US 3625376 A
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent  Inventor Joseph E. McWilliams 1345 Canterbury Lane, Glenview, Ill. 60025  Appl. No. 870,921
 Filed June 2, 1969  Patented Dec. 7, 1971 Original application Dec. 28, 1967, Ser. No. 694,151, now Patent No. 3,507,411. Divided and this application J one 2, 1969, Ser. No. 870,921
 APPARATUS FOR LOADING BAGGED MAIL FROM A LOADING DOCK INTO A HIGHWAY VEHICLE 7 Claims, 22 Drawing Figs.
 U.S.Cl 214/6 DK,
 Int. Cl B65g 67/24  Field of Search 214/6 K.
 References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 2,150,211 3/1939 Edwards 214/41 UX 3,164,271 1/1965 McWilliams 214/6 K X 3,315,825 4/1967 Scheinert 214/75 H Primary E.mminer- Robert G. Sheridan AlIorneyMann, Brown, McWilliams and Bradway ABSTRACT: The invention relates to the loading of mail bags a e more from a loading dock into an end loading highway vehicle, such as a truck or a trailer, to fully load the vehicle with stacks of mail bags in which the bags are compactly loaded into place in individual stack forming tiers without those performing the bag loading operation having to enter the vehicle. In practicing the invention, the loading dock at the post office or the like is provided with a conveyor on which out-going bags are placed and oriented in closely spaced tier form. Operating between the conveyor and the highway vehicle is a carriage that receives the tier load without disturbing the orientation o1- the bags and brings the tier load into the vehicle loading area for discharge of the stack forming tier unit, and effects placement of the tier as part ofa stack in the vehicle, again without disturbing the orientation of the bags. The carriage then returns to the conveyor for another tier load.
The carriage movements are controlled so that the individual tier loads are formed into vertical stacks of mail bags that are disposed to position the bags of adjacent stacks in closely spaced relation, with the vehicle being thus filled with bags throughout its load receiving area so as to make maximum use of the available loading space within the vehicle to maximize the pay load. The operation of the carriage is mechanized so that workers do not have to go into the vehicle, and palleting of the bags in groups is avoided while still achieving uniform loading in tier form.
Several specific arrangements for practicing the invention are disclosed in which the carriage either operates on the floor of the vehicle and loading dock, or is suspended for operation within the vehicle, wherein the carriage is either self-propelled or cable actuated, wherein the bags as loaded extend either longitudinally or transversely of the vehicle, and wherein the tiers employed as part of the loading procedure extend transversely or longitudinally of the vehicle.
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APPARATUS FOR LOADING BAGGED MAIL FROM A LOADING DOCK INTO A HIGHWAY VEHICLE This application is a division of my copending application Ser. No. 694,151, filed Dec. 28, [967 (now US. Pat. No. 3,507,41 l which is closely related to my applicationSer. No. 627,217, filed Mar. 30, 1967 (now US. Pat. No. 3,458,064), the filing date of which is claimed for all subject matter of the instant application that is common thereto.
This invention relates to a method and apparatus for loading bagged mail from a loading dock into a highway vehicle, and more particularly, to methods of and means for facilitating the handling of bagged mail in tiered groups for purposes of loading same into vehicles that are to transport it.
Conventional methods of loading mail bags into highway vehicles and trailers of the end loading type are not only time consuming and inefficient in nature, but also require much manual effort on the part of the workers involved. The bags are conventionally loaded so as to form vertical stacks in which the bags of each stack extend longitudinally of the vehicle and the stacks fill all available space vertically and lengthwise of the vehicle. The bags, which when loaded are from 12-14 inches wide and 36-40 inches long, are usually loaded up to about 92 inches above the floor of the truck in a space that is about 8 feet wide, with the length depending on the length of the truck.
Heretofore the loading procedures have been largely manual in nature, with the workers involved dragging the individual bags into the vehicle from a pile of the bags on the adjacent loading dock, and then individually positioning and lifting the bag as is necessary to complete the formation of the respective bag stacks. At best, hand carts are sometimes employed to reduce some of the manual effort involved, but the handling required of each individual bag is still much the same; in both cases, much repetition of bag orienting movements is required for each bag, which is wasteful of effort and inefficient in terms of the time and cost of getting the job done. The result is that valuable equipment is unduly tied up to accommodate these slow loading procedures, and labor is in short supply as workers are becoming increasingly reluctant to take on jobs involving such hard work.
Nevertheless, the Post Office Department and others concerned with the transport of loaded mail bags, load something on the order of 50,000 trucks a day in the U.S.A. in this manner at a cost on the order of $18.00 a truck, which gives an indication of the magnitude of the problem.
My US. Pat. No. 3,164,271, granted Jan. 5, I965, discloses a basic system for handling bagged mail which involves the sorting and loading of incoming bags into tier load units that are grouped by destination and stored until arrival of a suita ble load transport vehicle whereupon the tier load units are unloaded in single or multiple tier form in the vehicle.
A principal objective achieved by the methods and apparatus disclosed in said patent is that the mail bags are oriented early in the cycle of their handling operations and this initial orientation is maintained throughout all of the subsequent handling operations.
A principal object of the present invention is to provide methods and apparatus for further facilitating the loading of end opening vehicles without requiring that the operator enter the transport vehicle or that the mail bags be palleted in groups to reduce individual handling.
Another principal object of this invention is to provide a method of loading bagged mail in transport vehicles in closely spaced relationship to the end that the available air space within the vehicle will be loaded to the maximum and all manual motions ordinarily required to handle the bags within the vehicle are performed by mechanical means arranged to carry, elevate as necessary and deposit the bags in the compact relationship necessary to maximize the payload by substantially filling the available cubic loading space of the vehicle.
Another principal object of the invention is to provide methods and apparatus for loading of end opening vehicles such as motor trucks and trailers which permits a single operator to efficiently load the entire transport vehicle without stepping inside it.
Still other objects of the invention are to provide apparatus for loading bagged mail in transport vehicles that is adapted for full pushbutton-type actuation and control, to provide methods and apparatus for handling bagged mail that permits substantially automatic handling of the mail in tiered load groups, and to provide mailbag handling apparatus that is economical of manufacture, convenient in use, and adapted for all conventional mailbag loading dock areas and vehicles or their equivalents.
Other objects, uses, and advantages will be obvious or become apparent from a consideration of the following detailed description and the application drawings.
In the Drawings:
FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic side elevational view of a semitrailer in the process of being loaded in accordance with my present invention, with parts being broken away, and the mailbag tier carrying carriage being shown in its load receiving position in its dashed line position while its full line position shows one of the load discharging positions thereof;
FIG. 2 is a plan view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 1, with the conveyor that supplies the tier forming load to the carriage being shown in full plan;
FIG. 3 is a view similar to that of FIG. I but illustrating a modified form of the invention;
FIG. 4 is a fragmental cross-sectional view substantially along line 4-4 of FIG. 3;
FIG. 5 is a fragmental view substantially along line 55 of FIG. 4;
FIG. 6 is a view similar to that of FIG. I but illustrating a further embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 7 is a plan view of the arrangement shown in FIG. 6;
FIG. 8 is a view similar to that of FIG. 1 illustrating still another embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 9 is a plan view of the arrangement shown in FIG. 8;
FIG. 10 is another view similar to that of FIG. 1 showing still further modified form of the invention;
FIG. 11 is a plan view of the arrangement shown in FIG. I0;
FIG. 12 is a fragmental side elevational view of the loading dock supported frame forming a part of the embodiment of FIG. 10, better illustrating the manner in which the illustrated cables are associated therewith;
FIG. I3 is a view similar to that of FIG. 10 illustrating a varient from of the embodiment of FIG. 10;
FIG. 14 is a view similar to that of FIG. I illustrating yet a further modified form of the invention;
FIG. 14A is a fragmental plan view of a portion of the load- I ing dock at the right of FIG. 14;
FIG. 15 is a plan view of the apparatus shown in FIG. 14;
FIG. I6 is a fragmental cross-sectional view along line l6- 16 of FIG. 15;
FIGS. 17 and 18 are similar to that of FIG. 16 illustrating the manner in which the bag tiers formed by practicing this embodiment are unloaded into place within the vehicle;
FIGS. l9 and 20 show the apparatus of FIG. 8 and 9 being employed to load the mail bag into the vehicle using another type of bag orientation in accordance with this invention; and
FIG. 21 is a plan view of the carriage of FIGS. 8 and 9 loaded with mailbags utilizing still another type of bag orientation in accordance with this invention.
However, it is to be distinctly understood that the specific embodiments of the invention illustrated are supplied primarily to comply with the requirements of the Patent Code, and that the invention may have other embodiments that are intended to be covered by the appended claims.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION Reference numeral 10 of FIG. 1 generally indicates one embodiment of the present invention that incorporates the basic approach of the present invention for loading mailbags from a loading dock 12 into an end loading vehicle 14, which has been illustrated as being in the form of the familiar semitrailer, although the invention is readily applicable to any end loading vehicle.
it is assumed that the mailbag handling installation involved includes the loading dock 12 (of a post office or the like) that is conventionally provided with a level load support surface 16 and the usual shoulder or end 18 against which the vehicle 14 is backed up for purposes of being loaded.
It is also assumed that the vehicle 14 be in the form of the usual body 20 defined by forward end wall 22, top wall 24, sidewalls 26 and 28, floor 30, and end opening 32 that is customarily closed by suitable doors or the like (not shown). The body 20, being of the semitrailer type, rides on the usual rear wheels 34 and is provided with the usual kingpin 36 for connection to the fifth wheel of a conventional tractor truck (not shown).
In accordance with this invention, there is associated with the loading dock 12 at the position 36 where the vehicle body 14 is to be stationed for loading purposes a mailbag receiving conveyor 38 and a mailbag tier conveying carriage or carrier 40, which receives the mailbags accumulated in tier form on conveyor 38, transports them into the vehicle 14 and discharges them in tier form to form mailbag stacks 42.
Under ordinary circumstances, the loading clock 12 is located at a post office or the like where loaded mailbags are processed for shipment to their destinations and as indicated in FIG. 2, the conveyor 38 and the carriage 40 are longitudinally aligned with the vehicle 14 (in the loading position of the vehicle) and have a width transversely thereof to accommodate enough mail bags laid side-by-side in a row to form one complete tier of a stack 42, such that when the tier is placed within the vehicle 14, it will extend substantially from one sidewall 26 to the other sidewall 28 as indicated in FIG. 2. Conveyor 38 is in the form of conveyor belt 39 defining a substantially horizontal load supporting surface 41 on which the bags 44 are placed, which surface is at an easy reach height above surface 16, such as 2 to 3 feet high. Carriage 40 includes a load support in the form of conveyor 43 supported by vertically movable platform 45, which conveyor 43 is in the form of a conveyor belt 47defining load support surface 49.
In practicing my invention, the mailbags are brought in any suitable manner to the area of the conveyor 38 and they may be piled at random adjacent the conveyor 38 for ready access by one or more workers stationed adjacent the conveyor 38 for purposes of controlling the operation of same and carriage 40. In accordance with this invention, the controls for conveyor 38 and carriage 40 are arranged so that these pieces of apparatus are operated without anyone having to go into the vehicle 14, as will be hereinafter described in connection with each of the embodiments of the invention illustrated in the drawings. For this purpose, the controls may be of the pushbutton-type applied to suitable control panel 35 and may be of any suitable electric and/or electronic type that will serve the purpose.
To practice my invention, after the vehicle 14 is positioned as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 for loading (assuming it is empty), and the bags to be shipped are disposed, for instance in a pile or piles adjacent the conveyor 38, the worker or workers in the area of conveyor 38 pickup and position enough of the individual bags 44 to form one or more tiers 46 (of six to eight bags in a tier) on the belt 39 of conveyor 38 in which, in accordance with the procedure contemplated by this embodiment of the invention, the bags of each tier 46 are placed in closely-spaced side-by-side relation and extend longitudinally of the conveyor 38 and vehicle 14.
When one or more tiers 46 have been applied to conveyor 38 in the manner indicated (which tiers are termed a partial transport vehicle load depth unit" in the appended claims), the carriage 40 is positioned as shown in dashed lines of FIG. 1, and the conveyor 38 is actuated to deposit simultaneously all the bags 44 forming the first tier 46 on the carriage conveyor 43. The carriage conveyor 43 is simultaneously actuated to move the first tier down to a position adjacent its forward end 50, it being noted that the rear end 52 of the conveyor 43 is disposed in load receiving relation with respect to the forward end 54 of the conveyor 38, after which the second tier is similarly applied to conveyor 43.
The carriage 40 is then actuated to move same from the dashed line position of FIG. 1 into the vehicle 14 where it moves toward the front wall 22 of the vehicle to start the first stack of mailbags. Assuming that the vehicle 14 is completely empty, the carriage 40 moves forwardly of the vehicle 14 until its forward end 50 engages the wall 22, which actuates a suitable limit switch arrangement such as that indicated at 56 to stop the forward movement of the carriage 40 and actuate conveyor 43 as well as reverse the movement of the carriage 40 in such a manner that as the carriage 40 moves rearwardly of the vehicle 14, the first tier 46 of bags 44 is conveyed forwardly at a similar speed (for a net speed of zero relative to vehicle 14), and is dropped onto the floor 30 of the vehicle adjacent the end wall 22 in the position indicated at 58. Rearward movement of the carriage 40 is then stopped and the conveyor 43 is then actuated to move up to its forward end 50 the next tier 46 of bags 44, whereupon the carriage 40 is again advanced toward forward wall 22 until limit switch 56 is actuated which again stops forward movement of the carriage 40 and actuates simultaneous operation of conveyor 43 and rearward movement of carriage 40 to discharge the next tier of bags (in the manner indicated above) where indicated at 60.
The carriage 40 is then returned to the dashed line position of FIG. 1 to receive the next two tiers 46 of mailbags 44, which can be formed on to the conveyor 38 while the carriage 40 is operating in the manner that has just been described. These next two tiers are then unloaded in a similar manner where in dicated at 62 and 64, respectively, the carriage conveyor 43 being elevated as required to place the latter tiers on top of those already in place.
The next two tiers are stacked similarly to form the completed stack 42 adjacent the wall 22, after which the stacking process is repeated to form the next adjacent stack 42, as indicated by the solid line positioning of the carriage 40. This process is repeated until the stacks 42 have been formed the length of vehicle 14, after which the vehicle open end 32 is secured in the usual manner and the vehicle 14 driven off to be replaced by a similar vehicle 14 to be loaded.
The handling of the bags in moving them from the conveyor 38 to their respective positions in the vehicle 14 is thus carried out after having made a single orientation of the bag as to the position it is to take in a particular stack forming tier, and without having to drop the bag over the 24 inch limitation provided for by Post Office regulations.
From the description so far there are several important features to be observed. Note for one thing that the bags 44 are properly oriented in their tiers 46 by their application to the conveyor 38 and that this orientation is maintained throughout the further handling of the bags that moves them into stacked relation in the vehicle 14. Furthermore, the lifting and positioning of the bags 44 onto conveyor 38 is the only manual labor involved, and the worker is concerned with only an easy lifting and positioning action at a convenient working height above surface 16, with such action needing only to be performed once per bag.
It is also to be noted that the loading of the vehicle 14 is done without anyone having to enter the vehicle 14 and palletizing of the individual tiers 14 is unnecessary.
in the specific arrangement of FIGS. 1 and 2, the carriage 40 is in the form of a self-propelled vehicle 70 including wheeled frame 72 which supports the platform 45 and conveyor 43 through a suitable cross lever-type elevating mechanism generally indicated at 74. The vehicle 70 is powered by a suitable power unit 76, the controls of which and those of elevating mechanism 74 and conveyor 43 are arranged in any suitable manner for control by an operator standing outside of the vehicle 14 in the area of conveyor 38, and for the automatic functioning that has been indicated.
In the embodiment of A of FIGS. 3-5, the carriage A is in the form of a vehicle A associated with supplementary pulling equipment operably arranged between the dock 12A and the vehicle in a manner that will permit the vehicle to be loaded and depart from any desired destination. In the fonn of these FIGS., the carriage vehicle 70A is attached at either side thereof to cables that are disposed on either side of the vehicle 14A about suitable end pulleys 82 and 84 and under suitable bend pulleys 86 and 88. In this form of the invention, the vehicle 14A has the pulleys 82 and 86 permanently mounted thereon and the respective cables 80 are applied thereto underneath the shield 90 indicated in FIG. 4. The respective cables 80 are secured to the vehicle 72 by a pair of clamp devices 92 on either side thereof.
In this embodiment of the invention, as part of readying the vehicle 14A to receive its mailbag load, the cables 80, which are in the form of closed loops, and may remain permanently trained about pulleys 84 and 88, are stretched into the vehicle 14A, slipped under the lower edge 94 of the respective shields 90 and applied to the respective pulleys 82 and 86 in the manner indicated after which they may be suitably tensioned (as by making pulleys 84 and 88 adjustable longitudinally of conveyor 38A) so that when the end pulley 84 is driven (in any suitable manner), the vehicle 70A will reciprocate or cycle in the manner that has been described. The cover 90 permits the mailbags to be applied in place in the manner described, and when the loading has been completed following the procedures already described, the ends of each cable 80, which for each cable 80 are connected together by a suitable quick disconnect coupling device (not shown) to form the closed loop, are separated and the cable withdrawn from the vehicle 14 so that it may move on to its destination.
In the form 103 of FIGS. 6 and 7, the carriage 403 comprises conveyor 43B suspended from a trolley that operates in trackways 102 and 104 that are mounted on the vehicle and loading dock 12A on either side of the path of movement of the carriage 40B and are adapted to be aligned and placed in substantial abutting relation when the vehicle 148 is backed into its load receiving relation with respect to loading dock 12A. The trolley 100 includes rollers 103 and 105 that ride in the respective trackways so that the carriage 40 can move between the dashed and full line positions of FIG. 6. The rollers 105 are driven in any suitable manner and the conveyor 43B is supported by cables 108 and 110 that are connected to a powered reel 112 for simultaneously winding and unwinding them as it is necessary to raise and lower the carriage 408 in the practice of my invention. The individual stacks 42 of mailbags may be formed in the manner already described, or they may be formed by filling in the vehicle 148 by consecutively forming horizontally disposed layers 113 of tiers 46 as indicated on FIG. 6.
In the embodiment 10C of FIGS. 8 and 9, the carriage 40C rides on the floor 30C of the vehicle 14C and is actuated by a lazy tong linkage generally indicated at 120. The loading procedures described in connection with the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2 may be followed in utilizing the embodiment 10C.
In the form 10D of FIGS. 10 and 11, the carriage 40D is in the form of a carrier 126 suspended between cables 128 mounted on either side of the vehicle in the form of closed loops and trained over suitable end pulleys 130 and 132. Pulleys 130 and 132 are respectively journaled in the respective vertically movable supports 134 and 136 which are horizontally aligned and simultaneously raised and lowered by operation of cables 138 in association with the mechanism best illustrated in FIG. 12. The carrier 126 is fixed to the respective cables 128 at lugs 127 and the cables 128 are powered by a suitable drive mechanism to cycle the carriage 40 in the manner already indicated. In the specific form illustrated in FIGS. 10 and 11, which may be utilized to practice the procedures referred to in connection with the embodiment of FIGS. 6 and 7. the carrier 126 forming the carriage 40D is formed with a retractable shelf 139 on which a mailbag tier 46 is placed by operating the conveyor 38D, and when the carrier 126 is positioned to dispose the tier of bags over the spot they are to be dropped into, the shelf 139 is drawn to the discharging position shown in FIG. 10 by pulling on cables 140 through any suitable mechanism under the control of the operator (without moving the carriage 40D rearwardly of the vehicle).
In the varient form 10E shown in FIG. 13, the carriage 40E is actuated in the manner illustrated in FIGS. 10-12 but comprises a conveyor 43E that is powered for discharging the mailbag tiers 46 in the manner already described.
In both the forms ofFIGS. 10-12 and 13, the cables 128 and the support members 134 cooperate with special prop devices permanently located at the respective forward corners 152 of the vehicle 10D.
In the modified form (10F) of FIGS. 14-18, the carriage 40F is similar to carriage 40 of FIGS. 1 and 2 and carries a conveyor 43F that receives bags 44 in single row tier or load unit form, in which the bags of the tier or load unit 46F extend longitudinally of the vehicle, from conveyor 38F on which the tiers 46F are made up, and which is connected to carriage 40F for supplying the bags thereto after carriage 40F has been positioned to unload tiers 46 sidewise of the vehicle to form the stacks of tiers in the vehicle. In this form of the invention, the bags are unloaded by employing the mechanism indicated at 155, and conveyor 43F is shifted sidewise of the vehicle to position same to drop off the next tier of bags (extending longitudinally of the vehicle) that is formed by operating conveyor 38F. In this particular form the parts are arranged so that a tier 46F made up oftwo bags extending longitudinally of the vehicle is accommodated for each bag loading position of carriage 40F. The end 156 of conveyor 38F is pivoted to conveyor 43F as at 157 to accommodate lateral shifting of conveyor 43F, and the other end 158 thereof is removably pivoted in the loading dock as at 159 at one of several pivoting locations (see FIG. 14A) that will define the several operating stations of carriage 40F required to fully load vehicle 14.
In the showing of FIGS. 19 and 20, the bags 14 forming the load unit are initially loaded onto the conveyor 38C in a different pattern of orientation, that is, instead of all the bags of the load unit extending longitudinally of the conveyor 38C, the bags are at random but closely spaced positions with respect to each other, which relative positions are maintained during further handling of the bags by operating carriage 40C and its conveyor 43C in the manner already suggested to deposit the bags in the stacks 466 (each layer 161 of which is madeup of a random positioned bag load from conveyor 38C) except that the individual layers 161 are laid down during a continuous rearward movement of carriage 40C with respect to the vehicle at a rate equivalent to the discharging speed of conveyor 43C. The initial positioning and orientation of the bags 44 on the conveyor 38C in accordance with the method of FIGS. 19 and 20 (similar to all procedures herein described) is such to obtain maximum utilization of available storage space within the vehicle when fully loaded in the manner suggested by these FIGS.
In the showing of FIG. 21, the bags 44 forming the individual load units are loaded on conveyor 38C oriented to extend transversely of the conveyor, and are loaded into the vehicle by forming stacks in the manner already indicated, with the transverse orientation of the bags being maintained. Here again, the bags are oriented in closely spaced relation on the dock supported conveyor to form the individual load units, and are conveyed, elevated and deposited in load unit form within the vehicle while maintaining the initial bag orientation and substantially filling the available storage space within the vehicle.
SPECIFIC DESCRIPTION Referring back now to the embodiment 10 of FIGS. 1 and 2, this embodiment of the wheeled frame 72 of carriage 4 rides on rear wheels (that are powered in any suitable manner by electric motor 76) and forward casters 162 that are connected together by the guide bar 164 (best shown in FIG. 2) that is provided with end rollers 166 that engage the inside surfaces 168 and 170 of the respective vehicle sidewalls 26 and 28 to guide the carriage 40 in its cycling movements within the vehicle 14. On loading dock 12 the wheels 160 and casters 162 ride in suitable guiding trackways 172. Applied between the loading dock 12 and the floor 30 is a suitable bridge plate 174 provided with trackways 176 that are to be aligned with the trackways 172, and that are enlarged or flared as at 178 so that the wheels 160 are suitably guided back into the trackways 176 on rearward movement of the carriage 40 outward of the vehicle 14.
The conveyor 43 comprises a suitable frame 180 including sidepieces 182 joined together in any suitable manner that journal rollers 184 that support the belt conveyor 47 and are mounted on suitable supports 181. Belt conveyor 47 is driven by a suitable electric motor 146 that drives the conveyor end pulley through suitable pulley belt 188.
The elevating mechanism 74 may be of any suitable type and in the form shown comprises cross levers 190 and 192 which have their ends 194 and 196 respectively pivoted to the platform 45 and wheeled frame 72, respectively, and their other ends 198 and 200 operating in suitable ways (not shown) with one of them being drawn forwardly of the wheeled frame 72 by a suitable screw and nut-type device or the like to raise the platform 45 from the lowered position to the upper position of the two position showing shown in FIG.
Conveyor 38 of the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2 is in the form of a frame 202 including side members 204 and 206 in which are joumaled the rollers 208 that support the belt conveyor 39. Belt conveyor 39 is driven by a suitable electric motor 210 driving the adjacent conveyor end pulley through pulley belt 212 or the like.
The bridge plate 174 may be secured in its illustrated operating position in any suitable manner as by employing latch bars or the like (not illustrated).
In the embodiment of FIGS. 3-5, the wheeled frame 72A of carriage 40A comprises a suitable framework 220 riding on suitable wheels 222 joumaled in place in any suitable manner. The frame 220 includes on either side thereof a flange member 224 having affixed thereto as by welding an angle member 226 having secured to its end a clamp element 228 of each clamp device 92 which is clamped to the cable 80 by an associated clamping element 230 held in place by suitable bolt 232.
At the forward end of cover 90, the cover flares upwardly as at 234 to accommodate the pulleys 82 and 86. The portion of the side 236 of the cover 90 in this area of the vehicle preferably is a hinged member (not shown) to provide for ready access to the pulleys 82 and 86 when the cable 80 is being applied thereto in the manner already described. The hinged member will drop over pulleys 82 and 86, which are suitably joumaled in the respective sidewalls of vehicle 14A.
In the embodiment of FIGS. 3-5, the conveyor 38, and the lift mechanism 74 and conveyor 43 of carriage 40A are the same as described in connection with the embodiments of FIGS. 1 and 2. Pulleys 84 and 88 are preferably mounted on a suitable frame that is mounted for sliding movement longitudinally of conveyor 38 and arranged to be releasably fixed in place when the respective cables 80 are suitably tensioned.
In the embodiment of FIGS. 6 and 7, the trackways 104 that support trolley 100 on dock 12B comprise channel members 239 that are mounted on a suitable supporting framework 240 that is of generally U-shaped configuration so that the conveyor 43B may be moved to the low level dashed line position of FIG. 6 for ready unloading of the conveyor 38 onto the conveyor 433. The trackways 102 comprise channel members 241 secured to the sidewalls 26B and 28B of vehicle 1413 for horizontal alignment with the respective channels 239 when the vehicle 14B is backed into its loading position. The rear wheels 34B of the vehicle 148 may be equipped with a suitable air spring arrangement or the like adapted to achieve exact vertical alignment of the adjacent ends of the respective channels 239 and 241 when vehicle 148 is backed to its loading position. Suitable bridge pieces (not shown) may be applied between such ends of channels 239 and 241 to facilitate the ready movement of trolley between trackways 102 and 104.
The trolley 100, which in the full line position of FIG. 7 has the dashed line position of FIG. 6, comprises a suitable frame 242 provided with suitable cross shafts 244 and 245 with which the respective rollers 103 and 105 are operably associated, rollers 105 being keyed to the shaft 245 that is driven by suitable electric motor 248. Motor 248 operates through suitable transmission 250 which selectively drives the shaft 245 through the sprocket and chain drive indicated at 252, or the shaft 254 that is keyed to the reels 112 (through the chain and sprocket drive indicated at 255) for simultaneous winding and unwinding cables 108 and 110 to raise and lower the carriage 40B.
The conveyor 438 comprising the carriage 408 in the form shown includes upright guide plates 256 on either side of the frame between which the bags 14 forming the tier 46 are disposed but is otherwise the same as conveyor 43.
In the embodiment 100 of FIGS. 8 and 9, the lazy tong linkage is in the form of a plurality of interconnected levers 260 pivotally connected as at 262 and 264, in which one end of the lazy tongs is pivotally connected to the carriage 40C, as at 266.
The lazy tongs 120 at its other end is pivotally connected as at 268 to a pair of nut members 270 cooperating with a screw shaft 272 driven by motor 274 (through pulley belt 273 and suitable pulleys) for purposes ofextending and contracting the lazy tongs. The shaft 272 is journaled in suitable bearing devices 275 and is threaded to move the nut devices 270 toward each other in one direction of rotation to extend the lazy tongs, and to move the nut devices in the opposite direction to retract the lazy tongs and thus move carriage 40C between its extended and retracted positions. Bearing devices 275, which may be of the pillow block type, and motor 274 are mounted on upper mounting plate 277 resting on support 279 and mounted for adjustment laterally of the path of movement of carriage 40C by adjusting clamp cap nuts 281 that cooperate with threaded studs extending through slots 285 formed in plate 277.
In this embodiment of the invention, the lift apparatus 74C is similar to apparatus 74 except that it is positioned at 90 degrees with respect to the manner in which the apparatus 74 is mounted in wheeled frame 72. Frame 72C of carriage 40C rides on suitable casters 275, and conveyor 43C is the same as conveyor 43. Conveyor 38C is similar to conveyor 38 except that it is disposed in the illustrated inclined position.
In the embodiments of FIGS. 10-12, the carriage 40D comprises a frame 284 including sideplates 286, a crossbar 288 and a bag stop plate 289 fixed together in any suitable manner to define an essentially open center frame as well as a slideway for the slideplate 139 that is pulled from its mailbag tier load supporting position to the position of FIG. 10 and to discharge the mailbag tier 46 that is carried thereby onto the stack on which it is to be placed.
The sideplates 286 on the outwardly facing sides thereof each journal a pair of rollers 290 that ride on the upper run 292 of the closed loop cable 128. Cable 128 has its ends closed together to form the indicated closed loop about pulleys 130 and 132 by an appropriate quick disconnect device so that when loading is completed and the carriage 40 is disposed outside the vehicle 14D, the cable 128 may have its ends disconnected and withdrawn from the vehicle.
The prop devices for the respective cables 138 and movable supports 134 each comprise a suitable post member or bar 300 that is preferably quadrilateral in transverse crosssectional configuration and is provided at its upper end with a bracket structure 302 that journals a pulley 304 over which the respective cables 138 are trained (on either side of the vehicle). The bars 300 are secured in any suitable manner to the truck at their lower ends and at the bracket structure 302.
The cables 138 are connected to the respective supports 134 as at 306 and extend upwardly about the pulleys 304 and then to the rear of the vehicle about a pulley 307 (see FIG. 12) carried by U-shaped support structure 308 that is mounted on the loading disc 12D in overlying relationship to the conveyor 38D. From the pulley wheel 307 on either side of the support structure 308 the respective cables 138 proceed about a second pulley 310 and then have their ends 311 suitably removably anchored to a crossbar 312 which carries the respective supports 136. The crossbar 312 moves vertically along trackway 316 defined by the respective uprights 314.
The conveyor 38D is in the form of a lower upwardly inclined section 280 and an upper generally horizontal section 282, in which the conveyor section 282 is supported in any suitable manner on the crossbar 312 and is pivotally connected to the conveyor section 280 (as at 317), which at its lower end rides on rollers 281 as the crossbar 312 moves up and down. Rollers 281 are joumaled on frame 202D of section 280 in any suitable manner. Sections 280 and 282 are belt conveyors arranged in a manner similar to conveyor 38.
On either side of the support 308 the crossbar 312 is connected to an endless chain 318 trained over sprockets 320 and 322 (see FIG. 12), with the sprockets 322 being driven by a suitable electric motor 324. Operation of the motor 324 in either direction serves to actuate crossbar 312 and simultaneously raise and lower the supports 134 and 136 as required to facilitate the stacking of the mailbags.
It is also preferred that the end pulleys 132 be driven through a motor (not shown) carried on crossbar 312, so that the carriage 40D is moved mechanically, and that a similar motor (not shown) be carried by crossbar 312 for winding up reels to which cables 140 are respectively attached for pulling cables 140 to retract the slideplate 138 when unloading of the mailbags form the carriage 40D is desired, with the drive for the latter motor being arranged so that cables 140 pull out readily from their reels when the carriage 40D is moved toward the desired bag tier load discharging position. This may be done in any suitable manner.
In the embodiment of FIG. 13, the sides 182E of conveyor 43E carry the clamping devices 130E that fix the carriage 40E to the cable 128E. The conveyor frame 180E of conveyor 43E includes sideplates 256E on which are joumaled the rollers 2405 that ride on the upper run 292 of cable 128E.
Referring now to the embodiment of FIGS. 14-18, the wheeled frame 72F of carriage 40F is the same as frame 72 with its crosslevers 190F and 192F operating in suitable ways formed in vertically movable platform 45F on which belt conveyor 43F is operably mounted. Conveyor 43F is arranged similar to conveyor 43 and includes limit switch 56F that is similar in purpose to switch 56. Unloading mechanism 155 comprises swing arm 350 joumaled in support 352 carried by frame 45F and operated by suitable motor 354 from central control board 35F. Conveyor 43F is operated by suitable motor 356 through suitable pulley belt or chain 358, and conveyor 38F, which is arranged in a manner similar to conveyor 38, is similarly operated through suitable motor 358 (suitably supported by frame 202F). The frame 202F of conveyor 38F includes vertical pin structure 360 that is suitably joumaled in platform 45F at 157.
At the end 158 of conveyor 38F, the pivotal connection 159 comprises an elongated plate member 362 pivotally connected to vertical pin structure 364 that is fixed to frame 202F, and is adapted to seat in one of the slots 366 formed in dock surface 16F at a suitable unloading station or position for carriage 40F. The frame 180F of conveyor 43F is mounted for sidewise movement on support bars 368 of frame 45F and is adapted to be moved sidewise of the vehicle by rotating screw 370 journaled in frame 45F that cooperates with nuts 372 secured to frame 45F. Screw 370 is rotated by suitable motor 374. Frame 45F is raised and lowered by operating motor 376 to rotate screw 378 joumaled in frame 72F and cooperating with a suitable nut structure 380 operably connected to cross lever l90F.
The embodiment of FIGS. 14-18 is operated by using motor 76F to drive carriage 40F into the empty vehicle 14, with the conveyor 38F and its ends 158 supported above the dock surface 16F in any suitable manner. When switch 56F engages the vehicle forward wall, forward motion of carriage 40F ceases, it remains stationary, and the plate 362 of conveyor 38F entered in the slot 366 nearest dock end 18F. Conveyor 43F is then positioned to one side of vehicle 14 to drop the first tier 46F into place (see FIG. 16) and the two bags forming this tier are applied to conveyor 38F and conveyed to the unloading position indicated by FIGS. 15 and 16, whereupon swing arm 350 is swung between the positions of FIGS. 16 and 18 to drop the first tier 46F into loaded position (FIG. 18). This action is repeated with conveyor 43F being moved transversely of the vehicle as is necessary to form the first layer 382 of bags at the inner end of the vehicle 14; to drop the last tier or two on the side of the vehicle opposite that shown in FIGS. 16-18, the conveyor 43F and swing arm 350 are positioned and operated to drop the tier off the other side of conveyor 43F to fill the space between the vehicle sidewall 28 and the bags already in place. The next layer 384 of bags is stacked on top of the first layer 382 by repeating the operations just described with conveyor 43F elevated as is necessary to bring the additional bags in over those already in place. After the vehicle has been loaded vertically to the capacity permitted by apparatus 10F, the carriage 40F is moved rearwardly to its next loading position, wherein the pivot plate of conveyor 38F is seated in the next slot 366, and the loading operations repeated. This continues until loading of the vehicle 14 is completed. As conveyor 43F shifts laterally of the vehicle, conveyor 38F swings with it and plate 362 shifts longitudinally of the slot 366 in which it is seated.
For all embodiments of the invention, the operations of the conveyors and bag carrying carriages are operated from a con trol panel 35, or the like, located outside of the vehicle, through any suitable wiring arrangement, and ordinarily only a single operator will be needed to both load the bags on the dock supported conveyor and operate the machines to deposit the bags in the vehicle 14. The machine can readily be controlled to avoid dropping the bags further than the 24 inch limitation prescribed by the Post Office Department.
The bag stacking arrangements of this invention will load trucks and trailers in a fraction of the time now required and at less than half the cost, while at the same time greatly reducing the effort required by workers handling the bags. This not only greatly reduces the tieup time for each truck, but also significantly reduces the overall cost of mailbag handling.
While many of the herein disclosed specific embodiments and methods are concerned with the loading of the mail bags into the highway vehicle in such a manner that the bags will extend longitudinally of the vehicle, this feature is optional though preferred as it comports with the way the bags are oriented in their final loaded position following the manual and semimanual conventional procedures that have heretofore been referred to. However, the loading arrangements suggested by FIGS. 19-21 achieve the same objects insofar as compactness of loading is concerned, and the random positioning of FIGS. 19 and 20 is preferable where the bags vary widely in size throughout the load. As to all described embodiments and methods herein disclosed, the load units or tiers formed on the loading dock are tenned partial transport vehicle load depth unit in the appended claims.
My US. Pat. Nos. 3,499,55 l, 3,464,571, 3,476,27l, 3,464,572, and 3,513,991 are respectively directed to specific features of the embodiments of FIGS. l-S, 6-7, 8-9, 10-13, and 14-18, respectively, of the instant application.
The foregoing description and the drawings are given merely to explain and illustrate my invention and the invention is not to be limited thereto, except insofar as the appended claims are so limited, since those skilled in the art who have my disclosure before them will be able to make modifications and variations therein without departing from the scope of the invention.
1. In bulk mail handling apparatus for loading elongated mail bags from a loading dock into the load receiving body of an end loading transport vehicle through the end opening thereof when the vehicle is backed into load receiving position in juxtaposition to the dock to dispose its end opening to receive the bags from the dock, and stacking same in the load receiving area of the vehicle body, without workers on the dock handling the bags having to enter the vehicle, and without requiring that pallets remain with the bags after they are loaded into the vehicle, said apparatus comprising:
a mailbag load assembling conveyor mountedon the loading dock adjacent but spaced from the load receiving position of the vehicle,
said conveyor being positioned to be aligned lengthwise thereof with the vehicle and its end opening in the load receiving position of the vehicle,
said conveyor presenting an upwardly facing load transporting surface having at least a portion thereof at an elevation for convenient manual lifting of the bags from the dock onto the conveyor surface, with said surface being proportioned transversely thereof to receive a partial transport vehicle load depth unit free of any supporting pallet and made up of a plurality of said bags arranged in tier form in closely spaced compact relation with the tier extending transversely of said conveyor and the bags of the tier oriented to have the positioning relative to each other that they will have in the load resting position thereof within the vehicle, and with the tier aligned with the vehicle end opening longitudinally of the vehicle and having a length to extend substantially the width of the vehicle load receiving area when in such load resting position thereof,
a mailbag receiving carriage operating on the loading dock between said conveyor and the load receiving position of the vehicle and proportioned to enter said vehicle end opening,
said carriage including a load supporting surface proportioned transversely of said conveyor to receive and support said bag load unit,
means for mechanically moving said carriage between a mailbag load unit variant position adjacent said assembling conveyor and predetermined mailbag load unit discharging positions within the vehicle,
means for operating said conveyor to discharge onto the rearward end of said carriage surface said load unit when the latter is received on said conveyor surface and when said carriage is in its mailbag load unit receiving position, while maintaining said orientation of the bags of said load unit,
means for adjusting vertically said carriage load supporting surface,
and means for discharging from the forward end of said carriage surface, when said carriage is in a load unit discharging position in the vehicle, said load unit while maintaining the bags thereon in said orientation to dispose such load unit in loaded position in the vehicle body in a tier extending transversely of the vehicle and substantially across the transverse dimension of the load receiving area thereof,
said carriage including means for shifting the bag load unit received thereon across said carriage from said rearward end to said forward end thereof, while maintaining the bags thereof in said orientation,
said carriage moving and operating means, said shifting means, and said discharging means operating to move said load unit in a rectilinear path between said conveyor surface and the loaded position thereof,
whereby mailbags, may be loaded onto said conveyor surface and mechanically transferred from said conveyor surface, across said carriage, and to a stack forming load resting position in said vehicle area in said tier form while maintaining said orientation of each bag load unit to mechanically load the bags in the vehicle in closely spaced multiple tier stacks extending from the inner end of the vehicle area to the vehicle end opening. 2. The apparatus set forth in claim 1 wherein:
said carriage comprises a wheeled frame portion riding on the dock and on the vehicle area in moving between said load unit receiving and discharging positions thereof,
said load supporting surface of said carriage comprising a conveyor extending over said frame portion and forming said shifting means, and projecting forwardly of said wheeled frame portion at least approximately a mailbag length 3. The apparatus set forth in claim 2 wherein said load supporting surface of said carriage is proportioned lengthwise of said carriage to carry several of said bag load units disposed in adjacent positions spaced longitudinally of said carriage surface.
4. The apparatus set forth in claim 1 including:
means for supporting said carriage above the surface of the dock and the vehicle loading area for movement between said load unit receiving and discharging positions thereof.
5. The apparatus set forth in claim 1 including:
movement control means carried by said carriage for automatically reversing movement of said carriage when said carriage on moving from said load unit receiving position when into the vehicle reaches a predetermined load unit discharging position within the vehicle.
6. The apparatus set forth in claim 1 including:
an operator control station located on the dock adjacent the load receiving position of the vehicle,
and control means operatorable actuable from said control station for controlling transfer of the bag load units from said conveyor to said carriage and actuation of movement of said carriage from the loading dock into the vehicle.
7. The apparatus set forth in claim 1 including:
means for guiding said carriage in its movement between said load unit receiving and discharging positions.
mg UNITED sm 12s PATENT z mciz CERT FICATE 0F CORRECTION Fawn: x 3,625,376 m De ceihber 7 1971 Inventofls) Joseph E. McWilliams It: is certified that: error appears in the above-identified patent: and that said Lotaars Patent are hereby corrected as shown below l Col umn 8, line 23, for "100" read -4- 100 -3 '1 Column 11, line #1, for "variant" r ead receiving .Column 11, line '55, for ."thereon" read thereof Column 12, line #3, deglete when", at the beginning of the line. n
, dgned gealed' this 30th day f May P772 g fittest: 'l nnwmm M.FLMCHER,JR.Q .ROBERT GO T'SCHALK' I,
' Attcstfing; Office? Commissioner'lof Patents