Title:
VEHICLE STORAGE AND SHIPPING CONTAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present disclosure provides a novel collapsible storage container for shipping vehicles. Specifically, the container includes a base with a plurality of anchor post receivers, a plurality of side panels and a cover detachably connected to the plurality of side panels through a latch. The side panels detachably connect to the base through a plurality of anchor post that mate with the plurality of anchor post receivers. Furthermore, the side panels detachably connected to each other through a tongue and groove system.



Inventors:
Stout, William (San Diego, CA, US)
Hiatt, Darrell (San Diego, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/018082
Publication Date:
07/31/2008
Filing Date:
01/22/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D6/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20100089935CONTAINER HAVING A LID THAT IS OPENABLE UPON APPLICATION OF A DOWNWARD FORCEApril, 2010Heilman et al.
20050029259Stackable bowl sets shaped like segmented sport ballsFebruary, 2005Famham
20080173649Vibratory tray conveyor and methodJuly, 2008Sus et al.
20080105686Spring-Loaded, Multi-Compartment, Clothes HamperMay, 2008Cox
20080190787Hygienic dental flossAugust, 2008Grosse
20030127458Cover for stepped thermostat caseJuly, 2003Dushane et al.
20070284377COOLER WITH RETRACTABLE HORNSDecember, 2007Chandler
20100012658CONTAINER HAVING TWO DISTINCT COMPARTMENTSJanuary, 2010Karangelen
20070056965Portable computer and method of forming rear cover thereofMarch, 2007Jeung
20060037872Measuring and dispensing apparatus with mixing containerFebruary, 2006Steiner
20060054625Ergonomic tint plugMarch, 2006Schwarz



Primary Examiner:
GROSSO, HARRY A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MANUEL F. DE LA CERRA (Carlsbad, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A collapsible storage container, comprising: a base with a plurality of anchor post receivers; a plurality of side panels, wherein the side panels comprise a plurality of anchor posts, and the plurality of side panels are detachably connected to the base through the plurality of anchor posts and the plurality of anchor post receivers; wherein the plurality of side panels are detachably connected to each other through a tongue and groove system; and a cover detachably connected to the plurality of side panels through a latch.

2. The collapsible storage container of claim 1, plurality of side panels includes a load bearing vertical support member capable of supporting the weight of a second container stacked on top of the storage container.

3. The collapsible storage container of claim 1 comprised of a material that is selected from a group consisting of: aluminum, steel, plastic, composite, and combinations thereof.

4. The collapsible storage container of claim 1, further comprising a lock that restricts access to the contents of the container.

5. The collapsible storage container of claim 1, wherein the base further comprises forklift apertures.

6. The collapsible storage container of claim 1, wherein the base further comprises at least one channel to receive a vehicle's wheel.

7. The collapsible storage container of claim 1, wherein the base further comprises anchor points for securing the container's contents.

8. The collapsible storage container of claim 7, wherein the anchor points are selected from a group consisting of: tie-down rings, tie-down straps, chains and combinations thereof.

9. The collapsible storage container of claim 1, wherein the cover comprises an elevated section and the base comprises a corresponding recess, such that during stacking the elevated section and recess provide stability.

10. The collapsible storage container of claim 1, wherein the cover comprises a recess and the base comprises a corresponding elevated section, such that during stacking the elevated section and recess provide stability.

11. The collapsible storage container of claim 1, wherein the latch comprises a pushrod.

12. The collapsible storage container of claim 1, wherein the dimensional footprint of the plurality of side panels when collapsed is approximately equal to or less than the dimensional footprint of the base.

Description:

PRIORITY

This utility patent application claims priority based on provisional patent application 60/886,940 entitled “Vehicle Storage and Shipping Container”, filed on Jan. 28, 2007.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to shipping containers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Motorcycle riders often enjoy riding in a variety of terrains and locations. However, many are limited to enjoying the surroundings within a tolerable distance from their homes. Those wishing to experience riding their motorcycle at a location a great distance from their usual location, may ride their own motorcycle to that location which may require several days to ride to that location and several to return. Locations on other continents may be impossible to reach even if a rider were willing to ride.

As another option, the rider may rent a motorcycle; but many motorcycle riders prefer to ride their own motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle with which the rider is experienced and familiar is much safer than an unfamiliar motorcycle. Additionally, some locations may not have rental motorcycles available.

As a third option, avid motorcycle riders may wish to fly to the distant location and have their motorcycles shipped to avoid spending time in transit or out of necessity. A number of shipping services exist to provide this service to motorcycle enthusiasts.

The methods used by the shipping carriers vary. Many require motorcycle owners to remove the liquids from a motorcycle prior to shipping. This can be difficult and messy, and may require the use of special pumps to remove the liquids from a motorcycle. Refilling the motorcycle upon reaching the destination can create problems if the delivery site is not in close to a gas station or other automotive supply to replenish the drained fluids.

Some shipping companies require all personal items to be removed from the motorcycle, including the motorcycle's saddlebags. This creates a necessity for motorcycle accessories like helmet, leather protective ware, and rain gear to be shipped separately. These items can be bulky and burdensome to ship separately or to pack in personal luggage for airline travel. Additionally some carriers will not provide insurance for personal items included with a motorcycle during transport.

Another possible disadvantage is that some carriers do not use any protective covering; rather these carriers transport motorcycles using trucks with tie-down straps to secure the motorcycle to the bed of a truck. This often requires driving or guiding a motorcycle up and down a ramp between the ground level and the level of the truck bed. The process of loading heavy motorcycles up and down a steep ramp is dangerous and can cause injury to the people loading the motorcycles and damage to the motorcycle.

Another method of transporting motorcycles includes securing a motorcycle to a pallet. This method does provide some protection against items contacting the motorcycle and causing damage to the motorcycle, but this method also does not provide security for personal items shipped with the motorcycle.

Container shipping is yet another method of shipping motorcycles. The containers are usually large metal boxes with tie-downs on the floor of the container. These containers cannot be compacted and take up significant space for the shippers to store when the containers are not in use.

Crates are yet another method of transporting a motorcycle. They are often made out of wood or particleboard and are not durable, intended for one time use only. The crates usually have to be hammered together prior to transportation and pried apart after delivery. Other tools such as wrenches or screwdrivers may be required to assemble or disassemble some types of crates. There is the possibility that the proper tools may not be available if shipping internationally to a destination that uses a different tool standard, such as metric versus imperial sized wrenches. The assembly and disassembly requires additional labor and time and may damage the wood crate, such that a second crate may be needed to return the motorcycle.

Another shortcoming with several of the methods just described is that they cannot be stacked. Stacking shipping vessels minimizes the square footage necessary to ship multiple shipping vessels provided vertical space above the containers is available. Motorcycles typically weigh over 500 pounds and can weigh in excess of 800 pounds. The shipping vessels need to have the structural integrity to support hundreds and potentially thousands of pounds if shipping containers are to be stacked. The structural integrity of wooden crates, for example, may depend on the ability of the assembler to properly assemble crate and even the best assembly jobs may not be able to support hundreds of pounds if the crate is made of particle board or thin wood.

Therefore a need exists for providing a secure and safe method for shipping motorcycles. There is a need for a shipping container which can securely protect a motorcycle and additional personal gear, which can be easily assembled and disassembled without the use of special tools, which is durable to withstand repeated use, which can be compacted to reduce the volume of space needed to store the shipping container when not in use, which can be maneuvered when fully loaded with the assistance of a forklift, and which has the structural integrity to accommodate stacking of fully loaded containers to minimize the square footage necessary to ship multiple containers at the same time.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure provides a novel collapsible storage container for shipping vehicles. Specifically, the container includes a base with a plurality of anchor post receivers, a plurality of side panels and a cover detachably connected to the plurality of side panels through a latch. The side panels detachably connect to the base through a plurality of anchor posts that mate with the plurality of anchor post receivers. Furthermore, the side panels detachably connected to each other through a tongue-and-groove system. The collapsible storage container may be made of a light weight material that may include aluminum, steel, plastic and composites. The latch may include a pushrod and activator mechanism.

Refinements to the novel storage container include having a load bearing vertical support member capable of supporting the weight of a second container stacked on top of the storage container. The container may also include a lock that restricts access to the contents of the container. The base may include forklift apertures to allow a forklift to easily and stably lift and maneuver the container. A channel that receives the wheel of the vehicle being transported may also be incorporated into the base. Anchor points that include tie-down rings, tie-down straps and chains may be used with the base to secure the container's contents.

To improve stability, the cover may include an elevated section and the base may include a corresponding recess, such that during stacking the elevated section and recess provide stability. Alternatively, the cover may include a recess and the base a corresponding elevated section, such that during stacking the elevated section and recess provide stability.

To provide efficient storage of the collapsed container, the dimensional footprint of the side panels may be approximately equal to or less than the dimensional footprint of the base.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates an outside view of the novel collapsible storage container.

FIG. 2A illustrates the base, side panels and cover of the novel collapsible storage container.

FIGS. 2B and 2C illustrate the anchor post of the side panel mating with the anchor post receiver of the base.

FIG. 3A illustrates the novel collapsible container assembled with particular reference to the location of the mating of the anchor post and the anchor post receiver of FIGS. 2B and 2C.

FIGS. 3B and 3C illustrate the anchor post of the side panel mating with the anchor post receiver of the base and the tongue-and-groove system that detachably connects the side panels to each other.

FIG. 4 illustrates an embodiment of the latch system.

FIG. 5 illustrates an embodiment of the cover.

FIG. 6 illustrates the novel collapsible container fully disassembled and collapsed.

FIG. 7 illustrates an embodiment of the cover that contains elevated sections that correspond to recesses in the base such that during stacking the elevated section and recess provide stability.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

A novel storage and shipping container is provided to meet the increasing need to transport vehicles efficiently and with minimal risk of damage. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the container (10) is durable, reusable, and stackable. It may be dimensioned to hold a conventional motorcycle in its interior storage space and to maximize the number of containers that can fit inside a standard semi-truck trailer at one time. Its simple design requires minimal manufacturing materials and steps, allowing volume production at optimal cost. Constructed of strong yet lightweight materials that may include aluminum, steel, plastic, or composite, the container has the structural strength to allow stacking of fully-loaded containers while its weight is optimally minimized. The container employs few individual parts to allow easy assembly and disassembly. These parts are connected without the use of hinges, thereby avoiding the structural weakness and breakage problems of hinges. For ease of storing and shipping, the container is collapsible into a space-saving, compact package, shown in FIG. 2.

Referring to FIG. 2A, the container is comprised of a base (205), at least four side panels 210, 215, 220 and 225), and a cover (230). In the illustration shown in FIG. 2A, the side panels (220 and 225) are comprised of three panels each. In this configuration, the container (10) can collapse into a smaller configuration, such that transportation of the collapsed container (10) is more efficient. It would be apparent that either side panel (220 and 225) may instead be a single panel.

To assemble the container, the side panels are anchored to the base (205) and then capped by the cover (230). To anchor the side panels to the base, the side panels are equipped with anchor posts (235) that are inserted into anchor post receivers (240) provided in the base. Dashed lines 245 illustrate the placement of the anchor posts (235) in the anchor post receivers (240 and 241) for the side panels (215 and 225). Side panels (210 and 220) would anchor in a similar fashion. FIGS. 2B and 2C detail the anchor posts (235) and the anchor post receivers (240 and 241). Specifically, FIG. 2B illustrates the mating of the anchor post (235) from the side panel (220) with the anchor post receiver (241). Similarly, FIG. 2C illustrates the mating of the anchor post (235) from the side panel (210) with the anchor post receiver (240).

To connect the side panels to one another, a tongue-and-groove system is used. For example, side panel (220) contains a side that acts as the tongue (250) and side panel (210) contains a groove (255) that receives the tongue (250), as illustrated in FIG. 3B. As the side panels are anchored to the base (205), the panels are connected to one another by sliding one panel's connection groove into the adjacent panel's connection tongue. This tongue-and-groove system to connect panels to each other and the post-and-receiver system to anchor the panels to the base provide structural rigidity to the assembled container, allowing stacking. Also, the side panel (220) may include a load bearing vertical support member (221, FIG. 2A) capable of supporting the weight of a second container stacked on top of the storage container.

Referring to FIG. 3A, the container (10) is shown assembled with the side panels connected to each other and to the base. The detailed view of the connection of side panel (210) to side panel (220) is shown in FIG. 3B. Tongue (250) of side panel (220) slides into groove (255) of side panel (210). These side panels are anchored to the base (205) by the anchor post (235) and the anchor post receiver (240). FIG. 3C is a detailed view of a tongue-and-grove system in a configuration where the side panel (220) comprises three panels. As in FIG. 3B, the tongue (250) slides into the groove (255), and these panels are anchored to the base (205) by the anchor post (235) and the anchor post receiver (240).

The cover (230) is then placed over the interconnected side panels, protecting the container's contents and facilitating stacking of containers. The cover (230) may be connected to the side panels using a latch system (260), shown in greater detail in FIG. 4. The latch system (260) may comprise an activator mechanism (265) connected to a pushrod (270). By activating the mechanism (265) the pushrod (270) may move in the direction of arrow (275). The pushrod (270) travels through a side panel hole (280). On the underside of the cover is a structure (285) with a second hole (290). When the cover is placed on the side panels, the structure (285) travels in the direction of arrow (295) causing the side panel hole (280) to align with the hole (290) in the cover structure (285). Once the cover is in place, the mechanism (265) may be activated causing the pushrod (270) to travel through both the side panel hole (280) and the hole (290) in the cover structure (285). The cover is thus locked in place. To disassemble the container, the process is reversed. That is, the mechanism (265) is activated causing the pushrod (270) to exit the hole (290) and the cover can then be removed. Once the cover is removed, the side panels can be disconnected from each other. The latch system (260) may also include a key lock that restricts access to the contents of the container.

FIG. 5 illustrates an embodiment of the cover (230). Here the cover is made of two components, the exterior cap (232) and the cover structure (285). Note that the detailed view of the cover structure (285) illustrates the hole (290) through which the pushrod travels when the cover is locked into place. This was shown in greater detail in FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 illustrates the container (10) fully disassembled and collapsed for easy storage and transportation. To give a better point of reference, the base (205) is shown with the two anchor receivers (240) (these were shown in greater detail in FIGS. 3B and 3C). On top of the base (205) are the side panels (210 and 220). As is shown in FIG. 6, the dimensional footprint of the side panels when collapsed is less than the dimensional footprint of the base. On top of the collapsed side panels, the container cover may be placed. The container may optionally be equipped with a lock to allow the cover to be securely connected to the base when the container is collapsed. The lock may include, but is not limited to, a swinging hook on the cover that latches around a post on the base.

Various innovations enhance the main embodiment just described. First, the number of panels and their dimensions can be optimized such that when all the panels are stacked horizontally on the base, they fit entirely within the footprint of the base. The cover can be dimensioned to fit over the stack of disassembled panels and connect to the base beneath them, thereby creating a compact, self-contained package. Second, forklift apertures can be provided on the base to allow the assembled or disassembled container to be picked up, moved, or stacked by a standard forklift. This is shown in FIG. 3A as aperture 222. Third, the base can be configured with one or more channel beams for receiving the wheels of a vehicle (i.e., channel 242 in FIGS. 2A and 7). The channel beams can be offset on different horizontal planes, inverted, or both, to enhance the container's storage capacity and ability to receive a two-wheeled vehicle. Fourth, anchor points can be provided on the base to allow a two-wheeled vehicle to be secured inside the container. Such anchor points might include, but are not limited to, tie-down rings (part 705, FIG. 7), tie-down straps, and chains (part 710, FIG. 7). Fifth, referring to FIG. 7, the cover (230) can be equipped with elevated sections (605) that help stabilize stacked containers, such that the elevated sections (605) in the cover (230) of one container fit inside corresponding recesses (610) in the base (205) of a second container. It would be apparent that the base could also be equipped with elevated sections and the cover with recesses, which would accomplish the same function. Sixth, while this specification refers to specifically to motorcycles, it is apparent that it can be used for several types of personal vehicles, including, but not limited to, mopeds, scooters, three-wheeled vehicles, four-wheeled vehicles, and personal watercraft.

While the description above refers to particular embodiments of the present invention, it should be readily apparent to people of ordinary skill in the art that a number of modifications may be made without departing from the spirit thereof. The accompanying claims are intended to cover such modifications as would fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention. The presently disclosed embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive, the scope of the invention being indicated by the appended claims rather than the foregoing description. All changes that come within the meaning of and range of equivalency of the claims are intended to be embraced therein. Moreover, the applicants expressly do not intend that the following claims “and the embodiments in the specification to be strictly coextensive.” Phillips v. AHW Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc).