Title:
STORAGE CONTAINER DOCKING SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A storage docking system especially adapted for recreational vehicles has containers fixed to rails by couplers and can have one set of rails fixed to the vehicle and another set of rails fixed to a stationary storage space.



Inventors:
Kunz, James R. (Eugene, OR, US)
Application Number:
11/915205
Publication Date:
02/19/2009
Filing Date:
05/19/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45F4/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
VANTERPOOL, LESTER L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
QUARLES & BRADY LLP (MILWAUKEE, WI, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A storage docking system, comprising: at least one container; couplers fixed to the container, each said coupler having an opening; a first set of rails fixed to a mounting surface of the vehicle in a storage space of the vehicle; wherein the openings of the couplers are sized to receive the first set of rails so as to support the container by the first set of rails in the storage space of the vehicle.

2. A storage docking system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the couplers are lockable to the first set of rails.

3. A storage docking system as claimed in claim 2, wherein the couplers each define a channel, each said coupler having a locking member that can be moved from a released position in which the opening to the channel of the coupler is open or to a locked position in which the opening to the channels is blocked, the first set of rails being spaced above a mounting surface of the vehicle to which the rails are mounted and being sized to be received within the channels, wherein in the released position of the locking member the rails can be received within the channels and in the locked position of the locking member, the locking member extends into the space between the rail to which it is engaged and the mounting surface to secure the container to the vehicle.

4. The storage docking system for a vehicle as claimed in claim 1, further comprising a second set of rails fixed in a storage space in a building, and wherein the openings of the couplers are sized to receive either the first or the second set of rails so as to support the container by either the first or the second set of rails, so that the container can be stored in either the vehicle or the building.

5. A storage docking system as claimed in claim 4, wherein the couplers are lockable to at least the first set of rails.

6. The storage docking system for a vehicle as claimed in claim 1, wherein the first set of rails is mounted to the vehicle so as to extend laterally relative to the direction of normal straight line travel of the vehicle.

7. The storage docking system for a vehicle as claimed in claim 1, wherein the first set of rails runs parallel to the direction of normal straight line travel of the vehicle.

8. The storage docking system for a vehicle as claimed in claim 1, wherein the container can be slid laterally relative to the rails when the container is coupled to the rails by the couplers.

9. The storage docking system for a vehicle as claimed in claim 1, wherein the couplers are connected to the container so that the channels open downwardly relative to a bottom wall of the container.

10. The storage docking system for a vehicle as claimed in claim 9, wherein the couplers extend below the bottom wall of the container.

11. The storage docking system for a vehicle as claimed in claim 1, wherein the couplers are connected to the container such that the channels of the couplers open outwardly away from a side of the container.

12. The storage docking system for a vehicle as claimed in claim 11, wherein the couplers are connected to sidewalls of the container.

13. The storage docking system for a vehicle as claimed in claim 1, wherein the container is a wire basket.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/684,645 filed May 26, 2005.

STATEMENT CONCERNING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to storage systems that are particularly adapted for recreational vehicles.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Recreational vehicles have become very popular for individuals to own. Oftentimes the individuals who own such vehicles store them away from their residence and may bring them to their residence a few days prior to a planned trip to prepare the vehicle for the trip. For example, if a family outing is planned to the beach, the vehicle will have to be loaded with items that are appropriate for that outing, such as beach toys, towels, swimsuits, folding chairs, umbrellas and the like. If, on the other hand, the vehicle is to be used for a hunting trip, it will have to be loaded with a completely different set of equipment. When the outing is over, the vehicle is typically unloaded and the paraphernalia cleaned and stored at the owner's residence or otherwise prepared for the next use. The vehicle will also typically be cleaned out in preparation for its storage and next use.

Recreational vehicles are typically provided with interior cabinet storage, storage under the seats and any other place where it can be fit in, and also has “basement” storage which is accessible through doors on the outside of the vehicle. The present invention is mainly, although not exclusively, addressed to the type of storage which would be accessible from outside of the vehicle, through the outside doors in the side of the vehicle.

It is known to provide this basement storage with sliding drawers or trays which make it easier to access the contents of the space in the basement. However, room still exists for a system that makes loading and unloading an RV easier, and also facilitates storage in the vehicle and storage at the residence of the owner.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention provides a storage docking system that is particularly adapted for RV use. The system includes at least one container and couplers fixed to the container. Each coupler has an opening that is sized to receive a first set of rails fixed to a mounting surface of the vehicle in a storage space of the vehicle so as to support the container by the first set of rails in the storage space of the vehicle.

In a preferred form, the couplers are lockable to the rails to keep the containers fixed to the rails, for example in transit. The couplers each define a channel, each coupler having a locking member that can be moved from a released position in which the opening to the channel of the coupler is open or to a locked position in which the opening to the channel is blocked. The rails are spaced above a mounting surface of the vehicle to which the rails are mounted and are sized to be received within the channels. In the released position of the locking member, the rails can be received within the channels and in the locked position of the locking member, the locking member extends into the space between the rail to which it is engaged and the mounting surface to secure the container to the vehicle.

In an especially useful form, the system includes a second set of rails fixed in a storage space in a building, and the openings of the couplers are sized to receive either the first or the second set of rails so as to support the container by either the first or the second set of rails, so that the container can be stored in either the vehicle or the building.

In another preferred form, the containers are wire baskets, which are preferred in this application since they are relatively lightweight, strong, do not accumulate debris and moisture, provide good aeration and can be used to stow many different articles.

Other advantages of the invention will be apparent from the detailed description and drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the side of an RV with its storage compartment doors open and showing applications of a storage docking system of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the storage docking system shown in FIG. 1 that is assembled to the slide-out tray;

FIG. 3 is a close-up view of parts of the system of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of one of the couplers used in FIGS. 1-3;

FIG. 5 is a view of the coupler in the locked position;

FIG. 6 is a bottom perspective view of the coupler in the open position;

FIG. 7 is a top perspective view of the coupler from the inner side;

FIG. 8 is a bottom perspective view of one piece (the retainer member) of the coupler;

FIG. 9 is a top perspective view of another piece (the channel member) of the coupler;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of another piece (the locking member) of the coupler;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the locking member and the channel member together;

FIG. 12 is a view like FIG. 11 but from the top;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of the retainer member and the channel member together;

FIG. 14 is a perspective view into one of the storage compartments of the RV illustrating a container hung on a side wall of the storage compartment;

FIG. 15 is a view like FIG. 6, from a different angle and with the sliding tray removed;

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of the container hanging from its side without showing the RV;

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of another application of the storage system of the invention in the RV, also shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 18 is a view with one of the baskets of the system of FIG. 9 removed;

FIG. 19 is a view of a storage docking system of the invention provided in a stationary storage space in a building, for example in a garage of the owner of the RV;

FIG. 20 is a close-up view of a portion of the system of FIG. 11, illustrating a bracket for hanging the rails of the storage system from a wall of the building;

FIG. 21 is another perspective view of the stationary storage docking system of FIGS. 19 and 20; and

FIGS. 22-25 are perspective (FIGS. 22-24) and top plan (FIG. 25) views of an alternate mount for the storage system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

FIG. 1 illustrates a recreational vehicle (RV) 10 with its side compartment doors 12 open illustrating storage compartments 14, 15 and 16. Compartment 14 includes a slide-out tray 18 as is conventional, but what is unconventional is the inclusion of a storage docking system 20 mounted to the slide-out tray 18. A storage docking system 22 of the system is also mounted in compartment 16, with compartment 15 being empty.

Referring also to FIGS. 2-5, the system 20 includes containers 26 and 30 of different sizes with the containers 26 being generally square or rectangular and taller than the containers 30, about twice the height of the containers 30 for the containers 26 illustrated in FIGS. 2-5. The containers 30 are stackable so that the top one nests inside the bottom one, and also of a height such that even when stacked they will fit in the compartment 14. The containers 26 and 30 are preferably welded wire baskets and have handles 32. Each of the containers 26 and 30 is provided with four couplers 36, one at each corner on the bottom of each of the containers 26 and 30, that can be easily coupled to a rail 38 that is a cylindrical hollow tube. Each rail 38 is fixed to the bottom wall of the tray 18 that is the mounting surface 39 in this application by mounts 40 which receive the ends of the rails 38 and are shaped like pillow block bearings, defining a hole between two mounting flanges that are fastened, for example with bolts or screws, to the floor 91 of compartment 16, to the bottom 39 of tray 18, or to another mounting surface. The mounts 40 could be closed on one side as illustrated in FIGS. 1-3, or, alternatively could be open at both sides as illustrated by the mount 40′ in FIGS. 22-25 so a rail could be inserted from either side. If open at both sides, fastener holes 41 are provided as illustrated in FIGS. 22-25 so that a screw, rivet or other fastener can be used through the hole to fix the rail to the mount.

The mounts 40 space the rails above the mounting surface 39 or 91 so that the locking member of the couplers described below can extend into the space between the rails 38 and the mounting surface 39 or 91 to secure the container to the rails. Also, the rails 38, which may be steel, aluminum or another rigid material, are supported by supports 44 that are provided every few feet or so, so that the rails 38 do not sag or flex excessively under the weight of the loaded containers 26 and 30. Fasteners extend through holes 43 in the flanges of the mounts 40 and supports 44 to secure them to the surface of the vehicle to which they are secured, the lower wall 39 of the tray 18 in the case of compartment 14 or to the floor 91 of the compartment as in the case of compartment 16. The mounts 40 and supports 44 may be made of molded plastic.

Referring to FIGS. 4-13, each coupler 36 is riveted or otherwise fastened by fasteners 48 to a stamped or otherwise formed bracket 50 that resides on the interior side of the container 26 or 30 so that the walls of the container 26 or 30 are pinched between the flange 52 of the coupler 36 and the bracket 50 to securely hold the coupler 36 to the container 26 or 30. The coupler 36 has a channel 86 therein, that may extend for the length of the coupler 36 and is generally cylindrically shaped at one side and opening straight out at the opposite side to receive the rail 38. A locking member 60 having an arcuate section 62 that is slidable angularly relative to fixed part 64 of the coupler 36 is slidable in a track of the fixed part 64 so as to either open the bottom side of the channel 86 or to close it, the open position being shown in FIG. 4 and the closed position being shown in FIG. 5. When open as in FIG. 4, when the container 26 or 30 is placed down on top of the rails 38, the rails 38 enter the channel 86 through the mouth opening or lower side of the channel 86 that faces the rails 38. Once received in the channel 86, the locking lever 60 can be slid in its track so as to close off the opening into the channel 86 that traps the rail 38 in the channel 6 and therefore in the coupler 36, to hold the containers 26 and 30 longitudinally on the rails 38.

In the locked position of FIG. 5, the locking lever member 60, and particularly portion 62 thereof, may apply a clamping load on the rail 38, or not. If not, the container 30 would be relatively slidable in a direction parallel to the rails 38, which is usually acceptable in an RV application.

Referring particularly to FIGS. 4-13, the coupler 36 is molded plastic and made of three pieces. FIGS. 6-14 illustrate the coupler without the bracket 50 or fasteners 48. As has already been stated, one of the pieces of the coupler 36 is the lever member 60. The lever member 60 has a handle portion 66 which is operable by the user to rotate the lever member 60 in its track, and an approximately half-circular arc portion 62 that closes off the bottom of the opening 56 when the lever member 60 is rotated into that position. The arc portion 62 has an outstanding rib 68 that fits into groove 70 of U-shaped portion 72 of retainer member 74. Retainer 74 also includes the flange 52 in which the holes 76 are formed for the fasteners 48. Member 74 also has a flange 78 at a right angle to the flange 52 having holes 80 formed in it into which additional fasteners 48 can be inserted for fastening the bracket 50, which is also a right-angle type bracket.

Two holes 82 are formed in retainer member 74 for fastening to the retainer member by an adhesive, ultrasonic welding or other suitable process the channel member 84 having pins 88 received in the holes 82 and an open bottomed channel 86 that defines the major portion of the channel opening 86. The bottom part of member 74 that touches member 84 may also be adhered, welded or otherwise attached to the member 84, for example at the lower edges of the flange 52 and in the surfaces of the arc portion 72 where they interface with the surfaces of the member 84, such that the members 74 and 84 form a structurally rigid unit such as is shown in FIG. 13, without the lever 60 installed. Also, member 84 has a lip 90 that interferes with the arcuate portion 62 of the lever member 60 to inhibit rotating the lever member 60 out of the track formed by the two members 74 and 84. When the lever member 60 is rotated to the closed position, it is stopped flat against flange 92 of member 74, which has a hole 94 in it that registers with hole 96 in lever member 60 so that a lock can be placed through the two holes 94 and 96 to lock the lever member 60 in the locked position.

Arcuate portion 62 of lever member 60 has track portion 63 that is captured in the track formed by the members 74 and 84 (FIG. 13) and has locking portion 65 that has an inside surface of approximately the same radius as the curved portion of channel 86 so that together with the curved portion of channel 86 the inside surface of portion 65 forms a circle of approximately the same diameter or a little larger as the rails 38.

FIGS. 14-16 illustrate the invention applied to a hanging container which is a welded wire basket on the side of the RV compartment. In this application, the flanges of the mounts 40 are in a vertical plane, mounted to mounting surface 87, and the couplers 36 are mounted in the corners of the container 33 so that the channels 86 open out horizontally. When the locking member 60 is rotated from the open to the closed position, the arcuate portion 65 of the locking member 60 is moved to the position behind the rail 38 so as to prevent removal of the couplers 36 from the rail 38 until the lever members 60 are moved to their open positions. Note that in the case of container 33, the wall that faces in the same direction that the channels 86 open out is formed so as to take advantage of the space between the wall to which the mounts 40 are attached and the far side of the rail 38. The containers 20 could also be formed in the same manner to take advantage of the open space that is between the two rails 48 that support the containers.

FIGS. 17 and 18 illustrate an application of the invention in which the rails 38 are fixed to the floor or mounting surface 91 of the storage compartment extending in the direction of normal vehicle straight line travel. In the case of the rails fixed to the slide out tray 18, the rails are perpendicular to the direction of normal vehicle straight line travel. The couplers in the arrangement of the containers 20 can be released and engaged with the rails 38 because the tray 18 can be slid out. In the case of the containers 22, in which the rails 38 are parallel to the direction of travel, a person can reach the couplers even at the inside end of the container because the couplers are accessible from the sides of the container. Thus, a slide out tray is not necessary if all four corners can be locked to the rails 38, or at least a sufficient number to hold the container secure. It may not always be necessary to lock all four corners to the rails 38 and it may be acceptable to only lock two or one of them, for example those that are nearest to the outside of the vehicle, or none of them if the travel is smooth.

FIGS. 19-21 illustrate the containers 20, 22 and 33 stored at the residence or other stationary storage area of the owner of the RV, for example the garage at the owner's place of residence. The rails 38 that are parallel to one another should be spaced apart the same distance so that any of the containers that have four mounting points can be assembled to any of the sets of rails. The couplers 36 also permit the containers to be stacked one on top of another and the containers there to be rested on a floor surface. L brackets 96, which may be plastic, metal or another suitably strong material, are mounted to the walls and extend therefrom to mounts 40 and supports 44 so as to support the rails 38. Braces 98 may be provided at the ends of the assemblies to laterally stabilize them.

It should also be noted that the rails 38 in the compartment 16 should be spaced the same distance from one another as the rails 38 in the slide out tray 18 so that the containers 20 and 26 may be interchanged in position. Also, if the containers 20 and 26 are similar in width, then the spacing between the mounts 40 and the supports 44 can be made uniformly the same to accommodate all containers.

It is noted that the configuration of the couplers permits the user to either lock the locking levers 60 or not. In stationary storage, as in FIGS. 19-21, locking the levers may not be necessary. It may be necessary to lock or partially lock the levers of the wall-hung containers 33 to hold them on the rails. In the RV, locking may also be optional. Having the option however better secures the containers to the rails, and permits locking the containers to the rails with a theft deterrent connection.

Preferred embodiments of the invention have been described in considerable detail. Many modifications and variations to the embodiments described will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Therefore, the invention should not be limited but to the embodiments described, but should be defined by the claims that follow.