frame to permit a second end of the first ramp unit to be positioned either (i) above the platform such that the first ramp unit leads down to the platform or (ii) below the platform such that that first ramp unit leads up to the platform. The second ramp unit has a first end adjacent to the platform and is movably mounted to the frame to permit a second end of the second ramp unit to be positioned either (i) above the platform such that the second ramp unit leads down to the platform or (ii) below the platform such that that second ramp unit leads up to the platform.

[0005] In another aspect, an adjustable access ramp assembly for providing ramped access between two elevations includes a frame and first and second ramp units. The frame includes a raised platform. The first ramp unit includes a rampway having a first end positioned adjacent to the platform and a second end positioned away from the platform, the first ramp unit movably mounted to the frame to enable its second end to move between a plurality of heights relative to the platform while the first end of the rampway remains at a height substantially the same as a height of the platform. The second ramp unit includes a rampway having a first end positioned adjacent to the platform and a second end positioned away from the platform, the second ramp unit movably mounted to the frame to enable its second end to move between a plurality of heights relative to the platform while the first end of the rampway of the second ramp unit remains at a height substantially the same as the height of the platform

[0006] In a further aspect, an adjustable access ramp assembly for providing ramped access between two elevations includes a platform and a ramp unit including a rampway surface having a first end positioned adjacent to the platform and a second end positioned away from the platform, the ramp unit pivotally mounted to the platform. An integrated jack may also provided for moving one of the ramp unit and the platform to adjust an incline of the rampway surface relative to the platform.

[0007] In yet another aspect, a method of providing ramped access between first and second different elevations involves the steps of: providing an adjustable access ramp assembly including a frame having a raised platform, a first ramp having first and second ends, the first ramp movably mounted to the frame with its first end adjacent the platform, and a second ramp having first and second ends, the second ramp movably mounted to the frame with its first end adjacent the ramp platform; positioning the adjustable access ramp assembly at a site of the first and second different elevations; adjusting the frame such that the raised platform is substantially level; moving the first ramp such that its second end is positioned lower than the platform and the first ramp leads up to the platform; and moving the second ramp such that its second end is positioned higher than the platform and the second ramp leads down to the platform.

[0008] In still a further aspect, a method of providing ramped access between first and second different elevations involves the steps of: providing an adjustable access ramp assembly including a frame having a raised platform, and a ramp having first and second ends, the ramp movably mounted to the frame with its first end adjacent the platform; connecting the adjustable access ramp assembly to a wheeled trailer; hauling the adjustable access ramp assembly to the site using the wheeled trailer; disconnecting the adjustable access ramp assembly from the wheeled trailer at a site of the first and second different elevations; adjusting the frame such that the raised platform is substantially level. The ramp can then be adjusted as desired.

[0009] In another aspect, a trailer unit adapted for hauling an access ramp assembly and includes a frame including central part including a slot for receiving a lower part of an access ramp assembly I-beam. A chain system with associated hand crank is provided for use in engaging the pulling the trailer unit and an access ramp assembly together. Spaced apart wheels are connected with the frame for allowing the trailer unit to roll.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] FIG. 1 is a partial, exploded perspective view of one embodiment of an adjustable ramp assembly;

[0011] FIGS. 2A and 2B depict one installation configuration of the ramp assembly of FIG. 1;

[0012] FIGS. 2C and 2D illustrate another installation configuration of the ramp assembly of FIG. 1;

[0013] FIG. 3 shows another embodiment of the a ramp assembly frame;

[0014] FIG. 4 shows a partial perspective of a corner section of a ramp unit of the ramp assembly;

[0015] FIG. 5 shows a partial end elevation of the corner of the ramp unit of FIG. 4;

[0016] FIG. 6 shows a partial perspective of a corner section of the platform part of the ramp assembly of FIG. 1;

[0017] FIG. 7 shows a partial end elevation of a ramp unit engaging structure on the platform to form a hinge;

[0018] FIG. 8 shows a hinge pin for a ramp unit;

[0019] FIG. 9 shows a partial cross-section of a ramp unit positioned adjacent to the platform;

[0020] FIG. 10 shows a partial perspective view of one embodiment of a wheeled trailer unit for hauling a ramp assembly;

[0021] FIG. 11 shows a partial end elevation of a connecting part of the wheeled trailer unit;

[0022] FIGS. 12-15 show a ramp assembly load sequence;

[0023] FIG. 16 shows a partial perspective view of a roller chain of a trailer unit used to engage a corresponding part on a ramp assembly,

[0024] FIG. 17 shows a partial perspective view of a bracket arrangement on a trailer unit used to engage a corresponding bracket on a ramp assembly when the ramp assembly is loaded on the trailer unit; and

[0025] FIG. 18 shows a top plan view of a front part of the ramp assembly connected to a tongue member to facilitate connection to a trailer hitch

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0026] Referring to FIG. 1, an exploded, partial perspective view of one embodiment of an adjustable access ramp assembly 10 is shown and includes a frame 12 formed by a ground part 14 and a raised part 16 having a landing/switchback platform 18 thereon. Applicable codes may require such a level rest area 18 after a certain ramp distance. It is contemplated that the frame 12 will be formed of suitable materials to provide required stability and load bearing capabilities. In one embodiment steel rods, beams and tubes are used, but it is recognized other materials could also be used. In final construction, the raised part 16 is rigidly connected with the ground part 14 by welding or any other suitable fastening technique. A ramp unit 20 has an end 22 adjacent the platform 18. The ramp unit 20 is movably mounted to the frame 12 to permit end 24 of the ramp unit to be positioned either (i) above the landing/platform 18 such that the ramp unit 20 leads down to the landing/platform or (ii) below the landing/platform 18 such that that ramp unit 20 leads up to the landing/platform 18. A second, similar ramp unit 26 is positioned alongside ramp unit 20 and has its end 28 adjacent the landing/platform 18 and is likewise movably mounted to the frame 12 to permit end 30 of the ramp unit 26 to be positioned either (i) above the landing/platform 18 such that the ramp unit 26 leads down to the landing/platform or (ii) below the platform 18 such that that ramp unit 26 leads up to the landing/platform 18. In an alternative embodiment the ramp units 20 and 26 may connect to opposite sides of the platform 18.

[0027] In one embodiment, each ramp unit may have a length of between 15 and 20 feet and a width of between 3 and 5 feet, the platform may have a depth (e.g., from the side adjacent to the ramp units to the opposite side) of between 3 and 6 feet and a width of between 6 and 10 feet, the platform 18 may be at a height of between 12 and 24 inches above the bottom of the frame 12, and the ground part 14 of the frame, inclusive of platform depth, may have a length of between 15 and 20 feet. However, it is recognized that many different sizes of the ramp assembly are possible and useful, the above dimensions being exemplary only.

[0028] Each ramp unit 20 and 26 includes respective spaced apart railings 32 and 34 and a respective rampway or ramp surface 36 and 38 positioned therebetween. The ramp units 20 and 26 may include respective steel frames to which the railings and the ramp surface are attached. In one embodiment, the railings 32 and 34 may be formed of steel and the rampways 36 and 38 may be formed of aluminum plate-type material with the surfaces thereof worked to provide suitable traction. The railings 32 and 34 may include hand rails 40 and 42 at intermediate heights to facilitate grasping by children or persons in wheelchairs, the rails 40 and 42 including respective u-shaped end sections 44 and 46. Notably, each rampway 36 and 38 can include a respective exit/entry segment 48 and 50 that is pivotally connected to the rest of the rampway to aid in achieving a flush transition to ground level or to platform level.

[0029] Referring now to FIGS. 2A-2D, schematic illustrations of alternative installation configurations for the ramp assembly 10 are shown. In the installation configuration of FIGS. 2A (top plan view) and 2B (perspective view), the ramp unit 20 is positioned with end 24 above the platform 18 and adjacent a platform 300 and associated steps 302 that service a door 304 located toward a right side of a modular housing unit 306. Ramp unit 26 is positioned with end 30 below the platform 18 on the ground. In the installation configuration of FIGS. 2C (top plan view) and 2D (perspective view), the ramp unit 20 is positioned with end 24 below the platform 18 and on the ground, and ramp unit 26 is positioned with end 30 above the platform 18 and adjacent a platform 310 and associated steps 312 that service a door 314 located toward a left side of a modular housing unit 316. Thus, the illustrated ramp assembly 10 can be installed in alternative configurations as may be needed at different installation sites, or to facilitate access to different entry doors of a modular housing unit, increasing the versatility of the ramp assembly 10.

[0030] Referring again to FIG. 1, the switchback platform 18 includes a rail system 51 as needed for safety. The illustrated rail system 51 includes end rail unit 52 and lateral rail units 54 and 56. End rail unit 52 may be removably or permanently connected to the edge of the platform 18. Notably, lateral rail units 54 and 56 are of slightly different configurations. Both rail units 54 and 56 include spaced apart mount projections 58 and 60 at the bottom thereof for insertion into correspondingly spaced apart mount openings (not shown) formed at the lateral edges of the platform 18. Rail unit 54 includes one end that is defined by a substantially vertical rail rod/tube 62 and an opposite end that is defined by a rail rod/tube 64 that inclines inwardly from top to bottom. Rail unit 56 includes one end that is defined by a substantially vertical rail rod/tube 66 and an opposite end that is defined by a rail rod/tube 68 that inclines outwardly from top to bottom. Each rail unit can be positioned at either of the lateral side locations of the platform 18 as needed. In particular, when the access ramp assembly is installed with the end 30 of ramp unit 26 in the raised position and the end 24 of ramp unit 20 in its lowered position (as shown in FIGS. 2C and 2D), the rail unit 56 is positioned at the location adjacent the end 28 of ramp unit 26 and the rail unit 54 is positioned at the location adjacent the end 22 of ramp unit 20. Alternatively, when the access ramp assembly is installed with the end 30 of ramp unit 26 in the lowered position and the end 24 of ramp unit 20 in its raised position (as shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B), the rail unit 56 is positioned at the location adjacent the end 22 of ramp unit 20 and the rail unit 54 is positioned at the location adjacent the end 28 of ramp unit 26. The angled nature of rail rod/tube 64 helps avoid excessive gaps when positioned adjacent the outwardly inclined (from bottom to top and relative to the platform) end rail/tube of whichever ramp unit leads upward to the platform 18 and the angled nature of rail rod/tube 68 helps avoid excessive gaps when positioned adjacent the inwardly inclined (from bottom to top and relative to the platform) end rail/tube of whichever ramp unit leads downward to the platform 18.

[0031] Also of note in FIG. 1 is that the ground part 14 of frame 12 may include a plurality of height adjustment mechanisms 70. In the illustrated embodiment four are provided, one at each corner of the frame. While any type of height adjustment mechanism might be used, in one embodiment it is contemplated that the height adjustment mechanisms are formed by support feet 72 threadedly connected to the flame via screws 74 so that the support feet are simply rotated to produce leveling of the platform 18. One or more level indicators could also be integrated onto the frame 12 in order to facilitate such leveling.

[0032] In order to facilitate adjustment of the ramp assembly, the illustrated embodiment includes integrated jack mechanisms 80 and 82 for moving the ramp units 20 and 26 respectively. The term “integrated jack” is intended to refer to a jack that is connected to the ramp assembly and that remains connected with the ramp assembly during normal use of the ramp assembly. In particular, and referring to both jack mechanisms 80 and 82 using similar component numbering, the hydraulic jack units include a stationary cylinder portion 84 and a moving rod portion 86, but it is recognized that other types of jack mechanisms could be used. The end of the moving rod portion 86 is pivotally connected to a lift frame 88 with a lower rod part 90, the sides of which ride in U-shaped tracks 92, and an upper part 94 that pivotally connects to the underside of the ramp unit. When the frame is level, the tracks 92 may angle slightly upwardly (moving from right to left in FIG. 1).

[0033] When an integrated jack is in a retracted position, as per jack mechanism 80, the lift frame 88 is positioned to place part 94 in a lowered condition to lower its ramp unit. When an integrated jack is in an extended position, as per jack mechanism 82, the lift frame 88 is positioned to place part 94 in the raised condition to raise its ramp unit. The cylinder portion 84 of each jack mechanism is provided with a manual hand crank 96 to control the jack, enabling each ramp unit 20 and 26 to be adjusted to a plurality of different positions as needed to facilitate use of the ramp assembly 10 at a variety of different installation locations having varying conditions. The integrated jack mechanisms 80 and 82 also aid in supporting the respective ramp units 20 and 26 in their final positions when installed, and therefore act as a means for supporting the ramp units in a plurality of orientations relative to the platform. A removable or pivotally connected stand unit 150 having adjustable height might additionally be provided, particularly for use in supporting the ramp unit that is placed in the upper position upon installation. In such cases, the stand unit 150 also acts as a means for supporting the ramp unit in a plurality of orientations relative to the platform.

[0034] While the use of jack mechanisms that are integrated with the assembly is illustrated and preferred, it is also recognized that the assembly could be adjusted using a portable jack mechanism. In such an embodiment, the frame 12 could be provided with suitable ramp unit supports to which the ramp units can be fixed, such as side located upright frame supports with a plurality of vertically spaced openings or slots through which a laterally extending rod or rods can be positioned to support the ramp unit when it reaches its install position. Fasteners (e.g., nut and bolt assemblies) could also be used in place of the laterally extending rod or rods. In such embodiments, such structure would act as one means for supporting the ramp units in a plurality of orientations relative to the platform. It is also recognized that in some embodiments both the integrated jack mechanisms and the aforementioned side located upright frame supports with a plurality of vertically spaced openings or slots could be used in combination.

[0035] Referring now to FIG. 3, a frame 12′ having a construction slightly different than that depicted in FIG. 1 is shown. The ground part 14′ of the frame 12′ is formed by rectangular steel side tubes 100 and 102 connected by a square steel lateral tube 104 at one end. The side tubes 100 and 102 are also connected by the platform supporting, laterally extending steel plates 106-116 that are welded thereto. A center steel I-beam 118 is also provided, with steel plates 106-116 also being welded thereto. A rectangular steel lateral tube 120 also extends between the side tubes 100 and 102. A center square steel tube 121 extends between lateral tube 120 and lateral tube 104.

[0036] As shown, the upper sides of steel plates 108-114 are formed with a plurality of notches 123 therein to receive a plurality of support ribs. An exemplary side support rib 122 is shown and includes top openings 124 that can be used to receive the projecting parts of one of the rail units 54, 56. An exemplary intermediate support rib 126 is also shown. The lower sides of the steel plates 106-116 are formed with lateral cutouts 128 that will permit wheels of a wheeled trailer unit to pass therethrough as will be described in greater detail below. As shown, slight cutouts are also provided in the bottom sides of plates 106-116 to facilitate the rods 86 of the jack mechanisms 80 and 82. The lateral tube 120 includes openings 130 to permit passage of the rods 86 therethrough.

[0037] The lift frames 88′ include side links 132 connected by laterally extending rods 134, 136 and 138. Rollers 140 are provided at the ends of rod 138 for riding in the side tracks 92. A central bracket 142 connects rods 134, 136 and 138 and the jack rod 86 is pivotally connected to the central bracket 142.

[0038] In some cases it may be helpful to use a counter-bias in connection with the integrated jack mechanisms. In one example, referring to jack mechanism 80 of FIG. 3, a plate 190 is fixed at an intermediate location along the rod 86 and a pair of gas springs 192 are positioned between the plate 190 and lateral tube 120. When the jack mechanism 80 is in its retracted position as shown, the lift frame 88′ and its associated ramp unit (not shown) is in its down position, and the gas springs 192 are in a noncompressed state. If the jack mechanism 80 is adjusted to its extended position (e.g., the position illustrated for jack mechanism 82) the gas springs 192 become compressed. Such compression of the gas springs 192 exerts a bias that tends to urge the jack mechanism 80 into its non-extended position so that when the hydraulic pressure in cylinder 84 is reduced, the gas springs 192 will aid in bringing the ramp unit down. The jack mechanism 82 may include a similar gas spring arrangement (not shown). It is also recognized that in some cases other types of biasing mechanisms may be used in place of the gas springs 192.

[0039] Each side tube 100 and 102 includes a respective, stowed stabilizer rod 144 that can be pulled outward for use in transport of the ramp assembly as will be described in greater detail below. The end of each stabilizer rod 144 includes a respective pin 146 or other projecting part that prevents the rod from being taken completely out of the tube and off of the frame 12. The stabilizer rods represent one means for connecting the ramp assembly to a trailer hitch. Brackets 152 and 154 are also provided to facilitate connection of an extension part 155 that is stowed in tube 121 for use in connecting to a vehicle for transport, again as will be described in greater detail below. As an alternative to the brackets 152 and 154, the tube 121 could include a plurality of openings that can be aligned with corresponding openings on the extension part 155 to permit fasteners to pass therethrough. The extension part 155 may also be formed as a steel tubular member. The extension part 155 represents another means for connecting the ramp assembly to a trailer hitch.

[0040] Referring now to FIGS. 4-8, a detailed description of one embodiment for providing pivotal attachment of the ramp units to the raised platform/landing. FIG. 4 shows a partially exploded view of one corner portion of ramp unit 26, including rampway 38. As shown, the end of the rampway panel is stitch welded at 160 to a lateral tube 162. This construction helps prevent warping or buckling of the end of the rampway 38. An end of the tube 162 is aligned with a tubular part 164 extending from a side support 166 of the ramp unit. Various railing pieces are also shown. As best seen in the partial end elevation of FIG. 5, the end of lateral tube 162 is spaced apart from the end of tubular part 164 forming a gap therebetween.

[0041] FIG. 6 shows one corner of the platform part 16 of the frame, including platform 18 positioned thereon. On a side of plate 106 a pair of brackets mount a tubular part 170 that is sized to fit into the gap between tube 162 and tubular part 164. When the ramp unit 26 is connected to the platform the tubular part 170 is placed between tube 162 and tubular part 164 (as shown in the end elevation of FIG. 7) and a rod 172 (FIG. 8) is passed therethrough to form a hinge. A similar arrangement 174 is provided on the other side of the ramp unit to complete the hinge, allowing the ramp unit to pivot relative to the raised platform. The primary support for the end of the ramp unit is provided between tubular parts 164, tubular parts 170 and rod/pin 172.

[0042] FIG. 9 illustrates a partial cross-section of the ramp unit when positioned adjacent the raised platform 18. As shown, an L-bracket 176 is fixed to the side of plate 106 and is positioned to extend to the tube 162 for alignment with the end of the rampway 38. A slight gap is provided between the end of rampway 38 and the end of the horizontal part of bracket 176, sufficient to facilitate movement of the rampway 38 as needed during pivot, but small enough to prevent any trip hazard. Thus, the horizontal part of bracket 176 essentially acts as part of the platform 18 and the end of the rampway 38 is considered to be positioned adjacent the edge of the platform. The bracket 176 might be welded to plate 106, or could be mounted thereto using nut and bolt arrangements to provide for some adjustability. During pivot the height of the end of the rampway 38 preferably remains at a height substantially the same as the height of the platform 18 (i.e., a difference in elevation between the two does not exceed ½″). Where the variation in height exceeds a desired limit, a moving transition plate or cover may be placed between the edge of the platform and the edge of the rampway, and may partially cover both, in order to accommodate such changes.

[0043] Referring now to FIG. 10, an exemplary wheeled trailer unit 200 for use in hauling the adjustable ramp assembly 10 is shown. The unit 200 includes a central part 202 and a lateral part 204. Each end of the lateral part 204 is provided with a wheel assembly, including both an inner and outer wheel (not shown), for permitting the unit to roll. The central part 202 includes guide angles 206 that are fixed in spaced apart relation to form a gap 208 therebetween. Front guide angles 206 and rear guide angles 210 are shown, both fixed to lateral frame parts 212, but it is recognized that a single, longer guide angle could be substituted for each guide angle pair 206, 210. At the side of one lateral frame part 212, a roller chain 214 extends between sprockets 216 and 218, both shown separated from respective shafts 220 and 222. Shaft 222 represents the chain drive shaft that extends from a gearbox 224 which is driven by a rotatable hand crank 226, allowing the roller chain 214 to be moved in either direction. Notably, extending between the guide angles 206 and 210 are a plurality of rollers 228 mounted on respective roller pins 230. Wear strips 232, which may be formed of high density polymer, are provided on the underside of the lateral part of each guide angle 206 and 210. As best seen in the partial end elevation of FIG. 11, the result provides a laterally extending slot 234 between the rollers 228 and wear strips 232, the use of which will become apparent below.

[0044] The lateral part 204 of the trailer unit may be formed in part by front 240 and rear 242 steel tubes. Ramped supports 244 are connected to angles 246 located toward the ends of the lateral part 204, with the spacing between supports 244 being matched to a spacing between corresponding support flats provided on the underside of the ground part 14 of the ramp assembly frame 12. The ramped supports 244 include rollers 248 at the high sides thereof. Angles 250 and 252 are used as inner axle mounts for the wheel assemblies. A bracket arrangement 254 is provided for locking the trailer unit 200 to the ramp assembly 10 during transport. The ramp assembly is loaded onto the trailer unit 200 for transport as will now be described with reference to FIGS. 12-17.

[0045] The wheeled trailer unit 200 is positioned with its open, unobstructed end near the edge of the end of the platform 18 as shown in FIG. 12. A pair of jacks 260 are then positioned at the sides of the ramp assembly 10 and are used to raise the ramp assembly into the inclined position shown in FIG. 13. The side portions of the ramp assembly may include respective, integrated trailer jack mounts (e.g., typically laterally extending tubular extensions for engaging corresponding later tubular parts on the jack) to facilitate this step. Another jack 262, which is wheeled at the bottom thereof is positioned toward the end of the trailer unit 200, which may also have an integrated trailer jack mount and the jack 262 is used to lift the trailer unit so that its angle substantially matches that of the ramp assembly 10. The trailer unit 200 is then moved toward the ramp assembly 10 such that the lower part of the ramp assembly I-beam 118 moves into the slot 234 (FIG. 10) formed at the end of the trailer unit 200, with the central part of the I-beam sticking up between the gap 208. Thus, the lower part of the I-beam 118 acts as one means for connecting the ramp assembly 10 to the trailer unit 200. After the I-beam is partially engaged in the slot 234, the roller chain 214 of the trailer unit is connected to the ramp assembly 10. In this regard, reference is made to FIG. 16 which shows how such an attachment can be made. In this illustrated embodiment, the roller chain 214 is modified to include a pair of links 264 extending therefrom and the underside of the platform includes connecting blocks 266 extending therefrom. The openings in the freed ends of the links 264 are aligned with the openings in the connecting blocks 266 and a pin (not shown) is passed therethrough. Thus, the connecting blocks 266 act as another means for connecting the ramp assembly 10 to the trailer unit.

[0046] After the chain 214 is connected to the ramp assembly 10, the crank 226 is rotated to move the chain in a direction to pull the trailer unit 200 and ramp assembly 10 together. As shown in FIG. 14, due to the weight of the larger ramp assembly 10 and the wheeled nature of the trailer unit 200, the trailer unit 200 is actually pulled beneath the ramp assembly 10 as the crank is rotated, rolling on wheels 275 as it does so. During movement of the trailer unit 200 the ramp assembly rides up the supports 244 (FIG. 10) and then along the rollers 248. As the trailer unit 200 is pulled under the ramp assembly 10, the bracket arrangement 254 aligns with a corresponding bracket 270 on the ramp assembly (see partial view of FIG. 17) and a pin (not shown) is passed through the aligned openings to lock the ramp assembly 10 in place on the trailer unit 200. The jack 262 can then be removed. Thus, the bracket 270 acts as another means for connecting the ramp assembly 10 to the trailer unit 200.

[0047] Once the ramp assembly 10 is loaded onto the trailer unit 200, extension part 155 is moved to its extended position and connected to brackets 154 (FIG. 3). A tongue member 272, configured at one end for connecting to a trailer hitch of a vehicle, is then connected to the extension part 155. The tongue member 272 may be the same tongue member use to transport the trailer unit 200 when there is no ramp assembly 10 connected to the trailer unit 200, the gearbox end of the trailer unit 200 including structure for securing the tongue member 272 thereto. Once the tongue member 272 is connected to the extension part 155 and then supported on a vehicle trailer hitch, jacks 260 can be removed. The stabilizer rods 144 are pulled from there stowed positions and then connected to the tongue member 272 as shown in FIG. 18, which is a top plan view of the front part of the loaded ramp assembly. The ramp assembly 10 can then be hauled to any desired location. In one embodiment, the ramp units are positioned with their free ends in their respective raised positions during hauling.

[0048] Unloading the ramp assembly 10 from the trailer unit 200 is essentially a reverse of the loading operation. Once unloaded, the height adjustment mechanisms 70 can be used to level the platform 18, and then the two ramp units can be moved (e.g., by using the integrated jacks 20 and 26) so that one ramp unit leads from a lower elevation up to the platform 18 and the other ramp unit leads from an upper elevation down to the platform 18. The rail units 54 and 56 are then positioned in the appropriate locations on the sides of the platform 18. It is also recognized that in certain installations the free end of both ramp units might be positioned at elevations that are both lower than the platform 18.

[0049] To provide an alternative transport technique, the platform end of the ramp assembly may be provided with rollers at the bottom sides thereof to facilitate loading and unloading of the ramp assembly on a tilt-bed type truck, trailer or other equivalent.

[0050] It is to be clearly understood that the above description is intended by way of illustration and example only and is not intended to be taken by way of limitation. Various changes and modifications could be made. For example, in certain applications a ramp assembly having a single, movable ramp unit might be provided. Other changes and modifications could be made, including both narrowing and broadening variations and modifications of the appended claims.