Trailer Talk

Lift Gate Trailers Can Load Normally with New 'Lok' Device

Jeffrey Soule perfected his Liftgate-Lok over months of designing and testing. Its bar "fought the Dok Lok to a tie," he declared.

June 13, 2016

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Liftgate-Lok's inverted U-shaped bar pulls out from underfloor storage, drops down and locks in place. When stowed, this slide-out gate is free to deploy. Photo: Tom Berg
Liftgate-Lok's inverted U-shaped bar pulls out from underfloor storage, drops down and locks in place. When stowed, this slide-out gate is free to deploy. Photo: Tom Berg

Jeffrey Soule runs a trucking company that hauls, among other things, Poland Spring bottled water from a facility west of Portland, Maine. Not long ago he accompanied a driver into New York City with a palletized load to a receiver in the Bronx.  

“They were Spanish grocery stores, three of them (three stops), with no facility to unload trucks other than by hand – 1,200 40-pound cases of bottled water” on this load, Soule recalled. “They didn't even have a pallet jack to move the pallets to the back of the trailer at the receivers, necessitating a ‘bucket line’ to pass the cases to the back of the trailer.

“It took nine hours to unload after a 6-1/2 hour drive from Maine, effectively wiping out the driver’s hours right there in NYC. Luckily, I went with the driver, so he had a second licensed driver to get him home.”

Lift gates are made for such jobs. But Soule said he couldn’t use one of his lift-gated trailers because Poland Spring won’t load them. That's because they lack attachment points for dock restraints, which the company considers absolutely essential to safe loading. Without being secured to a dock, a trailer can be mistakenly moved and a forklift and its driver can fall into the gap.

Liftgates do not have a place that dock restraints can grab onto, so many safety-minded shippers will not load them. This greatly cuts backhauling opportunities. 
Liftgates do not have a place that dock restraints can grab onto, so many safety-minded shippers will not load them. This greatly cuts backhauling opportunities.

Trailers with lift gates usually don’t have rear underride guards, whose horizontal bars provide the grabbing point for a restraint hook, Soule explains. And lift gate makers had no method to mate with a dock restraint. Other shippers also won't load lift-gate-equipped trailers, so many shipments are difficult to offload unless consignees have cargo docks at their facilities.

For those that don’t, Soule came up with a solution: the Liftgate-Lok. He devised it over months of design and testing: an inverted U-shaped steel member attached to a trailer’s rear. It rests horizontally in a compartment under the rear floor, and is pulled out and drops into a position where the dock hook can grab onto it. 

When loading’s done, the dock hook is retracted and the driver pulls the rig away, then walks back to close the trailer’s doors. While there, he also lifts the bar and slides it back into its compartment. With the lock bar stowed, the lift gate is free to deploy.

Soule tested it at Poland Spring’s dock and the restraint hook held tight to the bar, the bar wasn’t damaged as an underride guard might be, and the trailer couldn’t be moved.

Trailer is backed to the dock, the Dok-Lok's hook has grabbed the U-bar and the trailer is now unmovable. Photos: Jeffrey Soule
Trailer is backed to the dock, the Dok-Lok's hook has grabbed the U-bar and the trailer is now unmovable. Photos: Jeffrey Soule

“Liftgate-Lok fought the Dok Lok to a tie, forming a bond like two railroad cars coupling!" he declared. Poland Spring has therefore approved the loading of trailers with the device installed. Meanwhile, a large grocery fleet which saw the product has agreed to equip many of its trailers with Liftgate-Loks. 

Millions of empty miles are now run by lift-gate-equipped trailers because they can’t load backhauls, but his Liftgate-Lok will allow many of them to take on loads normally, Soule said. Also, trailers can now become part of a hook-and-drop operation; they can be parked at shippers’ yards, loaded and then picked up by drivers who’ll save many hours of waiting time. Liftgate-Lok will work with rail and slide-out gates, but not tuck-aways, Soule says.

"The list price is $2,495," he said. "It pays for itself by the third day of use on loads that otherwise could not be loaded on a liftgate trailer. A distributor/warehouser would see an immediate return from recapture of outsourced backhaul freight."

He has formed a company to market the product – Utopia Ventures – and has information and volume pricing available at 207-400-6940.

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Author Bio

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Tom Berg

Senior Contributing Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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