Title:
ATV storage/shipping container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A vehicle storage container includes a top, a bottom, and surrounding sidewalls configured as a shipping container. At least one of the sidewalls is hingedly connected to the bottom or to an adjacent sidewall, and the top is hingedly connected to another one of the sidewalls, so that the top can be extended up and the at least one sidewall can be opened to allow a vehicle to be moved into or out of the container.



Inventors:
Linton, Loral G. (Kanab, UT, US)
Application Number:
10/850788
Publication Date:
11/25/2004
Filing Date:
05/21/2004
Assignee:
LINTON LORAL G.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/68; E04H6/00; (IPC1-7): B65D85/68
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LALLI, MELISSA LYNN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THORPE NORTH & WESTERN, LLP. (SANDY, UT, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A vehicle storage container, comprising: a top, a bottom, and surrounding sidewalls, the container being configured as a shipping container; at least one of the sidewalls being hingedly openable; the top being hingedly connected to one of the sidewalls, so that the top can be extended up and the openable sidewall can be opened to allow a vehicle to be moved into or out of the container.

2. A container in accordance with claim 1, wherein the openable sidewall is hingedly connected to the bottom of the container, so as to be downwardly openable to expose an inside surface for use as a ramp, to allow the vehicle to ride up into the container.

3. A container in accordance with claim 2, wherein the top is hingedly connected to a sidewall that is opposite the openable sidewall.

4. A container in accordance with claim 3, wherein the container is configured to allow a user to lift and open the top of the container while riding the vehicle into the container.

5. A container in accordance with claim 1, wherein the openable sidewall is hingedly connected to an adjacent sidewall, so as to be laterally openable.

6. A container in accordance with claim 1, wherein the openable sidewall is selectively hingedly connectable to the bottom and an adjacent sidewall.

7. A container in accordance with claim 1, wherein the surrounding sidewalls include a front wall, a back wall, and two sidewalls, the front wall being the openable wall, and the back wall and two side walls being integrally formed with the bottom as a single unit.

8. A container in accordance with claim 1, wherein the container includes lift points, configured to allow the container to be lifted with the vehicle inside, to facilitate transport.

9. A container in accordance with claim 1, wherein the bottom of the container includes slots, configured to receive the forks of a forklift, to allow the container to be lifted by a forklift with the vehicle inside, to facilitate transport.

10. A container in accordance with claim 1, further comprising tie-down points on an exterior of the container, to allow the container to be secured to a support structure.

11. A container in accordance with claim 1, further comprising tie-down points in an interior of the container, configured to allow the vehicle to be secured inside the container.

12. A container in accordance with claim 1, further comprising indexing structure, associated with the top of the container, configured to allow multiple containers to be stacked substantially vertically atop each other.

13. A container in accordance with claim 12, wherein the indexing structure comprises an indexing groove, disposed around a perimeter of the top of the container, configured to align the bottom of a container above so that sidewalls of stacked containers bear substantially upon each other.

14. A container in accordance with claim 12, further comprising reinforcing members, associated with the sidewalls of the container, configured to support the weight of a container above when stacked.

15. A container in accordance with claim 1, wherein the vehicle is selected from the group consisting of a four wheel ATV, three wheel ATV, a snowmobile, a motorcycle, and a go-cart.

16. A container in accordance with claim 1, wherein the top comprises a shape that is sloped to promote drainage of water therefrom.

17. A container in accordance with claim 1, further comprising a latch, associated with the top and an adjacent sidewall, configured to releasably latch the top to the sidewall to close the container.

18. A container in accordance with claim 17, further comprising a release, attached to the latch within the container, configured to allow release of the latch from within the container.

19. A container in accordance with claim 1, further comprising a seal strip, disposed between the top and the sidewalls adjacent thereto, configured to provide a weathertight seal therebetween.

20. A container in accordance with claim 1, further comprising an anchor, configured to anchor the bottom of the container to a support surface.

21. A container in accordance with claim 1, further comprising a wheel stop, disposed inside the container on the bottom thereof, configured to limit advancing of the vehicle into the container.

22. A vehicle storage container, comprising: a top, a bottom, and surrounding sidewalls, the container being configured as a shipping container; at least one of the sidewalls being hingedly connected to the bottom; the top being hingedly connected to another one of the sidewalls, so that the top can be extended up and the at least one sidewall can be lowered to allow a vehicle to be moved into or out of the container.

23. A container in accordance with claim 22, further comprising indexing structure, associated with the top of the container, configured to allow multiple containers to be stacked substantially vertically atop each other.

Description:

PRIORITY CLAIM

[0001] This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/472,998, filed May 23, 2003.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] The present invention relates generally to storage containers. More particularly, the present invention relates to a storage container for an ATV or other small vehicle, which can also be used as a shipping container.

[0004] 2. Related Art

[0005] While there have been many types for many years, small, personal recreational vehicles, such as motorcycles, snowmobiles, and the like, have become more popular over the last few decades. Moreover, additional types of these vehicles, such as four wheel ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), have been introduced and become very popular in recent years. These vehicles are very useful and popular for camping, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreational uses. Additionally, they are increasingly used as snowplows, garden tractors, and in many other purely utilitarian situations where a full size automobile is not practical or useful, and where a specialized machine such as a tractor would otherwise be needed. With the availability of various attachments and the addition of other utilitarian design features, four wheel ATVs can drag logs, haul cargo, and perform many other tasks in locations where a truck or automobile cannot go, and also still be useful as a recreational vehicle.

[0006] One consideration that owners of small personal vehicles have to deal with is the need to store the vehicle. Because these vehicles have limited use, they are often stored for relatively long periods of time between uses. However, unlike automobiles, they typically include exposed upholstery, gauges, and other parts that are particularly susceptible to damage and degradation if left exposed to rain, snow, dust, sunlight, etc. for long periods of time. Additionally, storage of these vehicles out in the open is unsightly and can make them more susceptible to vandalism or theft. In fact, storing them in the open may be prohibited in some neighborhoods.

[0007] Unfortunately, these relatively small vehicles take up a lot of space in a typical garage. Indeed, many owners have to choose to either leave their car outside, or leave their ATV outside, unless they want to pay for expensive storage space, such as a second garage or shed, or space at a commercial storage facility.

[0008] Another consideration that ATV owners must grapple with is protecting the vehicles during transport. Personal recreational vehicles are frequently transported on highways using a truck, trailer, or other transport vehicle. For safe transport, the recreational vehicles must be securely tied to the transport vehicle. However, it is desirable to protect the vehicles from rain, mud, dust, rocks, and other road hazards that can damage them in-transit. Frequently, this is done by placing a tarp or other cover over the vehicle(s), and tying the cover in place. However, this requires significant work, additional equipment for tie down ropes, straps, etc., and may not be completely effective at protecting the vehicles. A driver may have to stop many times to reposition the cover and refasten the straps holding it down. Moreover, a tarp blowing in the wind can be a safety hazard for a moving vehicle.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] It has been recognized that it would be advantageous to develop a system for storing and/or transporting a small ATV or other recreational vehicle that protects the vehicle and is easily moveable.

[0010] The invention advantageously provides a vehicle storage container, having a top, a bottom, and surrounding sidewalls. The container is configured as a shipping container. At least one of the sidewalls is hingedly connected either to the bottom or to one of the other adjacent sidewalls, and the top is hingedly connected to another one of the sidewalls, so that the top can be extended up and the at least one sidewall can be opened to allow a vehicle to be moved into or out of the container.

[0011] Additional features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the detailed description which follows, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, which together illustrate, by way of example, features of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of an ATV storage/shipping container in accordance with the present invention, showing the container with the lid open and one sidewall lowered.

[0013] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of an ATV container according to the present invention, with the container closed.

[0014] FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of an end of the closed container of FIG. 2 with an ATV disposed thereinside.

[0015] FIG. 4 is a detail view showing the seal between a sidewall and the top of the container of FIG. 3.

[0016] FIG. 5 is a side view of a user opening the lid of one embodiment of the container while simultaneously riding an ATV into the container.

[0017] FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of two stacked ATV containers having an indexing shape and structural reinforcement to allow stacking of containers in accordance with one aspect of the present invention.

[0018] FIG. 7 is a detail view showing the indexing groove and lid seal between the stacked containers of FIG. 6.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0019] Reference will now be made to the exemplary embodiments illustrated in the drawings, and specific language will be used herein to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Alterations and further modifications of the inventive features illustrated herein, and additional applications of the principles of the inventions as illustrated herein, which would occur to one skilled in the relevant art and having possession of this disclosure, are to be considered within the scope of the invention.

[0020] The invention advantageously provides a convenient, lightweight storage container for an ATV, that stores and protects the vehicle from weather conditions, and also provides a convenient container for use in shipping or transporting the vehicle. While the container is shown in use with a four wheel ATV, this type of container can be made in a variety of sizes and shapes to accommodate many types of vehicles, such as snowmobiles, motorcycles, go-carts, three-wheelers, etc.

[0021] Viewing FIG. 1, the invention provides a vehicle storage container 10, having a top 12, a bottom 14, and surrounding sidewalls, including a front wall 16 a back wall 18, and two side walls 20. The top is hingedly connected to one of the sidewalls, so that it can be raised up, and at least one of the sidewalls is hingedly connected either to the bottom, or to another one of the sidewalls so that it can be opened to allow a vehicle to be moved into or out of the container. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the front wall is attached by hinges 22 to the adjacent edge of the bottom 14, and the top is connected by hinges 24 to the top edge of the back wall 18. When lowered, the inside surface 26 of the front wall provides a ramp upon which a vehicle can ride when being placed into the container.

[0022] In an alternative embodiment 10a, shown in FIG. 2, the front wall 16 can be connected to the bottom 14 via hinges 22, and also connected to the adjacent sidewalls 20 with sidewall hinges 23a and 23b. All of the hinges can be provided with removable hinge pins that slide or drop in, allowing the front wall to be opened in several different ways. For example, if the hinge pins for the lower hinges 22 and forward sidewall hinges 23a are removed, the front wall can be opened by swinging to the left, as shown by dashed lines 27. However, if the forward sidewall hinges are left attached and the hinge pins of the rearward sidewall hinges 23b are removed, the front wall will swing open to the right. As yet another alternative, the hinge pins for the sidewall hinges 23 can be removed entirely while the bottom hinges 22 are left intact, allowing the front wall to swing downwardly as a ramp, like that shown in FIG. 1, and indicated by dashed lines 29 in FIG. 2. This configuration allows a user great freedom of location for the container by allowing the user to determine which way they would like the door to swing.

[0023] In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the top 12 is hingedly connected to the back wall 18, so as to pivot opposite the openable front wall 16. This configuration provides maximum head clearance when moving a vehicle into or out of the container 10. This configuration also allows a user 28 to open the top of the container while riding a vehicle 30 into the container, as shown in FIG. 5. To perform this operation, the 28 lowers the front wall, then grips and pushes upward on the front edge 32 of the top, as indicated by arrow 34, while at the same time slowly moving the vehicle forward, as indicated by arrow 36. This allows the user to place the vehicle in the container safely and slowly, without having to dismount the vehicle.

[0024] The top 12 includes several advantageous features. As shown in FIG. 1, telescopic pressurized gas-assist lift cylinders 38 are connected between the side walls 20 and the top to assist the user in lifting the top, and to support the top in the open position. The outside surface 40 of the top 12 is also sloped for drainage, as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. The slope may be provided by an arched shape as shown, or the top may have a straight slope, like a peaked roof or shed roof. Other configurations are also possible to allow drainage. A latch 50 is also associated with the top and front wall 16, and is configured to connect the top to the front wall when the front wall is raised. This latch can be a simple mechanical latch, or can be a security lock, such as a key lock or combination lock. Advantageously, an interior emergency release 52 can also be provided to allow the latch 50 to be opened from inside, so as to prevent a person from being accidentally locked inside.

[0025] Another latch system is also provided for connecting the front wall 16 to the two other adjacent side walls 20 when the front wall is closed. The configuration of this latch system can be related to the configuration of the openable sidewall. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, the front wall latch system comprises a hasp 54 associated with the front wall and the adjacent sidewalls 20. The hasp is configured to connect the front wall to the sidewalls when the front wall is raised to the closed position, and may also be configured to receive a locking device, such as a padlock, to allow the container to be locked closed. Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 2, the multiple hinge arrangement also functions as a latch system. When the front wall is closed and the hinge pins are put in place, the sidewall hinges 23 and bottom hinges 22 operate as a latch system for connecting the front wall to the sidewalls. Other latch systems could also be used in this way, such as a cam locking device.

[0026] As shown in the detail view of FIG. 4, the top 12 also includes an edge groove 42 around its perimeter, with a resilient seal strip 44 disposed in the groove. The edge groove helps align the top with the adjacent sidewall 20, and the seal strip presses against the top of the sidewall to provide a weathertight seal around the perimeter of the container. Viewing FIG. 1, a similar seal 46 is disposed around the perimeter of the front wall 16 to provide a tight seal when the container 10 is closed. The extreme outside edge of the top also includes a small overhang 48, which helps direct rainwater downward and away from the container.

[0027] The container 10 may be made of a variety of materials, preferably lightweight polymer materials such as ABS, PVC, etc. In one embodiment, the side walls 20, back wall 18, and bottom 14 are integrally formed as a single unit, such as through injection molding, to provide a strong, lightweight structure. The front wall 16 and top 12 are thereafter hingedly connected in their appropriate places. Alternatively, the top, bottom, and side panels may comprise separate pieces that are later connected together to form the container. This latter configuration may be desirable for initial manufacturing of the container itself, making the container less bulky to ship to its initial user. The hinges 22 and 23 may be molded into the sidewalls and bottom, or attached to them in various ways, such as with fasteners.

[0028] Advantageously, the container 10 is configured as a shipping container that can be used for initial shipping of the vehicle, from the manufacturer to a retailer, for example, and also for transport of the vehicle by the user. In order to provide the needed strength while keeping weight low, the top 12, bottom 14, and/or side walls 16, 18, 20 may be formed of corrugated shapes, or as a composite of corrugated and flat panels. The bottom of the container, in particular, may need additional reinforcement to support the weight of the vehicle, particularly when the container is used as a shipping container. For example, the embodiment of the container 10 shown in FIGS. 1-3 includes a relatively tall bottom support structure 15 for supporting the bottom 14 of the container. This bottom support structure may be akin to a shipping pallet in configuration, including transverse and/or longitudinal support members as needed to support the weight of the vehicle. Alternatively, referring to FIG. 5, an alternative embodiment of the container 10b may include a shorter, thinner bottom support structure 15a to support the bottom of the container, depending upon the anticipated use. Both the tall bottom support structure 15 and short bottom support structure 15a may be integrally formed with the bottom 14 of the container, or may be configured as a separate part that is attached to the bottom. It will be apparent that the font panel 16 in particular must be of sufficient strength to serve as a loading ramp when lowered, so that the vehicle may ride up atop the bottom 14 of the container.

[0029] In the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 3, the container 10 includes lift points, such as lift hooks 56 for a crane, and slots 58 for a forklift or lifting straps. These features allow the container to be lifted with a vehicle inside, to facilitate transport. The container may also include tie-down points 60 at various locations on its exterior, to allow it to be secured to a transport vehicle. This would include during initial transport of the vehicle, such as to a dealer, and transport by the owner for use. When transporting the vehicle to a remote location, a user may place the empty container on the back of a truck or on a trailer, and secure it into place with chains, tie-down straps, etc. connected to the tie-down points. The user can then move the ATV 30 or other vehicle into the container and close and secure it. The container advantageously protects the vehicle from exposure and damage during transport. It will be apparent that multiple containers of this type may be used simultaneously on a single truck or trailer to transport multiple vehicles.

[0030] Additionally, as shown in FIGS. 1, 3, and 5, the bottom 14 and bottom support structure 15 include recessed holes 64 that are configured to receive an anchor device 66, such as a spike or threaded rod, for anchoring the container to the ground or other support surface. This can help stabilize the container and prevent theft. The recessed holes would preferably be reinforced to provide adequate strength.

[0031] As shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, the container 10 can include tie-down points 62 in its interior, such as in the bottom 14. These allow the ATV 30 or other vehicle to be secured inside the container with chains, straps, etc. to help prevent the vehicle from shifting or moving within the container during transport. Additionally, as shown in FIG. 5, a wheel stop 68 can be disposed in the interior of the container for gauging the stopping point of the ATV. This wheel stop is preferably connectable to the bottom of the container at adjustable locations, allowing the container to be adjusted for various sizes of ATVs. The wheel stop also helps prevent the ATV from striking the back wall 18 when being placed in the container, to help prevent damage to the container.

[0032] An alternative embodiment of the invention is depicted in FIGS. 6 and 7. In this embodiment, the container 110 includes an indexing groove 112 that allows containers to be stacked one atop another. The indexing groove is disposed around the perimeter of the top 114 of the container, and is configured to allow the bottom 116 of a container above to naturally align with the container below, so that the sidewalls 118 of the container above, being the primary load-bearing members of the container, are supported by the sidewalls of the container below. As shown in FIG. 7, the indexing groove comprises a lip 120 and shoulder 122 formed in the outer edge of the top. The shoulder allows direct bearing of the bottom of the sidewalls of the upper container upon the container below, and the shoulder causes the sidewalls of the stacked containers to naturally align with each other. A seal strip 124, such as of high strength rubber or rubber-like material (e.g. Neoprene®, etc.), can be disposed around the top of the sidewall for providing a watertight seal between the container walls and the top, as discussed above.

[0033] While the stacked containers 110 of FIG. 6 are shown without an ATV or other item disposed therein, an intent of this embodiment of the invention is to allow heavy, filled containers to be stacked. Accordingly, the sidewalls 118 (and other portions of the container) can include internal reinforcing members 126 that strengthen the container for stacking. The reinforcing members can be of steel, aluminum, or any other sufficiently strong material to bear the load of stacked containers. For example, tubular sections can be used for vertical reinforcing to provide high strength and low weight, while also resisting buckling. Those of skill in the art of structural design will be able to determine the appropriate size and shape of reinforcing members for allowing heavy, loaded containers to be stacked to a desirable and/or practical height. As shown in FIG. 7, the reinforcing members 126 can be fully encased in the polymer skin 128 of the container 110, so as to both protect the reinforcing members from water and other damaging conditions, and to provide a pleasing appearance. Other configurations are also possible.

[0034] Advantageously, the container of FIG. 6 also includes slots 130 for receiving the forks 132 of a forklift 134 (shown in dashed lines in FIG. 6). It will be apparent that in such case the containers should be configured to allow clearance for the forks of the forklift. This can be done by placing the slots at an elevation sufficient to allow clearance of the forks above the top of the lower container (as depicted in FIG. 6), and/or by manipulating the shape of the top 114 of the container to provide the needed clearance in specific locations. It will be apparent that the slots could also be used for lifting straps or other lifting devices (not shown), and that the container with indexing grooves could include lift hooks (not shown) or other lifting or stacking devices described above.

[0035] The stacking configuration shown in FIG. 6 allows containers to be stacked for shipping and storage of ATVs or other items placed therein. Moreover, end users can easily stack empty containers when not in use, thus reducing needed storage space, and can even stack containers with ATVs inside, if they have the proper lifting equipment. This can significantly reduce the space needed for storing ATVs and the like when not in use.

[0036] As depicted in the figures, particularly FIG. 3, the container 10 is particularly configured to house a four wheel ATV of a particular size. It will be apparent that containers according to this invention may be made in a variety of sizes corresponding to vehicles of various sizes. Additionally, manufacturers of ATVs or other vehicles could produce containers of a specific size and shape to accommodate a particular model of their vehicle. This can provide added protection during shipping, and also help increase profits from the original sale of the vehicle by adding another sales item.

[0037] The container of the present invention allows an ATV or other small vehicle to be stored outdoors, protected from rain, snow, sun, etc. Moreover the storage container can be used as a shipping container to initially ship the vehicle from the manufacturer, and can also be used to protect the vehicle during transport by the end-user. Because the container is lightweight, if the user does not like it in one location or needs to move the ATV, the container can be easily moved to another location for storing the vehicle there. It is light enough that two people can easily lift and carry the container, and even a single person can move it around when needed. The container also keeps the vehicle concealed from view, which can help reduce theft and/or vandalism, and provides a tidy appearance, which is desirable or even required in some neighborhoods.

[0038] By way of example, and without limitation, the invention can be described as a vehicle storage container, having a top, a bottom, and surrounding sidewalls, the container being configured as a shipping container. At least one of the sidewalls is hingedly connected to the bottom, and the top is hingedly connected to another one of the sidewalls, so that the top can be extended up and the at least one sidewall can be lowered to allow a vehicle to be moved into or out of the container.

[0039] In one embodiment, the top is hingedly connected to a sidewall that is opposite the lowerable front side, so as to provide maximum head clearance when moving a vehicle into or out of the container. This embodiment also allows a user to open the top of the container while riding the vehicle into the container.

[0040] In one specific embodiment, the surrounding sidewalls include a front wall, and back wall, and two sidewalls. The back wall and two side walls are integrally formed with the bottom as a single unit. The front wall is hingedly connected to the bottom, and the top is hingedly connected to the back wall.

[0041] In one embodiment, the bottom of the container includes lift points, such as for a crane or forklift, configured to allow the container to be lifted with an ATV inside, to facilitate transport. In another embodiment, the container includes tie-down points on its exterior, to allow the container to be secured to a transport vehicle. In yet another embodiment, the container includes tie-down points in its interior, to allow the ATV or other vehicle to be secured inside the container.

[0042] The invention thus provides a convenient, lightweight storage container for an ATV or other small vehicle that provides secure storage for the vehicle and protection from weather conditions, and also provides a container for use in shipping or transporting the vehicle.

[0043] It is to be understood that the above-referenced arrangements are illustrative of the application for the principles of the present invention. Numerous modifications and alternative arrangements can be devised without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. While the present invention has been shown in the drawings and described above in connection with exemplary embodiments(s) thereof, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that numerous modifications can be made without departing from the principles and concepts of the invention as set forth herein and later claimed in a non-provisional patent application covering the same.