Title:
Adjustable cargo partition system for use in containers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A repositionable partition or wall assembly for use within a storage or cargo transport compartment, for dividing the compartment into sub-compartments and allowing for the secured transport of cargo that does not occupy the entire container, is described. The partition or wall assembly comprises at least two vertically extending stiles, and a retaining member or means extending between the at least two vertically extending stiles, wherein the partition or wall assembly is vertically and horizontally adjustable within the compartment. Also provided are methods and systems of secured transportation of partial or full cargo loads within such cargo transportation compartments or containers.



Inventors:
Pesson, Rodney J. (US)
Application Number:
11/983204
Publication Date:
06/05/2008
Filing Date:
11/06/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61D45/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GORDON, STEPHEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Rainier Patent Group, LLC (Humble, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A wall divider system for use in dividing a space of a storage container, the wall divider system comprising: at least one partition having a height sized to extend between a floor and a ceiling of the storage container; at least one telescoping, vertically extending stile, wherein the stiles are hollow and have two ends comprising a low coefficient of friction bushing; at least one telescoping, horizontally extending stile, wherein the stiles are hollow and have two ends comprising a low coefficient of friction bushing; and a releasable lock mechanism for locking at least one of the vertically or horizontally extending stiles into an extended position.

2. The wall divider system of claim 1, wherein the stiles are made of aluminum.

3. A partition system for subdividing a cargo transportation container, the partition system comprising: a first vertical stile; a second vertical stile spaced longitudinally from the first vertical stile; and a retaining means extending between the first and second vertical stile.

4. The partition system of claim 3, further comprising two or more locking mechanisms spaced along each of the first and second vertical stile, capable of lockably engaging a securement means on at least the sides of the container.

5. A cargo containment system for transporting cargo, the system comprising: a container comprising a first e-track rail on a first side of a cargo transport and a second e-track rail on a second side of a cargo transport, spaced opposite the first e-track; and at least one partition system located within the container and capable of separating the container into a first and second compartment.

6. A container for transporting cargo in a secured manner, comprising: a first wall, a second wall, a top and a bottom; a first e-track rail on a first wall and a second e-track rail on a second wall, spaced opposite the first e-track; and a temporary partition assembly selectively located within the container for separating the container into at least a first and second compartment; wherein the partition assembly is vertically adjustable and can be lockably attached to the first and second e-track, and wherein access to the cargo in the first compartment is prevented without first removing the temporary partition assembly, while access to cargo in the second compartment is unaffected by the presence of the temporary partition.

7. The container of claim 6, wherein the container comprises a trailer, a rail car, an air cargo hold, a boat cargo hold, or a cargo container for air transport, ocean transport, road transport, or rail transport.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/864,499 filed Nov. 6, 2006, the contents of all of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

REFERENCE TO APPENDIX

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This disclosure relates generally to adjustable wall assemblies for use with storage or transportation containers, and more particularly to adjustable partition assemblies for use in dividing the interior storage compartment of a storage or transportation container into a plurality of subcompartments so as to better secure loads within the transportation container.

2. Description of the Related Art

Transportation vehicles such as trucks, trailers, railroad cars, and other freight vehicles have long utilized assemblies, such as walls or bulkheads, for dividing the internal storage compartment into a plurality of sub-compartments. Such subdivisions of the interior spaces of the storage and transportation structures has been especially desirable for separating loads going to different locations, while simultaneously minimizing the amount of lost or “empty” space within the structure due to separation of loads.

Frequently, a single transportation trailer may contain goods which are loaded at separate sites and/or for which are intended to be unloaded at separate sites. If, for example, a single truck is used to deliver cargo to a number of purchasers, the typical practice is to load the trailer such that the last load to be delivered is loaded first at the front of the trailer. Succeeding loads can be stacked thereafter in the reverse order in which they are to be delivered. As delivery proceeds, the truck trailer becomes partially emptied., thereby increasing transportation costs.

To efficiently maintain the desired temperature, trailers have been provided with movable partitions or bulkheads, which can be repositioned along the length of the trailer. In this manner, the partitions are used to close off portions of the trailers which still retain goods. However, these partitions obstruct and slow the loading process. To minimize obstruction, the partitions have sometimes been designed to swing upwardly to a stored position adjacent to the ceiling. This stored position against the ceiling is especially convenient for loading the trailer with a forklift. Other known partitions swing relative to a vertical axis leaving door-like openings between the partitions and the wall. Such door-type partitions are especially suited for loading trailers by hand with dollies. Yet another system used in the past involves the installation of the partition to a support member of the trailer wall, allowing the partition to be repositioned along the length of the trailer.

However, these known doors, bulkheads and partitions are often structurally complex, expensive, difficult to position, heavy, and must be moved each time the goods contained behind the partitions are to be loaded or unloaded. While some bulkheads or partitions have been described having doors that can be opened, a majority of the partitions are substantially solid, and it is therefore difficult to know precisely what is behind the bulkhead without first moving it. Additionally, these known partitions or bulkheads often feature heavy mounting hardware and, in order to be moved, are hinged such that the entire bulkhead or partition is lifted, much in the manner of an overhead garage door, and then positioned along the roof of the trailer when not in use. Such doors are often difficult and expensive to repair, and also can represent a potential safety hazard should the door hardware fail and the door come down unexpectedly.

Other approaches have included the use of repositionial barriers, having hanger-bars extending across the width of a trailer. Blanket- or tarp-type material, or flexible strip-type material for use in thermal insulation, can be supported by the hanger bar. These types of barriers are most often used in refrigerated trailers, and utilize light-weight, translucent or transparent material, in order to allow the cargo behind the strips or blanket to be seen, while avoiding the storage, cost, and manipulation problems inherent with the use of heavy, rigid bulkheads or partitions.

Often, however, operators of such transporting and delivering operations, end up not using or rejecting the use of such partitions due to the partitions being either awkward or difficult and inconvenient to use. This in turn subjects the non-separated cargo to problems with off-loading of packages, inefficient use of space within the transport container, and the like. For example, with respect to the rigid partitions or bulkheads, such partitions are often not easily re-positional along the length of a trailer, making their use to close off spaces within the trailer ineffective or strenuous. With respect to the “curtain” or strip-type blanket dividers, while they may be efficient for on-loading and off-loading individual packages or small numbers of packages, they can be a hindrance to bulk applications. For example, when goods must be loaded in bulk, such as by a forklift, it is desirable to provide a way for the curtain to be moved from its position stretching across the load space to enable free access to the cargo or the cargo space. Without a facile, easily operated structure to enable the movement of the curtain along the trailer width and length, there is a tendency for the operator to fail to use the curtain-type divider, or not use it properly.

Another problem in the shipping industry is the shifting and undesirable movement of loads within the transport container. Items and boxes can move around the interior space of a carrier container, which not only risks damaging the merchandise being transported, especially fragile items such as electronics or impact sensitive food products like potato chips, but these shifts in load weight within the container can shift the weight of the transport vehicle. This latter effect may in turn cause an unbalanced load to such a degree that the tractor trailer or other transport means rolls or tips, in turn threatening not only the life of the operator of the transport, but the life of others surrounding the transport who are totally unaware of the danger that they can be in.

Accordingly, there exists a need for a lightweight, flexible dividing wall or partition for use with non-refrigerated cargo which may be quickly and easily positioned throughout the entire length of a truck trailer or similar cargo container, while at the same time providing structure suitable for use in segregating cargo loads. This application for patent discloses an adjustable wall assembly for use in segregating cargo within a cargo container into a plurality of sub-compartments.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The objects and purposes of the present disclosure, including those set forth above, have been met by providing an adjustable wall or partition assembly, wherein the wall or partition assembly comprises support mechanisms which cooperate to affix the wall assembly to the opposed side walls and, optionally, the spatially opposed floor and ceiling, of a storage container. In accordance with embodiments of the present disclosure, the assembly can further comprise one or more support mechanisms located along the side walls or on the ceiling of the storage container, the support mechanisms functioning to permit the wall assembly to have a swinging movement between an open and closed (or raised and lowered) position within the container. The wall assembly may further comprise one or more latching means or latching assemblies, adapted to lockingly engage the assembly structure as appropriate in the vertical direction, horizontal direction, or both directions simultaneously.

In accordance with further aspects of the embodiments of this disclosure, the wall assembly may further comprise one or more flexible sealing strips disposed along the edge of at least two sides of the assembly, in order to create at least a partially-sealed engagement with the walls of the container. In yet another aspect of the present disclosure, the presently described wall assembly may further comprise one or more locking mechanisms disposed on the assembly, wherein the locking mechanisms cooperate with lock members secured to at least one of the side walls in order to securably lock the wall assembly into position.

In yet another aspect of the present disclosure, a partition system for subdividing a cargo transportation container is described, the partition system comprising a first vertical stile; a second vertical stile spaced longitudinally from the first vertical stile; and a retaining means extending between the first and second vertical stile.

In another aspect of the present disclosure, a cargo containment system for transporting cargo is described, the system comprising: a container comprising a first e-track rail on a first side of a cargo transport and a second e-track rail on a second side of a cargo transport, spaced opposite the first e-track; and at least one partition system located within the container and capable of separating the container into a first and second compartment.

In a further aspect of the present disclosure, a container for transporting cargo in a secured manner is described, wherein the container comprises a first wall, a second wall, a top and a bottom; a first e-track rail on a first wall and a second e-track rail on a second wall, spaced opposite the first e-track; and a temporary partition assembly selectively located within the container for separating the container into at least a first and second compartment; wherein the partition assembly is vertically adjustable and can be lockably attached to the first and second e-track, and wherein access to the cargo in the first compartment is prevented without first removing the temporary partition assembly, while access to cargo in the second compartment is unaffected by the presence of the temporary partition.

In further accordance with aspects of the embodiments of the present disclosure, each of the vertical stiles at the outer ends of the partitions of the present disclosure may have two or more latches, such as spring-loaded latches, which is connected, e.g., pivotally, to the outer face of a respective vertical end stile. Each latch member can include a conventional spring-loaded clasp, or similarly designed latching mechanism or latching means that is designed to interact and connect with rails typically located within the cargo compartment of transportation vehicles. In some instances, such latch members may include a housing and a spring-loaded catch that is pivotally connected inside the housing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The following figures form part of the present specification and are included to further demonstrate certain aspects of the present invention. The invention may be better understood by reference to one or more of these figures in combination with the detailed description of specific embodiments presented herein.

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a truck trailer illustrating the use of a partition in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure.

FIG. 2 illustrates a front view of a wall partition in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure.

FIG. 3A illustrates a detailed view of a stile for use with a wall assembly in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure.

FIG. 3B illustrates a partial cutaway view of the stile of FIG. 3A.

FIG. 3C illustrates alternate end assemblies for use with the stiles of the assembly described herein.

FIG. 4 illustrates a perspective view of a highway transportation trailer with the top broken away to show partitions of the present disclosure, in operative position, with the procedure for moving the panels being illustrated with broken lines.

FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary expansion and contraction mechanism for use in combination with assemblies described herein.

FIG. 6A illustrates a frontal view of an alternative embodiment of a cargo partition of the present disclosure.

FIG. 6B illustrates a side-on view of the cargo partition of FIG. 6A, as viewed in the direction along arrow α1.

FIG. 6C illustrates an perspective interior view of one of the vertical stiles of the assembly of FIG. 6A.

FIG. 6D illustrates a side cut-away view of a vertical stile of the assembly in FIG. 6A, showing a vertical adjustment means for the partition.

FIG. 7 illustrates a schematic, perspective view of the partition of FIG. 6A in use in a container.

FIG. 8 illustrates a detailed view of the area I indicated on FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 illustrates a side elevational view, in partial cross-section, showing the details of the construction and operation of the latch member in a rail system.

While the inventions disclosed herein are susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, only a few specific embodiments have been shown by way of example in the drawings and are described in detail below. The figures and detailed descriptions of these specific embodiments are not intended to limit the breadth or scope of the inventive concepts or the appended claims in any manner. Rather, the figures and detailed written descriptions are provided to illustrate the inventive concepts to a person of ordinary skill in the art and to enable such person to make and use the inventive concepts.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The Figures described above and the written description of specific structures and functions below are not presented to limit the scope of what Applicants have invented or the scope of the appended claims. Rather, the Figures and written description are provided to teach any person skilled in the art to make and use the inventions for which patent protection is sought. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that not all features of a commercial embodiment of the inventions are described or shown for the sake of clarity and understanding. Persons of skill in this art will also appreciate that the development of an actual commercial embodiment incorporating aspects of the present inventions will require numerous implementation-specific decisions to achieve the developer's ultimate goal for the commercial embodiment. Such implementation-specific decisions may include, and likely are not limited to, compliance with system-related, business-related, government-related and other constraints, which may vary by specific implementation, location and from time to time. While a developer's efforts might be complex and time-consuming in an absolute sense, such efforts would be, nevertheless, a routine undertaking for those of skill this art having benefit of this disclosure. It must be understood that the inventions disclosed and taught herein are susceptible to numerous and various modifications and alternative forms. Lastly, the use of a singular term, such as, but not limited to, “a,” is not intended as limiting of the number of items. Also, the use of relational terms, such as, but not limited to, “top,” “bottom,” “left,” “right,” “upper,” “lower,” “down,” “up,” “side,” and the like are used in the written description for clarity in specific reference to the Figures and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention or the appended claims.

In general terms, Applicant has created an adjustable wall assembly, alternatively and equally acceptably termed a partition assembly, for use in segregating or subdividing cargo loads within a cargo container into a plurality of sub-compartments. The inventions described herein are applicable to an the interior of any cargo transportation container, including but not limited to the interior of a truck trailer, a semi tractor trailer, a railcar, an air cargo hold, a boat cargo hold, or a cargo container that itself is used for air transport, ocean transport, road transport, rail transport, or transport by any other vehicle or manner. The cargo transportation container may also be placed into another transportation container, such as a container placed into a cargo hold, or the container may be the cargo hold itself. The inventions, as described herein, will be described in an exemplary manner as they relate to a trailer for use in a tractor-trailer vehicle combination for over-the-road transportation.

Turning now to the figures, FIG. 1 illustrates therein a cargo storage container 10 which, in the illustrated embodiment, comprises a conventional truck freight trailer, such as a that generally known as truck-and-trailer combinations, having a truck (tractor) cab 11 to which the freight trailer (cargo storage container) 10 is hitched using conventional hitching means. While the figures herein generally illustrate a freight trailer container application, as indicated previously, the presently disclosed apparatus is in no means meant to be limited to such applications, and is envisioned to be adaptable and usable in connection with other freight containers, including rail cars, residential and commercial moving vans, and shipping containers. Accordingly, in this specification, the trailer freight load-carrying compartment will be referred to generally as a “container”.

As further illustrated in FIG. 1, container 10 generally comprises a wall structure which includes a top wall (roof or ceiling) 12, a bottom wall (floor) 13, opposed and substantially parallel, spaced-apart side walls 14 and 16, a front vertical wall (not shown), and a rear wall which, in the illustrated embodiment, comprises conventional openable doors 15 and 17 (not shown). These walls define a substantially closed cargo storage compartment 19 which may divided into sub-compartments by means of adjustable wall assemblies 20a and 20b. The adjustable wall assemblies 20a and 20b are substantially identical. In accordance with aspects of the present disclosure, one or more of the wall assemblies described herein may comprise a hinged pass-through door (not illustrated) associated therewith for permitting communication between the subcompartments located on opposite sides of the assembly.

FIG. 2 illustrates a general adjustable wall assembly 20 in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure, shown in use in a container wherein the bottom side 24 is expanded against floor 13 of a container such as that shown in FIG. 1, and the side 28 is shown expanded against side wall 16. The assembly comprises an outer frame made up of top and bottom sections 22 and 24, and side sections 26 and 28. As shown, sections 22 and 24, and sections 26 and 28, are substantially parallel from each other, and spaced apart by some distance. Adjustable wall assembly 20 further comprises at least one, and preferably a plurality of, vertical stiles 30 and horizontal rails 32. Preferably, vertical stiles 30 and horizontal rails 32 are oriented in a manner such that they are substantially perpendicular to each other, although it is envisioned that any number of appropriate geometries could be used. With reference two stiles 30 and 32, they may be of any appropriate shape, although in accordance with preferred embodiments of the present invention, they are cylindrical in shape. Stiles 30 and 32 can be made of any suitable material, including but not limited to metals, such as aluminum, steel, and metal alloys; plastic or other suitably hard synthetic material, such as polyurethane or polyvinylchloride (PVC); resinous material; fiberglass; wood; synthetic wood and wood/plastic mixtures, or combinations thereof. Additionally, as will be discussed in association with FIG. 3 below, the rails and stiles are telescoping, which allows for the entire assembly 20 to be both vertically and horizontally adjustable, as well as compacted into a small space and moved by the user as desired, and then expanded and easily adjusted to fit the appropriate interior space within a container. Releasable lock mechanisms 40 and 42, which can be any known releasable latching means, can also be included within assembly 20, so as to lock the vertical and horizontal stiles 30 and 32 into position, once they have been expended out telescopically into position. Adjustable wall assembly 20 may further comprise feet 36 or other appropriate cushioning means, such as suction cups 34, for use in further securing the assembly 20 against the walls, floor, and ceiling of the container, while simultaneously functioning to minimize wear and damage to the interior of the container. Without limitation, and in accordance with certain aspects of the present disclosure, assembly 20 may be from about 60 inches to about 72 inches in vertical height, and may be capable of extending from its compacted, storage state to its engaged state having an extended width ranging from about 84 inches to about 96 inches.

Wall assembly 20 further comprises a netting member 50 extending substantially across the interior of the assembly, and may be generally rectangular, trapezoidal or any shape suitable for substantially covering the open space between the sides 22, 24, 26 and 28 of the assembly 20. The netting member 50 may be permanently or removably secured to the interior of the wall assembly 20 in any number of known attachment methods, or using any suitable attachment means.

It is to be understood that the netting member 50 may be formed from any suitable natural or synthetic material and by any suitable process. In accordance with one embodiment of the present disclosure, the netting member 50 comprises a lightweight, resilient and strong synthetic material selected from the group consisting of coated polyesters, multifilament polypropylenes, nylons, fiberglass, and mixtures thereof. Further, in accordance with one embodiment, the netting member 50 is formed by at least one of woven, knitted, rochelle, and weft insertion processes. Netting member 50 may alternately comprise a flexibly rigid, extruded polymeric material such as engineered plastics, or may comprise a more rigid material, such as aluminum or metal wires. In any of the described embodiments, it may be preferable for the netting member 50 to be of a size ranging from very small mesh size, eg. from about a 1 mm mesh to about a 2 mm mesh, to a much larger mesh size, e.g., from about a 25 mm mesh to about a 30 mm mesh, as well as mesh sizes falling between these two sizes, such as a mesh size from about 10 mm to about 20 mm. These mesh sizes are preferred because they are easily seen through and may allow for operators to more readily discern what is behind the dividing wall assembly 20. Further, the choice of smaller mesh may add strength to the netting member 50 in that there is more material per square centimeter than with a larger mesh.

In accordance with still further aspects of the present disclosure, the netting member 50 may optionally be replaced with a flexible material which can be expanded along with assembly 20 during operation. Suitable materials include cloth and tarps, as well as synthetic and natural materials known in the art, including polyester, polyethylene, rayon, wool, and combinations thereof.

Turning now to FIGS. 3A and 3B, partial views of an exemplary, non-limiting stile 30 in accordance with aspects of the present invention are illustrated. While the discussion here is directed to vertical stiles 30, it is meant and understood to be applicable, equivalently, to horizontal rails 32. The stile 30 is illustrated having a hemispherical foot 36 that is formed of a suitably high-friction elastic material. In accordance with one aspect of the present disclosure, the foot 36 is made for a non-marking material that is treated to resist structural degradation through ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and the like. As shown in the drawing, the foot 36 may have a concentrically ribbed external surface 38. As illustrated in the sectional view of stile 30 in FIG. 3B, the stile may further comprise a cylindrical cuff 31, which protrudes from the hemispherical portion of the foot 36. The hollow, cylindrical stiles 30 (and rails 32) typically have an open end portion that is capable of receiving the cuff 31 in a substantially snug fit in order to retain the foot 36 in the open end of the stile 30.

As described previously, the stiles 30 and rails 32 provide housings in which respective arrays of nested, telescoped sets of hollow stiles. As illustrated, the outer stile 30 is of maximum stile diameter, and individual stiles 33, 35, 37 and 39 are nested within the outer stile 30, each of the individual stiles being of a progressively smaller diameter until a last stile 39 in the set of stiles is reached, the last stile 39 having the smallest diameter in the entire set. This last stile 39 is attached to a centrally located core stile, which runs substantially the length of the compressed assembly 20, and serves to add additional support to the assembly.

In accordance with further aspects of the present disclosure, stile 30, and successively smaller diameter individual stiles 33, 35, 37 and 39 nested immediately within the stile (or rail) may each be provided with respective dampers 41, 43, 45 and 47. The dampers 41, 43, 45 and 47 may be of polyethylene or any other suitable material having a suitable coefficient of friction, and may be designed so as to have an orifice (not shown) for controlling the flow of air from the stile. Each of the dampers 41, 43, 45 and 47 has a respective aperture of predetermined diameter to regulate the speed with which the stiles 30 (or rails 32) retracts under a force, such as from the force of gravity, thereby retarding or controlling the retraction velocity of the stiles or rails.

In reference to FIG. 3C, alternative attachments for foot 34 are illustrated. In one embodiment of the present disclosure, foot 34 may be secured within a first shaped mounting piece, 50, having a shoulder 55 for engaging foot 34. Foot 34 may be inserted and retained by friction, or by some attachment means, such as by the use of a set screw, an adhesive, and the like. As illustrated within the figure, the assembly comprising mounting piece 50 and foot 34 may then be slidably engaged into rail 32 (or stile 30), to the point that it passes over tabs 51 and is locked in place. In accordance with other aspects of the present invention, and as illustrated in the cross-section of FIG. 3C, rail 32 (or stile 30) may have one or more notches 54 formed into the interior wall 52 of the rail 32 for the purpose of engaging an appropriate tab formed in mounting piece 50 (not shown). In other aspects of the present disclosure, mounting piece 50, or even foot 34, may be formed such that it can threadably engage with rail 32 or stile 30. For example, while not illustrated herein, it is envisioned that mounting piece 50 could have external threads which threadably engage with interior threads formed into at least a portion of the interior section of rail 32 (or stile 30).

FIG. 4 illustrates further embodiments of the present invention. As illustrated in the cut-away drawing therein, a container 10 comprising opposing side walls 14 and 16, floor 13, ceiling/roof 12 and doors 15 and 17 can comprise a plurality of adjustable wall assemblies 20a, 20b in accordance with the present disclosure. In aspects of the instant disclosure, these adjustable wall assemblies may be optionally attached to a wall 14 or the ceiling 12 of the container, so as to be easily swung out of the way for freight loading purposes, and then readily returned to its desired position. For example, assembly 20a is illustrated to be rotatably attached by an appropriate attachment means (not shown) having a rotational capability to the ceiling 12 of the container. Once cargo has been loaded into sub-compartment 62, assembly 20a is released and allowed to swing down in the direction of arrow “B”, to a point where assembly 20a is substantially perpendicular to side walls 14 and 16, thereby forming sub-compartments 62 and 64. Alternatively, assembly 20a, 20b (and other assemblies herein) may be part of a partition system comprising one or more rails 68 with at least one formed slot 69 to movably support the partition assemblies described herein and located proximal to the ceiling 12 of the transportation container. In accordance with this aspect, the partition system may optionally include a lift assembly including one or more lifting pulleys 66 attached the ceiling or sidewall of the container, for the purpose of assisting in the swinging of partitions as described herein from a stowed position near the ceiling to the operating position. Systems such as this are described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 7,195,435, incorporated by reference in its entirety herein. Optionally, and equally acceptable, an assembly such as adjustable wall divider assembly 20b may be hingably attached to one of the walls, i.e., wall 14. During freight loading operations, the assembly 20b is swung open against wall 14, such that it is substantially parallel to wall 14. Upon completion of the loading, assembly 20b may then be released from wall 14 and swingably rotatated on a hinge assembly or suitable rotational means (mounted to wall 14) into the desired position, thereby separating the previously loaded freight from freight to be loaded later, and creating at least two sub-compartments within container 10.

In operation, the assembly 20 is placed within a container, at the desired location so as to divide the container as desired by the user, and segregate cargos. Vertical stiles 30 and horizontal rails 32 are telescoped out from their initial, compressed position to a position such that the feet 36 at the end of the rails and stiles are in direct contact with at least the opposing walls of the container. At this point, lock mechanisms 40 and 42 are engaged, tensioning the telescoped stiles and rails tightly against the walls and/or floor and ceiling of the container. Feet 36, or other appropriate cushioning or attachment means (such as suction cups 34) act to buffer the ends of the rails and stiles and the interior walls, floor, and/or ceiling of the container, so as not to mar the surface or unnecessarily deform the interior surface of the container during use of assembly 20.

Turning now to FIG. 5, an exemplary releasable lock mechanism 100 in accordance with the present disclosure is described. Referring to the figures of drawings in which reference characters are used to denote like parts referred to herein, the reference character 100 denotes an exemplary overall structure of a releasable lock mechanism device 111 and expander 112 combination. The assembly expander/contracter 112 may be of the same or similar structure to numerous expander assemblies which have been available for a number of years and are presently available on the market. As illustrated in FIG. 5, it includes a rigid elongated bar 113 having a plurality of teeth forming a jack rack 114 along one edge thereof and extending throughout at least the intermediate portion 115 of the bar 113 between opposite ends 116 and 117. The assembly expander/contractor 112 may have one or more assembly holding or mounting means 120 permanently affixed to the bar 113 adjacent the end 116 thereof and a carrier 121 which includes a jack mechanism 122 engageable with the jack rack 114 for forcibly driving the carrier 121 towards the end 116 on which the strand holding means 120 is stationarily fastened.

While the entire structure 100, which includes the releasable lock mechanism device 111 and the assembly expander/contractor consisting of the bar 113, assembly holding or engaging means 120 and carrier 121 may be manufactured and marketed as a unit, in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure, the device can be sold as a separate product for attachment to the end 117 of the bar 113 in a wall assembly 120 of the type shown or described herein. The device 111 includes a body portion 123 formed by a pair of plates 124 and 125. The plates have near the bottom thereof aligned bores 126 and 127 which permit attachment to the bar 113 adjacent its end 117. The holes 126 and 127 are adapted to align with a hole 130 in the bar so as to receive a rivet, bolt or like fastener 131 for rigidly connecting the device 111 to the bar 113 at end 117. More than one such fastener 131 may be provided to ensure a rigid connection of the clamp device 111 to the bar 113.

The plate 125 which forms the front plate of the body portion may have a relatively low profile, as shown, except for a raised section 132 at its outside end which is provided with a bore 133 aligned with a bore 134 in an upward projecting portion 135 of the plate 124 which forms the back plate of the body portion 123, the bores 133 and 134 receiving a pivot pin 136. Mounted on a front end of the pivot pin 136 adjacent a front face of the plate 125 is a handle 137 which allows manual operation of a strand clamp means 138 of the wire clamp device 111. The pivot pin 136 is received in a bore 140 near the upper end of the handle 137. A downwardly depending portion 141 of the handle 137 can be grasped for pivoting the handle, thus forming a lever having the pivot pin 136 as its fulcrum.

Adjacent the top of the upwardly projecting portion 135 of the back plate 124 there is provided on the front face thereof a receiving means 142, in the form of a block 143 having a plate engaging surface 144 at one face thereof and a downwardly depending flange 145 at the outer face thereof to form a downwardly open, wire receiving channel 146 between the flange 145 and the front face of the back plate 135. The block 143 is provided with bores 147 which align with bores 148 in the upwardly projecting portion 135 of the back plate 124. Fastening members such as rivets or screws or the like connect the block 143 to the back plate 124.

A dog member 151 has a lower portion thereof disposed between the raised section 132 of the front plate 125 and the back plate 124, the lower portion of the dog member 151 being provided with a bore 152 which receives pivot pin 136. On a front face of the dog member 151 there is provided an embossment 153 into which extends a bore 154 receiving a pin 155. The pin 155 also extends through a bore 156 in an upper extension of the handle 137 to provide a pivot connection between the handle 137 and the dog member 151. The dog member has an upper portion moveable into the channel 146 and providing a slanted upper surface 157 terminating in a sharp edge 158 at the side towards the carrier 121. A tension spring 159 has one end fastened to the body portion 123 of the wire clamping device 111 and the opposite end fastened to the handle 137 for biasing the handle in a counter-clockwise direction as viewed in FIG. 5. Thus the spring force is transmitted from the handle 137 through the pin 154 and thereby biases the dog member 151 to pivot about the pivot pin 136 also in a counter-clockwise direction. This in turn forces the upper surface 157 up into the channel 146. On the other hand, if the handle is manually turned clockwise against the tension of the spring, the upper portion of the dog member 151 is pulled in a direction out of the clamping position within the channel 146. Due to the relationship of the pivot axis of the dog member in relation to the underside of the block 143 and the fact the upper surface of the dog member 151 is slanted upward in a direction toward the carrier 121, the clamping effect on a strand 160 of wire in the channel 146 is such that the tension on the strand 160 in a direction away from the carrier 113 causes the engaging edge 158 to engage the assembly 20 more tightly. In other words, the design of the device 111 is to provide the most effective holding, expanding or pulling (contracting) on the assembly 20 in a direction towards the carrier 121, thereby preventing the strand from withdrawing in the opposite direction, i.e., in a direction away from the carrier device. It is apparent that other types of clamp means could be used in the structure of the device 111, but it is essential such means is capable of providing a pull force on the clamped strand at least in a direction towards the carrier 121 and thus towards the holding means 120 also.

As previously described, the holding means 120 is affixed to the bar 113 at the opposite end 116 of the bar. It is provided with a projecting portion 135′ which extends away from the bar in a direction substantially normal to the bar 113, and it may have a strand clamp means 138′ of a design similar to that described in relation to that of the wire clamp device. For example, it may include near its outer extremity a block 143′ which forms a strand receiving channel. While not specifically illustrated in the figures, an end portion of another spaced-apart section of assembly 20 may be received in such a clamp means 138′ which has a manually operable handle 137′ and is designed so as to exert a pull (or push) force in a direction opposite to clamp means 138 of the clamp device 111, i.e. in a direction from end 116 of the bar 113 towards the carrier 121. The projecting portion 135′ of the strand holding means 120 preferably has a curved edge 163 facing the carrier 121 to facilitate the use of the structure 100 in the attachment to a post or rail/stile of assembly 20, as will be understood by those of skill in the art. The curve 163 may terminate in a slightly in-turned point 164, as illustrated, although this is not necessary.

The carrier 121 can include, in addition to the jack mechanism 122, a projecting portion 135″ also provided with a clamp means 138″ including a manually operable handle 137″ and a block 143″ providing an inverted receiving channel as well. Again the clamp means 138″ may be of the same type of structure as that described in relation to the clamp device 111. Like the clamp means 138 of the clamp device 111, it is designed to effect a pull force on a specific portion (or portions) of the assembly 20 at least in the direction of arrow A, i.e. in a direction resulting in the expansion of assembly 20. The jack mechanism 122 of the carrier 121 may be of any known design for ratcheting the carrier along the intermediate portion 115 of the bar 113. As shown n FIG. 5, for example, the jack mechanism may include a handle 165 pivotally connected to the carrier 121 by a pivot pin 166, and a pawl 167 is pivotally connected to the handle 165 by a pin 169, the pawl 167 being biased into a tooth engaging condition of the jack rack 114 by a spring 168. Swinging of the handle 165 in a to and fro motion by an operator of the tightener 112 forces the carrier in a step-by-step motion towards the holding means 120. By manually disengaging the pawl 167 from the jack rack 114, the carrier can be slid towards the wire clamp device 111.

FIG. 6A illustrates a further, alternative partition assembly of the present disclosure, the vertically and horizontally adjustable partition assembly 200 comprising a first vertically extending stile, or support post, 210 and a second, vertically extending stile or support post, 212, which is spaced apart from the first stile 210 as illustrated. Extending in between vertical stiles 210 and 210 a retaining member 214, which as shown is an expandable and contractable metal, folding gate having a plurality of inter-connecting struts 216, but which may equivalently be a net or other suitable retaining means as described above. In accordance with one aspect of the present disclosure, the retaining member is preferably a folding gate such as a scissor-type or accordion gate, as illustrated in the figures. As shown in FIG. 6A, when the retaining member 214 is a folding gate, protective end caps 218, such as made from rubber or other appropriate materials, may optionally be formed onto the ends of the struts 216 so as to prevent unwanted damage or marring to the floor and ceiling of the container during use of the partition. Stiles 210 and 212 can be made of any suitable material, including but not limited to metals, such as aluminum, steel, galvanized steel, titanium, and metal alloys; plastic or other suitably hard synthetic material, such as polyurethane or polyvinylchloride (PVC); resinous material; fiberglass; wood; synthetic wood and wood/plastic mixtures, or combinations thereof.

With continued reference to FIG. 6A, each of the vertical stiles 210, 212 comprise a plurality, preferably at least two and more preferably at least three, latching means 220 for engagement with, and securement of, assembly 200 to the interior walls of a container, such as by interacting with E-track or similar rail-type securement means 230 which may be typically found within transportation containers. Latching means 220 are oriented on the exterior faces (210b, 212b) of the vertical stiles, and may be directly connected to the stile, or may have a flexible connector 222, such as a web or mesh material connector (shown), such as a polymeric material connector of variable length as appropriate, a chain-style connection, a rope or cable-style connection, or similar connector means. While latching means 220 may be latch member having a projection or pivot arm as illustrated herein, it is by no means limited to such a latching member, and any latching means 220 may be used, provided that it can lockably engage a rail-type securement means or system 230 on the walls of the container. As also illustrated in the figure, the vertical stiles 210, 212 may optionally further comprise a plurality of apertures 221a formed in and extending through the body of the stiles, so that the latching means 220 can be variably oriented in a vertical manner, and locked into a plurality of vertical positions, depending upon the placement of the system to which the partition system 200 will engage, e.g., E-track or the like.

FIG. 6B is an illustration of vertical stile 210, as viewed in the direction of arrow al in FIG. 6A, and illustrating the placement of latching means 220 within stile 210 (and 212), such that the latching means 220 are directly or indirectly engaged with the external face of vertical stiles by way of vertical slot 226, which allow for the vertical movement of the latching means 220 up and down spaced portions of the vertical stiles, in the direction of the arrows as shown. In typical operation, once the latching means has been oriented and placed at the desired height, by moving it up or down within vertical slot 226, a pivot pin 221 is inserted through the corresponding sized and shaped aperture 221a in stile 210, 212 so as to lock the latching means in place. This is shown in more detail in FIGS. 8 and 9, below. This combination of engagement with the vertical slot 226 and the pivot pin (221) and corresponding aperture 221a assembly discussed above allows for variable, vertical placement of the partition system 200 within a container, as will be discussed in more detail below. Additionally, the flexibility of vertical placement and securement of the partition system within the container is enhanced by these vertically-movable latching means along the length of the vertical stiles in that they allow for the instances where side securement rails, like E-track 230, are not placed as consistent heights along the side walls of a container, but rather are located at random heights. This feature of the present disclosure allows the partition systems to be readily adaptable to a variety of transport or container systems, without a need for a “universal” latching receptacle for the partition system to secure itself to.

FIG. 6C illustrates a partial, perspective interior view of one of the vertical stiles 210 of the assembly of FIG. 6A, illustrating an exemplary engagement of the retaining member 214, such as an accordion gate as illustrated, within the vertical stiles of the partition 200, allowing for vertical height adjustment of the partition, as necessary within the container. As shown in the figure, the interior face of stile 210 comprises at least one, and preferably two or more, vertically-extending interior slots 224 which extend through the interior face 210a of the stile, and which allow for the retaining means 214 to be vertically adjusted as necessary for proper placement with a container. The retaining means 214 is preferably engaged with vertical interior slot 224 via a coupler 228, which will be described in more detail in reference to FIG. 6D, below. In accordance with certain aspects of the present disclosure, these vertical slots 224 allow the stiles and/or the retaining member portion of the partition 220 to telescope in height from a minimum height of about 4 feet to a maximum vertical height of about 72 inches. In certain aspects of the present disclosure, the partitions may be vertically adjustable to heights up to about 75% of the total interior height of the container, or alternatively, may be adjustable to heights greater than about 75% of the total interior height of the container.

In FIG. 6D, a side cut-away view of a vertical stile of the assembly in FIG. 6A, showing a vertical adjustment means for the partition 200 and illustrating an exemplary manner of vertical adjustment. As shown in the figure, the retaining means 214 is attached in any appropriate manner (such as welding, etc, depending upon the material and structure of retaining means 214) to a coupler 228, having a neck portion 229 extending into the interior portion of the stile 210, and connecting to a roller wheel assembly, which comprise one or more wheels 227, via axel 227a extending through wheel(s) 227 and neck portion 229 of the coupler. The head portion 225 is preferably shaped and sized such that its diameter is greater than the diameter of vertical slot 224 on the interior face 210a of stile 210. In operation, the roller wheel assembly within stile 210 rolls vertically up and down the interior face 210a′ of the stile in the direction of the arrows, allowing for the retaining means 214 to raise or lower in height as appropriate. While not shown, the wheel assembly may optionally also include a through-pin or similar locking means which extends through a plurality of sized openings, and that extend through at least a portion of the body of the stile, so as to retain the roller wheel assembly in a plurality of vertical positions.

FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary cargo restraining gate or partition 200 in accordance with the present disclosure in use within a transportation container and separating a load comprising a plurality of boxes 300.

In a preferred embodiment, the E-track channels 230 are standard E-track channels such as found on conventional over-the-road transport trailers. Other channels, rails, etc. may be used to secure the first vertical stile 210 and the second vertical stile 212 to the first wall 14 and the second wall 16 via latching means 220, including but not limited to A-track, S-track, F-track, or any horizontal rail having slots 232 disposed thereon to enable engagement with the latching means 220. The rail/track need not be disposed horizontally, but horizontal disposition provides greater flexibility in placement of the secured divider 12. Alternatively, the manner of engagement of the vertical stiles 210, 212 may be integral with the first wall 14 and the second wall 16. The engagement of the vertical stiles 210, 212 with the first wall 14 and the second wall 16 may be made in any conventional manner without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, except as further described herein.

FIG. 8 illustrates a detailed view of a portion “I” of FIG. 7, illustrating a latching means 220 engaged with a slot 232 via clasp 240 of latching means 220 so as to retain partition 200 in place and prevent the unwanted removal of the latching means 220 from the E-track 230. Flexible connector 222, as illustrated therein, may be a strap, such as a mesh web, or polymeric material of high strength, suitable for use in both connecting the partition assembly 200 to the E-track rail 230, but also for allowing for additional horizontal flexibility of the assembly 200, depending upon the length of connector 222. Preferably, however, connector 222 is of a very minimal length, so as to ensure the rigidity of the partition assembly 200.

FIG. 9 illustrates a side elevational view of a portion of a partition system in accordance with the present disclosure, in partial cross-section, showing the details of the construction and operation of the latch member in a rail system attached to a container wall, 14. As is shown therein, the latch member 220 includes a housing 270 containing a clasp member 272 which is connected to the housing at a pivot point 274 and which allows the clasp member 272 to pivot against the force of a compression spring 273 also contained within the housing 270. This type of spring-loaded clasp arrangement is very suitable for use with a standard E-track rail system, such as described herein and as found in many vehicle cargo compartments and containers. As is further shown in FIG. 9, the housing 270 has a pair of recesses 278 and 278a, which are adapted to receive portions of the rail 230. To firmly seat the latch member 220 in a slot 232 in the rail 230, the upper end 272a of the clasp 272 is biased by the force of the spring 273 against the outside surface of the rail 230. The latch member also firmly seats lip members 279, 279a against the inside surface of the rail 230. As can be seen in the figure, latch member 220 may be disengaged from a recess 232 in the E-track rail 230 by actuating 272a in a downward direction, as indicated.

FIG. 9 also illustrates how flexible connector 222 connects to the vertical stiles 212 in a vertically adjustable manner. The connector 222 can be attached to a support 260 having a tongue 261 extending through a vertical slot in the outer face of the stile. The tongue 261 has an orifice 221b therethrough, which aligns with holes 221a in stile 212 such that a securement pin 221 may be inserted therethrough and retain the vertical attachment system shown in the desired vertical elevation.

While compositions and methods are described in terms of “comprising” various components or steps (interpreted as meaning “including, but not limited to”), the compositions and methods can also “consist essentially of” or “consist of” the various components and steps, such terminology should be interpreted as defining essentially closed-member groups.

Additionally, the term “coupled,” “coupling,” and like terms are used broadly herein and can include any method or device for securing, binding, bonding, fastening, attaching, joining, inserting therein, forming thereon or therein, communicating, or otherwise associating, for example, mechanically, magnetically, electrically, chemically, directly or indirectly with intermediate elements, one or more pieces of members together and can further include integrally forming one functional member with another. The coupling can occur in any direction, including rotationally. Further, other terminology used in the description for convenience and reference only is not meant to be limiting in any way. For example, the words “upwardly”, “downwardly”, “rightwardly”, and “leftwardly” will refer to directions in the drawings to which reference is made. The words “inwardly” and “outwardly” will refer to directions toward and away from, respectively, the geometric center of the wall assembly and designated parts thereof.

Such terminology is meant to include the words specifically mentioned, as well as derivatives thereof and words of similar import.

All of the methods, processes and/or apparatus disclosed and claimed herein can be made and executed without undue experimentation in light of the present disclosure. While the methods, apparatus and processes of this invention have been described in terms of preferred embodiments, it will be apparent to those of skill in the art that variations may be applied to the methods, apparatus and/or processes and in the steps or in the sequence of steps of the methods described herein without departing from the concept and scope of the invention. For example, while objects of the present invention have been described as being in specific spatial relationships such as “parallel to” and “horizontal to”, it is envisioned that such objects can also be at a variety of angles (e.g., acute, obtuse, or oblique angles) with respect to one another without departing from the scope of the present invention. More specifically, it will be apparent that certain features which are both mechanically and functionally related can be substituted for the features described herein while the same or similar results would be achieved. All such similar substitutes and modifications apparent to those skilled in the art are deemed to be within the scope and concept of the invention.

The invention has been described in the context of preferred and other embodiments and not every embodiment of the invention has been described. Obvious modifications and alterations to the described embodiments are available to those of ordinary skill in the art. The disclosed and undisclosed embodiments are not intended to limit or restrict the scope or applicability of the invention conceived of by the Applicants, but rather, in conformity with the patent laws, Applicants intends to protect all such modifications and improvements to the full extent that such falls within the scope or range of equivalent of the following claims.