Title:
Load-securing device usable with a load-transport system and related methods
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A stowable load-securing device usable with a load-transport system is disclosed. The load-securing device includes a securing membrane and a support member. Further, a stowable load-securing device may include a tamper-resistant member, while a load-transport system further may include at least one motive mechanism. The securing membrane is capable of securing at least a portion of the load when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position. The support member is capable of facilitating an extension and retraction of the securing membrane.



Inventors:
Loftis, Dwight D. (Madison, NC, US)
Cruthis, Jeffrey L. (Greensboro, NC, US)
Everhart, John R. (Winston-Salem, NC, US)
Application Number:
11/265770
Publication Date:
05/03/2007
Filing Date:
11/02/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61D45/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20020110434Tie-down for wheelchairsAugust, 2002Ditch et al.
20140079503BOBBIN, ANCHORING ASSEMBLY AND METHOD OF USING SAMEMarch, 2014Hutchinson
20150069185Cushioned Platform System for Aerial DeliveryMarch, 2015Parkinson et al.
20070140808MULTI-FUNCTIONAL CAR-TOP CARRIER DEVICEJune, 2007Peng
20160288695RETAINING DEVICE AND METHODS OF USING THE SAMEOctober, 2016Minty et al.
20060204347Method and device for stabilizing a vehicle combinationSeptember, 2006Waldbauer et al.
20110033258LOAD SECUREMENT APPARATUS, SYSTEM, AND METHODFebruary, 2011Unander
20090278326Kits, Components and Stackable Trailers for Transporting ContainersNovember, 2009Rowland et al.



Primary Examiner:
GORDON, STEPHEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Fox Rothschild LLP (Lawrenceville, NJ, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A load-transport system for facilitating a transmission of a load, the system comprising: (a) a container capable of accepting at least a portion of the load; (b) a securing membrane capable of securing at least a portion of the load when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position; and (c) a support member in communication with at least a portion of the securing membrane and at least a portion of the container so as to facilitate an extension and retraction of the securing membrane.

2. The load-transport system according to claim 1, further including at least one motive mechanism so as to make the transport system capable of a self-transmission to thereby facilitate the transmission of the load.

3. The load-transport system according to claim 2, wherein the transport system includes any one of a landcraft, an aircraft, a watercraft, or any combination of any of the preceding.

4. The load-transport system according to claim 3, wherein the landcraft includes any one of a railcraft, an automobile, or any combination of any of the preceding.

5. The load-transport system according to claim 3, wherein the railcraft includes any one of a freight car, a passenger car, a subway car, a trolley, or any combination of any of the preceding.

6. The load-transport system according to claim 3, wherein the automobile includes any one of a car, a truck, a tractor, or any combination of any of the preceding.

7. The load-transport system according to claim 6, wherein the truck includes any one of a van, a sport utility vehicle, or any combination of any of the preceding.

8. The load-transport system according to claim 2, wherein the aircraft includes any one of a plane, a jet, a helicopter, or any combination of any of the preceding.

9. The load-transport system according to claim 2, wherein the watercraft includes any one of a boat, a ship, a submarine, or any combination of any of the preceding.

10. The load-transport system according to claim 1, wherein the container is transportable using any of a variety of means to thereby facilitate the transmission of the load.

11. The load-transport system according to claim 10, wherein the any of a variety of means includes any one of a landcraft, an aircraft, a watercraft, or any combination of any of the preceding.

12. The load-transport system according to claim 11, wherein the landcraft includes any one of a railcraft, an automobile, or any combination of any of the preceding.

13. The load-transport system according to claim 12, wherein the railcraft includes any one of a freight car, a passenger car, a subway car, a trolley, or any combination of any of the preceding.

14. The load-transport system according to claim 12, wherein the automobile includes any one of a car, a truck, a tractor, or any combination of any of the preceding.

15. The load-transport system according to claim 14, wherein the truck includes any one of a van, a sport utility vehicle, or any combination of any of the preceding.

16. The load-transport system according to claim 11, wherein the aircraft includes any one of a plane, a jet, a helicopter, or any combination of any of the preceding.

17. The load-transport system according to claim 11, wherein the watercraft includes any one of a boat, a ship, a submarine, or any combination of any of the preceding.

18. The load-transport system according to claim 1, wherein the container further includes at least one wheel.

19. The load-transport system according to claim 18, wherein the at least one wheel comprises a plurality of wheels.

20. The load-transport system according to claim 19, wherein the plurality of wheels comprises about 8.

21. The load-transport system according to claim 20, wherein the container comprises a trailer.

22. A stowable load-securing device usable with a container capable of accepting at least a portion of the load so as to become a load-transport system for facilitating a transmission of a load, the stowable load-securing device comprising: (a) a securing membrane capable of securing at least a portion of the load when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position; and (b) a support member in communication with at least a portion of the securing membrane and capable of communicating with at least a portion of the container so as to facilitate an extension and retraction of the securing membrane; and (c) a tamper-resistant member in communication with at least a portion of the support member and capable of making the load-securing device tamper-resistant.

23. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the tamper-resistant member comprises two portions capable of being contiguously aligned so as to be extendable along a length of the container.

24. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 23, further including an alignment member capable of communicating with the two portions of the tamper-resistant member so as to facilitate their contiguous alignment along a length of the container.

25. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 24, wherein the alignment member comprises of any one of a detent arrangement, a complementary pin and hole(s) arrangement, a complementary key and groove(s) arrangement, or any combination of any of the preceding.

26. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the tamper-resistant member comprises a track capable of being in communication with the support member at opposite ends of the support member.

27. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 26, wherein the track is capable of being horizontal.

28. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 26, wherein the track capable of being in communication with the support member at opposite ends of the support member is capable of making the stowable load-securing device movably mountable to the container.

29. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 24, wherein the track and the opposite ends of the support member comprise complementary configurations capable of facilitating a movement of the support member along the track.

30. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 26, wherein the track capable of being in communication with the support member at opposite ends of the support member is formed integrally with the container.

31. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 26, wherein the track capable of being in communication with the support member at opposite ends of the support member is formed using a material having a shape memory.

32. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 31, wherein the material comprises a dent-resistant material.

33. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 31, wherein the material comprises a composite material.

34. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 33, wherein the composite material comprises a polymer matrix composite material.

35. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 34, wherein the polymer matrix composite material comprises a fiber-reinforced polymer matrix composite material.

36. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 35, wherein the fiber-reinforced polymer matrix composite material comprises a fiberglass-reinforced polymer matrix composite material.

37. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the tamper-resistant member further includes a stop capable of assisting in making the load-securing device tamper-resistant.

38. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the stop comprises any one of a plate, a fastener, a pin, or any combination of any of the preceding.

39. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the support member further includes an alignment feature capable of making the stowable load-securing device movably mountable to the container.

40. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the alignment feature comprises a carriage.

41. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the support member comprises a storage device.

42. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, further including a retractor mechanism capable of facilitating an extension and retraction of the securing membrane.

43. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 42, wherein the retractor mechanism is motorized.

44. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 43, wherein the retractor mechanism comprises any one of a spring mechanism, a ratcheting mechanism, or any combination of any of the preceding.

45. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 44, wherein the spring mechanism comprises any one of a clock spring, a coil spring, or any combination of any of the preceding.

46. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 44, wherein the ratcheting mechanism comprises an infinitely adjustable ratcheting mechanism.

47. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the support member comprises a tubular member.

48. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the tubular member comprises a cylindrical member.

49. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the stowable load-securing device is capable of being movably mountable.

50. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the securing membrane comprises a lightweight material.

51. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the securing membrane further comprises a reinforcement structure.

52. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 51, wherein the reinforced securing membrane comprises a see-through structure.

53. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the securing membrane comprises a mesh-like material.

54. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 24, wherein the securing membrane comprises rip/tear-resistant material.

55. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the securing membrane comprises further comprises a reinforcement structure.

56. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 22, wherein the securing membrane further comprises at least two fastening members capable of assisting with the securing the at least a portion of the load.

57. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 56, wherein the securing membrane further comprises between about 2 and about 10 fastening members capable of assisting with the securing the at least a portion of the load.

58. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 56, wherein the about 2 to about 10 fastening members comprise any one of an e-tract type fastener, a logistic post type fastener, or any combination of any of the preceding.

59. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 58, wherein the between about 2 and about 10 fastening members further comprise between about 1 and about 5 adjuster members, each adjuster member capable of being adjusted so as to assist in facilitating the securing membrane securing the at least a portion of the load.

60. The stowable load-securing device according to claim 58, wherein the between about 2 and about 10 fastening members and the between about 1 and about 5 adjuster members further comprise a reinforcement structure, wherein the reinforcement structure, the between about 2 and about 10 fastening members, and the between about 1 and about 5 adjuster members are at least partially in communication.

61. A kit for a stowable load-securing device usable with a container capable of accepting at least a portion of a load so as to become a load-transport system, the kit comprising: (a) a securing membrane, when installed, capable of securing at least a portion of a load when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position; (b) a support member, when installed, capable of communication with at least a portion of the securing membrane and capable of communicating with at least a portion of the container so as to facilitate an extension and retraction of the securing membrane; (c) a tamper-resistant member, when installed, capable of communication with at least a portion of the support member and capable of making the load-securing device tamper-resistant; and (d) associated fasteners for assembling, fastening, or assembling and fastening any one of the securing membrane, the support member, the tamper resistance member, or any combination of any of the preceding.

62. A load-transport system for facilitating a transmission of a load, the system comprising: (a) a container capable of accepting at least a portion of the load; (b) a securing membrane capable of securing at least a portion of the load when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position; (c) a support member in communication with at least a portion of the securing membrane and capable of communicating with at least a portion of the container so as to facilitate an extension and retraction of the securing membrane; (d) a tamper-resistant member in communication with at least a portion of the support member and capable of making the load-securing device tamper-resistant; and (e) at least one motive mechanism communicating with the container so as to make the transport system capable of a self-transmission to thereby facilitate the transmission of the load.

63. A method for transmitting a load, the method comprising the steps of: (a) providing a load to a container; (b) extending a securing membrane to communicate with at least a portion of the load, thereby securing the at least a portion of the load in the container; (c) transmitting at least a portion of the load to a first location; and (d) retracting the securing membrane so as to permit a removal of at least a portion of the at least a portion of the load.

64. A method for making a stowable load-securing device tamper-resistant, the method comprising the steps of: (a) providing first portions of a tamper resistance member to a container, the container being capable of accepting at least a portion of a load; (b) providing a support member so that at least a portion communicates with at least a portion of the first portions of the tamper-resistant member; and (c) providing second portions of a tamper-resistant member so that at least a portion of the second portions communicates with at least a portion of the first portions of the tamper resistance member, thereby making the stowable load-securing device tamper-resistant.

65. A method for transmitting a load, the method comprising the steps of: (a) providing a load to a container; (b) extending a securing membrane to communicate with at least a portion of the load, thereby securing the at least a portion of the load in the container; (c) transmitting at least a portion of the load to a first location; (d) retracting the securing membrane so as to permit a removal of at least a portion of the at least a portion of the load; (e) re-extending the securing membrane to communicate with a remainder of the at least a portion of the load, thereby securing the remainder of the at least a portion of the load in the container; (f) transmitting the remainder of the at least a portion of the load to a next location; and (g) repeating steps (d) through (f) until the at least a portion of the load remains no more.

66. A method for making a stowable load-securing device tamper-resistant, the method comprising the steps of: (a) providing first portions of a tamper-resistant member to a container, the container being capable of accepting at least a portion of a load; (b) providing a support member so that at least a portion communicates with at least a portion of the first portions of the tamper-resistant member; (c) providing second portions of a tamper-resistant member so that at least a portion of the second portions communicates with at least a portion of the first portions of the tamper resistance member, thereby making the stowable load-securing device tamper-resistant; and (d) providing a securing membrane so that at least a portion communicates with at least a portion of the support member.

67. A method for transmitting of a load, the method comprising: (a) providing a container capable of accepting at least a portion of the load; (b) providing the at least a portion of the load; (c) securing the at least a portion of the load by extending a securing membrane so that at least a potion of the securing membrane and at least a portion of the at least a portion of the load are in communication; (d) communicating at least one motive mechanism with the container to thereby facilitate the transmission of the at least a portion of the load.

Description:

FIG. 1 is an illustration of a load-transport system according to an aspect of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an illustration of a container including a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an illustration of an aspect of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1 and the container of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is an illustration of an aspect of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, and the load-securing device of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is an illustration of an aspect of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, the load-securing device of FIG. 3, and the load-securing device of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is an illustration of an aspect of a support member of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, the load-securing device of FIG. 3, the device of FIG. 4, and the device of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7A is an illustration of an aspect of a support member of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, the load-securing device of FIG. 3, the aspect of the device of FIG. 4, the aspect of the device of FIG. 5, and the aspect of the device of FIG. 6; and

FIG. 7B is an illustration of an aspect of a support member of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, the load-securing device of FIG. 3, the aspect of the device of FIG. 4, the aspect of the device of FIG. 5, the aspect of the device of FIG. 6, and the aspect of the device of FIG. 7A;

FIG. 8 is an illustration of an alternative aspect of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, the load-securing device of FIG. 3, and the aspect of the device of FIG. 4;

FIG. 9 is an illustration of an alternative aspect of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, the load-securing device of FIG. 3, the aspect of the device of FIG. 4, and the aspect of the device of FIG. 8;

FIG. 10A is an illustration of an alternative aspect of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, the load-securing device of FIG. 3, the aspect of the device of FIG. 4, the aspect of the device of FIG. 8, and the aspect of the device of FIG. 9;

FIG. 10B is an illustration of an alternative aspect of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, the load-securing device of FIG. 3, the aspect of the device of FIG. 4, the aspect of the device of FIG. 8, the aspect of the device of FIG. 9, and the aspect of the device of FIG. 10A; and

FIG. 10C is an illustration of an alternative aspect of a stowable load-securing device usable with the load-transport system of FIG. 1, the container of FIG. 2, the load-securing device of FIG. 3, the aspect of the device of FIG. 4, the aspect of the device of FIG. 8, the aspect of the device of FIG. 9, the aspect of the device of FIG. 10A, and the aspect of the device of FIG. 10A.

Aspects of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art after a reading of the following description when considered with the drawings.

The present invention is directed toward a number of aspects and/or embodiments connected with a load-transport system and/or a container usable with a load-transport system and/or a stowable load-securing device usable with a load-transport system and/or a self-stowable load-securing device usable with a load-transport system and/or a container including, without limitation, any one of a load-transport system, a container, a stowable load-securing device, a self-stowable load-securing device, a kit for a stowable load-securing device, a kit for a self-stowable load-securing device, a method for securely transporting one or more loads, a method for retrofitting a container to be capable of securely transporting one or more loads, a method for securing one or more loads, or any combination of any of the preceding.

Applicants include the following scenario to provide an understanding of the present invention. It should be understood that the present invention may apply to, without limitation, any one of a load-transport system, a container, a stowable load-securing device, a self-stowable load-securing device, a kit for a stowable load-securing device, a kit for a self-stowable load-securing device, a method for securely transporting one or more loads, a method for retrofitting a container to be capable of securely transporting one or more loads, a method for securing one or more loads, or any combination of any of the preceding and is not limited to the following scenarios.

Consider for a moment, a tractor-trailer, such as, for example, that shown in FIG. 1 that is capable of transporting one or more loads (sometimes referred to as cargos, ladings, freight, loading, loads, shipments, consignments, . . . etc.) to one or more locations. One or more loads are situated on and/or within the trailer to facilitate the transporting. Often it is desirable to secure one or more loads to and/or within the trailer so as to prevent damage to the one or more loads. Also, it is desirable to secure one or more loads to and/or with the trailer so as to prevent the one or more loads from shifting on or within the trailer.

In a situation involving delivering a number of loads to be one location, it would be desirable to have one or more structures that would accommodate a securing of the number of loads to prevent damage and/or shifting. In addition to preventing damage and/or shifting of the number of loads, it would be desirable that the one or more structures provide a load management tool by allowing a grouping of a load on a basis of, without limitation, any one of invoice number, purchase order number, . . . , product type, or any combination of any of the preceding. Further, it would be desirable that the one or more structures are any one of easy to operate; flexible in terms of the amount of load and/or type of load that a structure is capable of securing; stowable so as to not interfere with a placing on or removing from a trailer a portion of the number of loads, if possible, substantially tamperproof so that it remains with the trailer for future use or any combination of any of the preceding.

Likewise, in a situation that involves delivering a number of loads to a number of locations, it would be desirable to have one or more structures that would accommodate a securing of the number of loads to prevent damage and/or shifting. In addition to preventing damage and/or shifting of the number of loads, it would be desirable that the one or more structures provide a load management tool by allowing a grouping of a load on a basis of, without limitation, any one of location, invoice number, purchase order number, . . . , product type, or any combination of any of the preceding. Further, it would be desirable that the one or more structures be any one of easy to operate; flexible in terms of the amount of load and/or type of load that a structure is capable of securing; stowable so as to not interfere with a placing on or removing from a trailer a portion of the number of loads, if possible, substantially tamperproof so that it remains with the trailer for future use or any combination of any of the preceding.

Also, it will be appreciated by those in the art that such one or more structures would be capable of accommodating a securing of one or more loads to prevent damage and/or shifting in a situation that involves delivering the one or more loads to one or more locations.

In the following description, like reference characters designate like or corresponding parts throughout the several views. Also in the following description, it is to be understood that such terms as “forward,” “rearward,” “left,” “right,” “upwardly,” “downwardly,” and the like are words of convenience and are not to be construed as limiting terms.

Referring now to the drawings in general, and FIGS. 1 and 2 in particular, it will be understood that the illustrations are for the purpose of describing one or more aspects and/or embodiments of the invention and are not intended to limit the invention thereto. As seen in FIG. 1, a load-transport system, generally designated 10, is shown constructed according to an aspect of the present invention. Although not shown in FIG. 1, a load-transport system 10 includes at least one stowable load-securing device 14. As shown in FIG. 2, a load-transport system 10 may be a container 12 with at least one stowable load-securing device 14. In an aspect, that load-transport system 10 further includes a motive mechanism 20 capable of communicating with a container 12. In an alternative aspect, a load-transport system 10 includes a container 12 and motive mechanism 20 that are integrated or unitary. A container 12 is capable of accepting at least a portion of one or more loads. The at least one motive mechanism 20 communicates with the container 12 so as to make the load-transport system 10 capable of a self-transmission to thereby facilitate the transmission of one or more loads.

Again turning to FIG. 2, a load-securing device 14 includes a securing member 34, such as a membrane, and a support member 24. A stowable load-securing device 14 may optionally include a tamper-resistant member 18. The securing membrane 34 is capable of securing at least a portion of one or more loads when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position. The support member 24 is in communication with at least a portion of the securing membrane 34 and capable of communicating with at least a portion of the container 12 so as to facilitate an extension and retraction of the securing membrane 34. A support member 24 may be a tubular member such as, for example, one or more concentric cylindrical members. The tamper-resistant member 18 is in communication with at least a portion of the support member 24 and capable of making the load-securing device 14 tamper-resistant.

As FIG. 1 is not to be construed as limiting, it is noted that the load-transport system 10 may be any one of a landcraft, an aircraft, a watercraft, or any combination of any of the preceding. As such, in an aspect, a load-transport system 10 may be two or more separate entities that may be connected (e.g., as in a tractor-trailer, barge, or railroad cars). In an alternative aspect, a load-transport system 10 may be integral or unitary (e.g., airplane, cargo ship, or truck). As to a landcraft, a load-transport system 10 may include, without limitation, any one of a railcraft, an automobile, or any combination of any of the preceding. As to a railcraft, a load-transport system 10 may include, without limitation, any one of a freight car, passenger car, subway car, trolley, or any combination of any of the preceding. As to an automobile, a load-transport system 10 may include, without limitation, any one of a car, a truck, a tractor, or any combination of any of the preceding. In turn, a truck may include, without limitation, any one of a van, a sport utility vehicle, or any combination of any of the preceding. As to an aircraft, it may include, without limitation, any one of a plane, a jet, a helicopter, or any combination of any of the preceding. As to a watercraft, a load-transport system 10 may include, without limitation, any one of a boat, a ship, a submarine, or any combination of any of the preceding.

In an aspect, a container 12 may be independent of a motive mechanism 20 and thus transportable using any of a variety of means to thereby facilitate the transmission of the one or more loads. For example, a container 12 may be transportable using any one of a landcraft, an aircraft, a watercraft, or any combination of any of the preceding. Landcraft may include, without limitation, any one of a railcraft, an automobile, or any combination of any of the preceding. Railcraft may include, without limitation, any one of a freight car, passenger car, subway car, trolley, or any combination of any of the preceding. An automobile may include, without limitation, any one of a car, a truck, a tractor, or any combination of any of the preceding. In turn, a truck may include, without limitation, any one of a van, a sport utility vehicle, or any combination of any of the preceding. An aircraft may include, without limitation, any one of a plane, a jet, a helicopter, or any combination of any of the preceding. Watercraft may include, without limitation, one of a boat, a ship, a submarine, or any combination of any of the preceding.

In an aspect, a container 12 further may include at least one wheel 22. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, a container 12 may include a plurality of wheels 22, such as, for example, between about 2 and about 20. The container 12 of FIGS. 1 and 2 has about 8 wheels.

Applicants submit that it will be apparent that one or more load-securing devices 14 may be used with a fixed or stationary container 12 or structure such as, for example, any one of a warehouse, a storage structure (e.g., a self-storage facility, a commercial storage facility, a residential storage facility, any other storage structure, or any combination of any of the preceding), a portion of a structure that may be configured to be used as a storage structure (e.g., a room, a basement, a garage, or any combination of any of the preceding), or any combination of any of the preceding.

A tamper-resistant member 18 may be any structure or combination of structures that permit an installation and/or use of a load-securing devices 14 so that a device 14 is secured (including a movably mounted manner) to the container 12 while at the same time substantially thwarting either the altering or dismantling the load-securing devices 14 of the container 12, such as, for example, without a use of tooling. Such tamper-resistant member 18 may be a structure or combination of structures that are a part of a load-securing device 14 or may be a structure or combination of structures that are added to a load-securing device 14. Included among examples of possible structures or combination of structures may be used in or with a load-securing device 14 are tamper-proof fasteners such as those disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,626,627; 6,017,177; 5,469,726; 4,897,008; 4,189,976, or any combination of any of the preceding. Commercially available examples of tamper-proof fasteners include those as disclosed in the Bryce Fastener Catalog from Bryce Fastener Mfg., Inc (see e.g., http://www.brycefastener.com/catalog.pdf).

As a further example, a tamper-resistant member 18 of the load-securing devices 14 shown in FIG. 2 includes two portions (e.g., track 16 and track 16′) capable of being contiguously aligned so as to be extendable along a length of the container 12. In this aspect of the invention, a first portion of track 16 is mounted to a container 12. Then, a support member 24 is movably mounted to the first portions of track 16. Subsequently, a second portion of track 16′ is mounted to a container 12 so as to be contiguously aligned with the first portion of the track 16. In this manner, the first portion of the track 16 and the second portion of the track 16′ extend along a length of the container 12 to act as a tamper-resistant member 18 that substantially thwarts a tampering with a movably mounted support member 24, such as, for example, without a use of tooling to either alter or dismantle load-securing device 14. Thereafter, a securing membrane 34 may be affixed to the support member 24. Further, the first portion of the track 16 and the second portion of track 16′ may include an alignment member (not shown in the Figures) capable of communicating with the two track portions 16 and 16′ so as to facilitate their contiguous alignment along a length of the container 12. The alignment member may be any one of a detent arrangement, a complementary pin and hole(s) arrangement, a complementary key and groove(s) arrangement, or any combination of any of the preceding. An example of a combination of structures being used as a tamper-resistant member 18 is a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ that further may include a stop 44 capable of assisting in making the load-securing device 14 tamper-resistant. Such stop 44 may include any one of a plate, a fastener, a pin, or any combination of any of the preceding in combination with a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′. Applicants note that commercially available structures may be used for track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ and/or stop 44 and/or alignment member (not shown in the Figures) and include, without limitation, those available from and described in the: 80/20 Product Catalog (see e.g., http://www.8020.net/Downloads.asp); Unistrut® Product Application Guide IND800 (e.g., http://www.unistrut.com/literature/index.php?doc=IND800&pg=1); mk Profile Systems Technology Catalog (see e.g., http://www.mkprofiles.com/profile_systems/mk_profilesystems_catalog.asp); and/or GLASSMASTER® Modular T-Slotted Composite Framework Catalog (see e.g., http://www.glassmaster.com/catalog.pdf or http://www.mcmaster.com/catalog/107/html/1386.html).

As noted above, a tamper-resistant member 18 may include track portions 16 and 16′ capable of being in communication with the support member 24 at opposite ends of the support member 24. As shown in FIG. 2, such track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ are capable of being horizontally mounted. Also, such track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ are capable of being in communication with the support member 24 at opposite ends of the support member 24 and are capable of making the stowable load-securing device 14 movably mounted to or within a container 12. To that end, a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ are at the opposite ends of the support member 24 and may be of complementary configurations capable of facilitating a movement of the support member 24 along the track 16. In an aspect of the invention, a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ may be formed integrally with the container 12 so as to be capable of being in communication with the support member 24 at opposite ends of the support member 24.

In one aspect of the present invention, a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ are formed using a material possessing a shape memory. In another aspect of the present invention, a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ are formed using a material possessing dent resistance (e.g., a dent-resistant material). In either aspect, material used for a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ may be a composite material. One example of a composite material includes a polymer matrix composite material such as, for example, a fiber-reinforced polymer matrix composite material such as, for example, a fiberglass-reinforced polymer matrix composite material. For example, a pultruded fiberglass reinforced polymer matrix composite material appears to be appropriate for use as a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′. Such may comprise two types of glass reinforcement (e.g., unidirectional fiberglass filaments that are about 50% to about 70% of the total glass content and multidirectional fiberglass matting that is about 30% to about 50% of the total glass content) reinforcing a polyester resin and/or vinylester resin and, optionally, a veil may be added to the outside of a profile to create a resin-rich surface. Applicants note that commercially available polymer matrix composite materials including, without limitation, those available from and described in the: GLASSMASTER® Modular T-Slotted Composite Framework Catalog (see e.g., http://www.glassmaster.com/catalog.pdf or http://www.mcmaster.com/catalog/107/html/1386.html). Applicants believe that it may be possible to use wood profiles made of TFP® thermoplastic fibrin material (TFP® profiles consist of 85% wood and 15 polypropylene (see e.g., http://www.mkprofiles.com/profile_systems/mk_wood_Profiles.as)) or fiberglass versions of the Unistrut® Product Application Guide IND800 (e.g., http://www.unistrut.com/literature/index.php?doc=IND800&pg=1 and http://www.unistrut.com/Browse/ref_data.php?P=Fiberglass_Technical4); or profiles made of Strongwell EXTREN® Fiberglass Structural Shapes and Plate (see e.g., http://www.strongwell.com/PDFfiles/Extren/Extren%20Brochure%200804.pdf).

In addition, applicants note that commercially available polymer matrix composite materials may be used, without limitation, for any one of a support member 24 and/or it components; alignment feature 26 and/or it components; stop 44 and/or it components; track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ and/or their components; a retractor mechanism 30 and/or it components; or any combination of any of the preceding.

In an aspect of the present invention, a support member 24 further may include an alignment feature 26 capable of assisting with a stowable load-securing device 14 being movably mountable to or within the container 12. As shown in FIGS. 2 through 10B, an alignment feature 26 may be a carriage that is mountable to a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′.

Turning now to FIGS. 3 through 10B, a support member 24 may be a storage device for a securing membrane 34. In this aspect of the invention, a support member 24 further may include a retractor mechanism 30 capable of facilitating an extension and retraction of a securing membrane 34. A retractor mechanism 30 may possibly be motorized. Alternatively, a retractor mechanism 30 may possibly be mechanical and, thus, include any one of a spring mechanism 32, a ratcheting mechanism, or any combination of any of the preceding. In turn, a spring mechanism 32 may include any one of a clock spring (e.g., as shown in FIGS. 8 through 10B), a coil spring (e.g., as shown in FIGS. 5 through 7B), or any combination of any of the preceding, while a ratcheting mechanism may include an infinitely adjustable ratcheting mechanism. As a stowable load-securing device 14, a support member 24 is capable of being movably mountable. In an aspect, a stowable load-securing device 14 may include an interlock to insure that securing member 34 is in place and securing the load. In another aspect, a movably mounted stowable load-securing device 14 may include another interlock to insure that support member 24 is in place along a track 16 or track portions 16 and 16′ and securing the load.

As may be seen in FIG. 2, a securing membrane 34 may be made of any material that possesses sufficient strength to retain one or more loads. Also, a securing membrane 34 may be made of a material that is capable of being stored by, for example, being rolled onto a support member 24. To that end, a securing membrane 34 may be made of a lightweight material. Further, a securing membrane 34 may include a reinforcement structure 36. It would be desirable for a securing membrane 34 to be a see-through structure, such as, for example, a mesh-like material. A securing membrane 34 may be rip/tear-resistant material.

Applicants have found that a suitable material for use as securing membrane 34 includes materials that are commercially available, as a pool cover, for example, without limitation, LOOP-LOC Ltd. Hauppauge, N.Y. (see e.g., http://www.looploc.com/safety/safety_set.html, or http://www.looploc.com/home/flash_noplay.html). Such covers may meet or exceed American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International F1346-91 standards. Some of these materials include a polyester bonded thread, double perimeter webbing, and double-thick straps (e.g., reinforcement structure 36) to give a cover high breaking strength. Applicants believe that the materials or aspects of the materials described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,886,187 and 6,836,907 may be used for a securing membrane 34. Other materials may include a variety of commercially available safety and/or industrial netting such as those available from John Redden Net Company Inc., Port Coquitlam, BC, Canada (see e.g., http://www.redden-net.com/safety-industrial-netting.cfm). Note that a combination of such commercially available safety and/or industrial netting may be used.

To assist with securing at least a portion of one or more loads, a securing membrane 34 further may include a number of fastening members 40 (see e.g., perimeter of securing membrane 34 in FIG. 2). Applicants believe that at least two fastening members 40 may be capable of assisting with the securing of at least a portion of one or more loads, and that between about 2 and about 10 fastening members 40 are capable of assisting with the securing of at least a portion of the one or more loads. Examples of suitable fastening members 40 include any one of an e-tract type fastener, a logistic post type fastener, or any combination of any of the preceding. In addition to the between about 2 and about 10 fastening members 40, a securing membrane 34 may include between about 1 and about 5 adjuster members 42 (see e.g., center of securing membrane 34 in FIG. 2). Each adjuster member may be capable of being independently adjusted so as to assist in facilitating a securing membrane 34 in securing at least a portion of one or more loads. In addition to between about 2 and about 10 fastening members 40 and the between about 1 and about 5 adjuster members 42, as shown in FIG. 2, a securing membrane 34 may further include a reinforcement structure 36. Such reinforcement structure 36 may be at least partially in communication with the between about 2 and about 10 fastening members 40, and the between about 1 and about 5 adjuster members.

Applicants have found that a suitable material for use as fastening members 40 and adjuster members 42 include, without limitation, those commercially available structures shown in Kinedyne Corporation Catalog No. CC300 (copyright 2000 Kinedyne Corporation, see e.g., http://www.kinedyne.com/interiorvan/interior-van.asp and/or http://www.kinedyne.com/hardware/hardware.asp) and S-line cargo control product (see e.g., http://www.s-line.com/catalog/index1.html).

In operation, a load-securing device 14 may be deployed in a container 12 such as, for example, a semi-trailer depicted in FIG. 2. A support member 24 is capable of storing and providing structural support to a securing membrane 34. The securing membrane 34 may be affixed to a trailer's integrated side-wall e-tracks via a spring-actuated fastening member 40. The securing membrane 34 may then be tightened and further secured via one or more adjuster members 42 such as, for example, an integrated 2″ steel ratchet that may be tightened by hand. When fully deployed and secured, the load-securing device 14 provides an exceptionally secure retaining member that is easily retracted and stored out of the way when not needed.

FIG. 7A is a cut-away illustration of FIG. 6, and FIG. 7B is a cut-away illustration of portion of FIGS. 3 and 5, depicting a support member 24 inner shaft 24′, fixed so that an outer tube may rotate around an inner shaft when extending and retracting a securing membrane 34. In FIG. 5 and FIG. 8, the inner shaft 24′ and spring of retracting mechanism 30 of support member 24, as well as head support (e.g., a plate attached to alignment assembly 26) are shown. Head support may be affixed to the alignment assembly 26 such as, for example, by any one of soldering, brazing, welding, screwing, riveting, bolting, gluing, or any combination of any of the preceding.

FIG. 5 depicts a retractor mechanism 30. The retractor mechanism 30 may deploy and retract via a ratchet assembly and may be actuated by a spring 32 mounted to the inner shaft of the support member 24. The ratchet stops may be affixed to an alignment assembly 26. An outer tube of the support member 24 may rotate to allow deployment and retraction of a securing membrane 34. The inner shaft 24′ may remain fixed and not rotate. The retractor mechanism 30 and ratchet assembly may be highly adjustable, with varying securing membrane 34 settings limited only by the number of teeth on the ratchet gear. As shown in FIGS. 5 and 8 a ratchet arm of retractor mechanism 30 may ride a top of the ratchet teeth of retractor mechanism 30 as it is rotated and may lock at any tooth until it comes to a section void of teeth. At this point, if tension is released from the securing member 34 and the ratchet is allowed to rotate in the opposite direction, the ratchet arm is lifted by the rounded tooth adjacent to notched teeth thus allowing the securing member 34 to retract. Alternative structures capable of functioning as a retractor mechanism 30 are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,766,831; 6,105,605; 5,787,923; 3,808,382; 3,715,526; and 3,619,518. An advantage of the structure of FIGS. 5 and 8 is the use of two sectors on the ratchet for release that allow the stop length of securing member 34 to be controlled more accurately (half turn instead of full turn). An operator thus has flexibility in adapting a load-securing device 14 to varying load shapes, depths, and heights. FIGS. 7A and 7B are a depiction of the connection between a support member 24 and alignment assembly 26 on a side opposite the retractor mechanism 30. The support member 24 in FIGS. 6 and 7 is depicted with the rotating outer tube in place. FIGS. 8, 9, 10A, 10B, and 10C are illustrations of an alternative structure for accomplishing the retractor mechanism 30. As another alternative, a manual release also may be used in retractor mechanism 30 for securing member 34.

Returning to FIG. 2 of a cut-away illustration of a semi-trailer showing an aspect of the present invention including a container 12 on wheels 22, outfitted with e-tracks, depicted with the stowable load-securing device 14. The support member 24 provides horizontal support for the securing membrane 34 and incorporates a retracting mechanism 30 that facilitates a stowing of the securing membrane 34 when not in use. The support member 24 may be movably mounted via an alignment assembly 26 that allows fore-and-aft adjustment of the load-securing device 14 to accommodate varying longitudinal depths of cargo (e.g., payload or load). FIG. 3 is an enlargement of the alignment assembly 26, retractor mechanism 30, support member 24, and a portion of a securing membrane 34. The alignment assembly 26 slides fore-and-aft via rollers, two sets per alignment assembly 26 side, three rollers per set. FIG. 4 is an enlarged illustration of the alignment assembly 26, retractor mechanism 30, and an inner shaft 24′ of support member 24, with the illustration depicting the support member 24 detached from the alignment assembly 26 on a side opposite the retractor mechanism 30. The support member 24 attaches to the alignment assembly 26 on the side opposite the retractor mechanism 30 via a locking pin and bushing assembly. In addition, the support member 24 is depicted in this FIG. 4 with only its fixed inner shaft 24′ illustrated; the outer rotating tube is not depicted.

The present invention is directed to a stowable load-securing device 14, load-transport system 10 including the load-securing device 14, and a method for securing the load. The load-securing device 14 includes a securing membrane 34 and a support member 24. Further, a stowable load-securing device 14 may include a tamper-resistant member 18, while a load-transport system 10 further may include at least one motive mechanism 20. The securing membrane is capable of securing at least a portion of one or more loads when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position. The support member 24 is capable of facilitating an extension and retraction of the securing membrane 34.

Accordingly, one aspect of the present invention is to provide a load-transport system 10 for facilitating a transmission of one or more loads. The system 10 includes a container 12, a securing membrane 34, and a support member 34. The container 12 is capable of accepting at least a portion of one or more loads. The securing membrane 24 is capable of securing at least a portion of one or more loads when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position. The support member 24 communicates with at least a portion of the securing membrane 34 and at least a portion of the container 12 so as to facilitate an extension and retraction of the securing membrane 34.

Another aspect of the present invention is to provide a stowable load-securing device 14 usable with a container 12 capable of accepting at least a portion of one or more loads so as to become a load-transport system 10 for facilitating a transmission of the one or more loads. The stowable load-securing device 14 includes a securing membrane 34, a support member 34, and a tamper-resistant member 18. The securing membrane 34 is capable of securing at least a portion of the one or more loads when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position. The support member 24 communicates with at least a portion of the securing membrane 34 and is capable of communicating with at least a portion of the container 12 so as to facilitate an extension and retraction of the securing membrane 34. The tamper-resistant member 18 communicates with at least a portion of the support member 24 and is capable of making the load-securing device 14 tamper-resistant.

Yet another aspect of the present invention is to provide a load-transport system 10 for facilitating a transmission of one or more loads. The system includes a container 12, a securing membrane 34, a support member, a tamper-resistant member 18, and at least one motive mechanism 20. The container 12 is capable of accepting at least a portion of the one or more loads. The securing membrane 34 is capable of securing at least a portion of the one or more loads when in an extended position and capable of stowing when in a retracted position. The support member 24 communicates with at least a portion of the securing membrane 34 and is capable of communicating with at least a portion of the container 12 so as to facilitate an extension and retraction of the securing membrane 34. The tamper-resistant member 18 communicates with at least a portion of the support member 24 and is capable of making the load-securing device 14 tamper-resistant. The at least one motive mechanism 20 communicates with the container 12 so as to make the transport system capable of a self-transmission to thereby facilitate the transmission of the one or more loads.

Still yet another aspect of the present invention is to provide a kit for a stowable load-securing device 14 usable with a container 12 capable of accepting at least a portion of one or more loads so as to become a load-transport system 10. The kit includes a securing membrane 34, a support member 24, an optional tamper-resistant member 18, and associated fasteners. The securing membrane 34, when installed, is capable of securing at least a portion of one or more loads when in an extended position and is capable of stowing when in a retracted position. The support member 24, when installed, is capable of communication with at least a portion of the securing membrane 34 and is capable of communicating with at least a portion of the container 12 so as to facilitate an extension and retraction of the securing membrane 34. The tamper-resistant member 18, when installed, is capable of communication with at least a portion of the support member 24 and is capable of making the load-securing device 14 tamper-resistant. The associated fasteners are for assembling, fastening, or assembling and fastening any one of the securing membrane 34, the support member 24, the tamper-resistant member 18, or any combination of any of the preceding.

And yet another aspect of the present invention is to provide a method for transmitting one or more loads. The method includes the steps of: providing one or more loads to a container 12; extending a securing membrane 34 to communicate with at least a portion of the one or more loads, thereby securing the at least a portion of the one or more loads in the container 12; transmitting at least a portion of the one or more loads to a first location; and retracting the securing membrane 34 so as to permit a removal of at least a portion of the at least a portion of the one or more loads.

And still yet another aspect of the present invention is to provide a method for making a stowable load-securing device 14 tamper-resistant. The method includes the steps of: providing first portions of a tamper-resistant member 18 to a container 12 that is capable of accepting at least a portion of one or more loads; providing a support member 24 so that at least a portion communicates with at least a portion of the first portions of the tamper-resistant member 18; and providing second portions of a tamper-resistant member 18 so that at least a portion of the second portion communicates with at least a portion of the first portion of the tamper-resistant member 18, thereby making the stowable load-securing device 14 tamper-resistant.

And still yet another aspect of the present invention is to provide a method for transmitting one or more loads. The method includes the steps of: (a) providing one or more loads to a container 12; (b) extending a securing membrane 34 to communicate with at least a portion of the one or more loads, thereby securing the at least a portion of the one or more loads in the container 12; (c) transmitting at least a portion of the one or more loads to a first location; (d) retracting the securing membrane 34 so as to permit a removal of at least a portion of the at least a portion of the one or more loads; (e) re-extending the securing membrane 34 to communicate with a remainder of the at least a portion of the one or more loads, thereby securing the remainder of the at least a portion of the one or more loads in the container 12; (f) transmitting the remainder of the at least a portion of the one or more loads to a next location; and (g) repeating steps (d) through (f) until the at least a portion of the one or more loads remains no more.

And still yet another aspect of the present invention is to provide a method for making a stowable load-securing device 14 tamper-resistant, the method comprising the steps of: providing first portions of a tamper-resistant member 18 to a container 12, the container 12 being capable of accepting at least a portion of one or more loads; providing a support member 24 so that at least a portion communicates with at least a portion of the first portions of the tamper-resistant member 18; providing second portions of a tamper-resistant member 18 so that at least a portion of the second portions communicates with at least a portion of the first portions of the tamper-resistance member 18, thereby making the stowable load-securing device 14 tamper-resistant; and providing a securing membrane 34 so that at least a portion communicates with at least a portion of the support member 24.

And still yet another aspect of the present invention is to provide a method for transmitting of one or more loads. The method includes providing a container 12 capable of accepting at least a portion of one or more loads; providing the at least a portion of the one or more loads; (c) securing the at least a portion of the one or more loads by extending a securing membrane 34 so that at least a potion of the securing membrane 34 and at least a portion of the at least a portion of the one or more loads are in communication; (d) communicating at least one motive mechanism 20 with the container 12 to thereby facilitate the transmission of the at least a portion of the one or more loads.

Certain modifications and improvements will occur to those skilled in the art upon a reading of the foregoing description. It should be understood that all such modifications and improvements have been deleted herein for the sake of conciseness and readability but are properly within the scope of the following claims.