Title:
Dock leveler lip providing multi-position barrier
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A dock leveler includes a lip that not only pivots between an extended operative position and a pendant position relative to a deck but also translates in its pendant position between blocking and non-blocking positions and does so at multiple deck elevations. In the blocking positions, the lip provides a safety barrier that helps prevent material and material handling equipment from accidentally falling off the front edge of the deck when a truck is not present at the dock. The lip can serve as the safety barrier when the deck is at its stored, cross-traffic position or when the deck is at a below-dock position for end loading operations. If required, the lip can be lowered below the top surface of the deck so as not to provide an obstacle during some below-dock end loading operations.



Inventors:
Swessel, Michael A. (Menomonee Falls, WI, US)
Application Number:
11/011546
Publication Date:
06/15/2006
Filing Date:
12/14/2004
Assignee:
RITE-HITE HOLDING CORPORATION (Milwaukee, WI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E01D1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ADDIE, RAYMOND W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HANLEY, FLIGHT & ZIMMERMAN, LLC (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A dock leveler, comprising: a deck being movable to vertically move a front edge of the deck, wherein the deck is selectively movable to a cross-traffic position, a first below-dock position, and a second below-dock position, wherein the first below-dock position is between the cross-traffic position and the second below-dock position; and a lip coupled to the front edge of the deck, wherein the lip includes a back edge that protrudes farther above the front edge when the deck is resting at the first below-dock position than when the deck is resting at the second below-dock position.

2. The dock leveler of claim 1, wherein the back edge of the lip protrudes above the front edge of the deck when the deck is resting at the cross-traffic position.

3. The dock leveler of claim 1, wherein the lip supports more of the deck's weight when the deck is resting at the first below-dock position than when the deck is resting at the second below-dock position.

4. The dock leveler of claim 1, wherein the lip can translate linearly relative to the deck.

5. The dock leveler of claim 1, wherein the lip can pivot relative to the deck.

6. The dock leveler of claim 1, wherein the lip can both pivot and linearly translate relative to the deck.

7. The dock leveler of claim 1, wherein the deck is further selectively movable to an intermediate below-dock position that is between the cross-traffic position and the first below-dock position, and the back edge of the lip protrudes above the front edge of the deck when the deck is at the intermediate below-dock position.

8. The dock leveler of claim 1, further comprising a lip keeper that includes a plurality of rest points upon which the lip can rest, wherein the plurality of rest points are at a corresponding plurality of elevations that help determine the elevation of the front edge of the deck when the deck is resting at the cross-traffic position and the first below-dock position.

9. The dock leveler of claim 1, further comprising a lip keeper that includes a plurality of rest points upon which the lip can rest, wherein the plurality of rest points includes a storage rest point and a first rest point, wherein the storage rest point helps support the deck at the cross-traffic position when the lip is resting on the storage rest point, and the first rest point helps support the deck at the first below-dock position when the lip is resting on the first rest point.

10. The dock leveler of claim 9, wherein the plurality of rest points includes an intermediate rest point that helps support the deck at an intermediate position when the lip is resting on the intermediate rest point, wherein the intermediate position is between the cross-traffic position and the first below-dock position, and the intermediate rest point is between the storage rest point and the first rest point.

11. A dock leveler, comprising: a deck being pivotal to linearly move a front edge of the deck, wherein the deck is selectively movable to a cross-traffic position, a first below-dock position, and a second below-dock position, wherein the first below-dock position is between the cross-traffic position and the second below-dock position; and a lip coupled to the front edge of the deck such that the lip can both pivot and linearly translate relative thereto, wherein the lip includes a back edge that: i. protrudes above the front edge when the deck is resting at the cross-traffic position, ii. protrudes above the front edge when the deck is resting at the first below-dock position, and iii. protrudes farther above the front edge when the deck is resting at the first below-dock position than when the deck is resting at the second below-dock position.

12. The dock leveler of claim 11, wherein the lip supports more of the deck's weight when the deck is resting at the first below-dock position than when the deck is resting at the second below-dock position.

13. The dock leveler of claim 11, wherein the deck is further selectively movable to an intermediate below-dock position that is between the cross-traffic position and the first below-dock position, and the back edge of the lip protrudes above the front edge of the deck when the deck is at the intermediate below-dock position.

14. The dock leveler of claim 11, further comprising a lip keeper that includes a plurality of rest points upon which the lip can rest, wherein the plurality of rest points are at a corresponding plurality of elevations that help determine the elevation of the front edge of the deck when the deck is resting at the cross-traffic position and the first below-dock position.

15. The dock leveler of claim 11, further comprising a lip keeper that includes a plurality of rest points upon which the lip can rest, wherein the plurality of rest points includes a storage rest point and a first rest point, wherein the storage rest point helps support the deck at the cross-traffic position when the lip is resting on the storage rest point, and the first rest point helps support the deck at the first below-dock position when the lip is resting on the first rest point.

16. The dock leveler of claim 15, wherein the plurality of rest points includes an intermediate rest point that helps support the deck at an intermediate position when the lip is resting on the intermediate rest point, wherein the intermediate position is between the cross-traffic position and the first below-dock position, and the intermediate rest point is between the storage rest point and the first rest point.

17. A method of moving a dock leveler that includes a lip coupled to a deck, wherein the deck is movable above and below a cross-traffic position, the method comprising: lowering the deck below the cross-traffic position; and lowering the deck relative to the lip so that the lip protrudes above the deck when the deck is at a first below-dock position that is below the cross-traffic position.

18. The method of claim 17, further comprising: from the first below-dock position, raising the deck relative to the lip; raising the deck and lip together; partially extending the lip; lowering the deck and the lip so that the deck descends to a second below-dock position that is lower than the first below-dock position; and allowing the lip to retract.

19. The method of claim 17, further comprising pivoting and vertically sliding the lip relative to the deck.

20. The method of claim 17, further comprising pivoting the deck.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The subject invention generally pertains to dock levelers and more specifically to a dock leveler whose pivotal lip can provide a barrier that helps prevent material handling equipment from accidentally driving off the front edge of the dock leveler's pivotal deck.

2. Description of Related Art

A typical truck loading dock of a building includes an exterior doorway with an elevated platform for loading and unloading vehicles such as trucks and trailers. Many loading docks have a dock leveler to compensate for a height difference that may exist between the floor of the loading dock platform and an adjacent bed of a truck or trailer. A typical dock leveler includes a deck that is hinged along its back edge at or near the elevation of the floor so that the deck can pivotally adjust the height of its front edge to an elevation that generally matches the height of the rear edge of the truck bed to provide a ramp for material handling equipment.

In addition, a front hinge may pivotally connect an extension plate or lip to the front edge of the deck. The front hinge allows the lip to pivot between a stored, pendant position and an extended, operative position. In the extended position, the lip can rest upon the truck bed to form a bridge between the deck and the bed. This allows personnel and material handling equipment, such as a forklift truck, to readily move on and off the truck during loading and unloading operations.

With some dock levelers, the lip is connected to the deck in such a way that the lip can also be used as a barrier to help prevent material handling equipment from accidentally driving off the edge of the deck when no truck is parked at the dock and the deck is at its stored, cross-traffic position (i.e., the deck is flush with the top surface or floor of the dock platform). An example of such a dock leveler is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,920,598. With the '598 dock leveler, the lip includes a series of slots through which a corresponding series of bolts extend to fasten the lip to a deck hinge. Sliding clearance between the bolts and the slots allow the lip to slide between a raised barrier position and a nonobstructing cleared position.

With the dock leveler of the '598 patent, when the lip is pendant with its front distal edge vertically supported by a stationary lip keeper, relative sliding motion between the lip and the deck allows the deck to descend to the cross-traffic position, while a back edge of the lip can protrude above the deck to create the runoff barrier.

The sliding connection between the deck and the lip also accommodates end-loading operations, where loads are added or removed from the very back end of the truck or trailer bed. To prevent the lip from interfering with the placement or removal of end loads, the deck can lift the lip up from the back edge of the truck and allow the lip to hang pendant between the lip keeper and the back end of the truck. With the lip unsupported by the trailer bed or the lip keeper, the deck can descend to a below-dock position without the lip creating a barrier, thereby facilitating below-dock, end-loading operations.

If, for example, the dock leveler were to remain in that position after a truck has departed from the dock position, a dockworker using a forklift could find himself exposed to the unprotected front edge of the dock leveler.

Thus, a need may exist for a dock leveler with an automatic barrier that can provide runoff protection during some below-dock end-loading operations, yet the barrier can be cleared if necessary.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In some embodiments, a dock leveler includes a deck with a pivotal lip that automatically provides a runoff barrier when the deck is at a certain below-dock position.

In some embodiments, the lip provides a runoff barrier when the deck is at a cross-traffic position and certain below-dock positions.

In some embodiments, the deck can be moved to various below-dock positions, such that in one position the lip provides a runoff barrier and in another position the lip recedes to a nonobstructing position.

In some embodiments, it is the deck's weight that moves the deck to where a front edge of the deck is below a back edge of the lip, whereby the lip's higher back edge provides a runoff barrier.

In some embodiments, the lip can pivot and translate relative to the deck.

In some embodiments, a lip keeper of a dock leveler includes a plurality of vertically spaced apart resting points that can support the lip at different elevations.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side view of a dock leveler whose deck is in a stored cross-traffic position and whose lip is in blocking position.

FIG. 2 is a side view similar to FIG. 1 but showing the dock leveler moving to another position.

FIG. 3 is a side view similar to FIG. 1 but showing the deck in an operative position with the lip in an extended, operative position.

FIG. 4 is a side view similar to FIG. 1 but showing the deck in a first below-dock position with the lip in a pendant, blocking position.

FIG. 5 is a side view similar to FIG. 1 but showing the deck in a second below-dock position with the lip in a pendant, nonblocking position.

FIG. 6 is a side view similar to FIG. 1 but showing the deck in an intermediate below-dock position with the lip in a pendant, blocking position.

FIG. 7 is a front view of the dock leveler of FIG. 1 but with a portion of the lip cut away.

FIG. 8 is a side cross-sectional view taken along line 8-8 of FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional side view similar to FIG. 8 but showing the deck in the second below-dock position with the lip in a pendant, nonblocking position.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring to FIGS. 1-6, in order to compensate for a height differential that may exist between a loading dock platform 10 and the bed of a truck 12, a dock leveler 14 includes a ramp or deck 16 that can pivot about its back edge 18 to adjust the height of its front edge 20. A back hinge 22 pivotally couples deck 16 to a frame 24, which in turn may be installed within a dock leveler pit 26. To bridge the gap between the deck's front edge 20 and the rear edge of truck 12, a front hinge 28 pivotally connects a lip 30 to the deck's front edge 20.

To perform various operations at the loading dock, deck 16 may be movable to a cross-traffic position (FIG. 1) for storage, a raised position (FIG. 2) for repositioning the deck and lip, an operative position (FIG. 3) for normal loading and unloading operations, a first below-dock position (FIG. 4) for below-dock end loading operations with lip 30 serving as a runoff barrier, a second below-dock position (FIG. 5) with lip 30 lowered so as not to pose an obstacle for some below-dock end loading operations, and perhaps even an intermediate below-dock position (FIG. 6) with lip 30 serving as a runoff barrier.

In some embodiments, the various configurations or operating positions of dock leveler 14 can be achieved using a unique multi-step lip keeper 32 that can be attached to frame 24. Lip keeper 32 works in conjunction with a lip that can both pivot and translate linearly relative to the deck. Lip 30, for instance, can pivot between a pendant position (FIG. 5) and an extended operative position (FIG. 3). Lip 30 can also translate relative to deck 16 between a blocking position (FIG. 1) and a non-blocking pendant position (FIG. 5). A detailed description of a lip that can both pivot and translate is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,920,598, which is specifically incorporated by reference herein.

In operation, truck 12 backs into the loading dock, adjacent to platform 10, as shown in FIG. 1. A bumper 34, as shown in FIG. 2, may be used to ensure that dock leveler 14 has adequate space to operate between truck 12 and the dock face 39. FIG. 1 shows deck 16 at its stored, cross-traffic position where a driveway surface 36 of deck 16 is generally flush with an upper surface 38 (FIG. 2) of platform 10, and a tip 40 of lip 30 rests upon a storage rest point 42 of lip keeper 32, thereby supporting deck 16 at an elevation that allows traffic to move between surfaces 36 and 38. Although just one lip keeper 32 is shown, dock leveler 14 preferably includes two or more lip keepers 32 for additional support of deck 16 and lip 30. To prevent items such as a forklift and other material handling equipment from accidentally falling off the deck's front edge 20, a back edge 44 of lip 30 protrudes above the deck's front edge 20 to create a safety barrier. This is accomplished by providing a sliding connection between lip 30 and deck 16, which will be explained later.

Next, in FIG. 2, deck 16 rises and lip 30 swings out to extend tip 40 of lip 30 out over the top of the truck bed. The movement of lip 30 and deck 16 can be carried out in any of a wide variety of ways that are well known to those of ordinary skill in the art. The movement, for example, can be powered, manually driven, or a combination of the two. Mechanisms for moving deck 16 or lip 30 include, but are not limited to, hydraulic cylinder or bladder, pneumatic cylinder or bladder, mechanical linkage, drive screw, rack and pinion, winch, mechanical spring, gas spring, and various combinations thereof, which are well known to those of ordinary skill in the art. Regardless of how deck 16 and lip 30 are moved, prior to extending the lip, deck 16 lifts lip 30 off lip keeper 32 where the sliding connection between lip 30 and deck 16 allows the lip's weight to urge the lip's back edge 44 downward to where edge 44 is below the deck's driveway surface 36, so lip 30 has room to swing out to where the top surface of lip 30 and the deck's driveway surface 36 are generally flush with each other.

Then, in FIG. 3, deck 16 descends to place the extended lip 30 upon the bed of truck 12. Dock leveler 14 is now in its operative position where truck 12 can be loaded or unloaded of its cargo 48.

To add a load 50 to the very end of the truck bed, lip 30 can be lifted off the back end of the truck (to make room for the load), and deck 16 can be moved to one of its below-dock end loading position, such as the first below-dock end loading position of FIG. 4. Moving dock leveler 14 from its position of FIG. 3 to that of FIG. 4 can be accomplished in different ways. From the position of FIG. 3, for example, deck 16 may first rise to lift lip 30 off the truck bed. Slightly extending lip 30 would allow deck 16 to then lower the slightly extended lip between lip keeper 32 and the back end of the truck. With lip 30 slightly extended, the lip could descend past any of the rest points (42, 54, and 52) of lip keeper 32 until deck 16 and lip 30 reach the position of FIG. 5. At this point, end load 50 could be added to the very back of the truck bed; however, lip 30 in this position would not provide a runoff barrier.

If a barrier is desired in a below-dock end loading position, lip 30 could be allowed to lie pendant against the front face of lip keepers 32, and deck 16 could lift the pendant lip until its tip 40 falls into a desired rest point of lip keeper 32, such as a first rest point 52. Once tip 40 falls into first rest point 52, deck 16 can descend. While first rest point 52 supports tip 40, the sliding connection between lip 30 and deck 16 allows front edge 20 of deck 16 to descend below back edge 44 of lip 30, whereby below dock end-loading can be performed with lip 30 providing a runoff barrier as shown in FIG. 4.

It should be noted that with deck 16 at the first below dock position of FIG. 4, back edge 44 of lip 30 is at or below the upper surface 38 of dock platform 10. This may be beneficial when loading or unloading end loads of trucks whose truck bed lies at about the same elevation as surface 38.

It may also be beneficial to having a range of below dock loading positions with the barrier activated. FIG. 6, for example, shows an intermediate position that is between those of FIGS. 1 and 4. When deck 16 is at the intermediate below-dock position of FIG. 6, tip 40 of lip 30 is supported by an intermediate rest point 54 to create a runoff barrier. Moving dock leveler 14 from the position of FIG. 4 to that of FIG. 6 can be accomplished by first raising deck 16 and sliding pendant lip 30 upward across the front face of keeper 32 until tip 40 falls into intermediate rest point 54. Once tip 40 falls into intermediate rest point 54, deck 16 can descend. While rest point 54 supports tip 40, the sliding connection between lip 30 and deck 16 allows front edge 20 of deck 16 to descend below back edge 44 of lip 30, as shown in FIG. 6.

Referring to FIGS. 7 and 8, although the actual hinge structure for connecting lip 30 to deck 16 may vary, in some embodiments, hinge 28 comprises a hinge pin 56 that pivotally joins a series of spools or deck-hinge members 58 to a series of lip-hinge members 60. Deck-hinge members 58 are disposed about pin 56 and can be welded or otherwise attached to deck 16. Lip-hinge members 60 may also include spools 62 disposed about pin 56, whereby pin 56 pivotally connects spools 62 of the lip-hinge members 60 to the series of deck-hinge members 58.

To create the sliding connection between lip 30 and deck 16, lip 30 includes a series of slots 64 along which fasteners 66 can slide. In some embodiments, fastener 66 is a shoulder screw that screws into lip-hinge member 60 and slides within slot 64.

FIGS. 7 and 8 show dock leveler 14 at its stored cross-traffic position, and FIG. 9 shows dock leveler 14 at its second below-dock position.

Although the invention is described with reference to a preferred embodiment, it should be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that various modifications are well within the scope of the invention. Therefore, the scope of the invention is to be determined by reference to the following claims: