When a less-than-truckload client came to Strick Trailers with an idea to build a more efficient and productive pup trailer, Strick delved into the task and came up with the Elevator, which it showed to fleets at the Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting in late February in Atlanta.
“No problem or solution is too big; we were up to the challenge,” Director of Engineering Justin Bell told HDT.
This specialized 28-foot trailer has a motorized internal system to provide increased cargo space for operational efficiency. It uses the space between the axles, with three elevator platforms that drop the trailer floor segments from the regular floor level down to a level where three pallets can be fit in vertically instead of two – a triple-stack, allowing for six more pallets than a standard pup trailer – a 25% increase.
A forklift can drive right over the motorized sections to load the front section of the trailer. Once pallets are placed on each elevator section, that section is lowered so that additional pallets can be stacked on top, with the help of Ancra’s AutoDeck system.
Mike Palmer, vice president of fleet services for Estes Express, told HDT that the idea for using that space for cargo was not a new one, and in fact Carolina Freight had something similar that used a trap door – but it involved a lot of manual labor, and you couldn’t drive a forklift over it.
The “elevators” are three, 93-inch-wide, 50-inch-long aluminum platforms located in/above the drop section.
Bell explained that while Strick has an excellent engineering team on staff to handle its many custom trailer designs, for the electrical system, they turned to Purkeys. The resulting Elevator power system is designed to handle dual and triple trailer configurations. The elevator platforms are lifted and lowered via four synced 24V electric actuators, with the platform motion guided with an adjustable integral roller system. An Interior sidewall-mounted 24V control panel controls individual platform motion with individual lighted push buttons.
For safety, an integrated sidewall multi-light warning system indicates a stowed or unstowed platform position, as well as platform-in-motion scenarios – green lights mean forklifts can operate over the platforms like a regular floor. Red lights indicate the platform is lowered. Yellow lights indicate the platform is moving between those two states.
A 7-way Custom Integrated Solutions nose box with optional single and/or dual pole charging plug maintains two onboard batteries, while a standard 200-watt solar charging system manages power levels to allow for loading and unloading with no tractor connection. The onboard 12V to 24V power converter reduces total current required for lifting loaded platforms.
Estes is taking delivery of the first two in the near future and will be testing them on a long run to California with the assistance of Strick engineers in the field. Palmer explained that this particular run offers more time for loading, which will be needed as compared to a standard trailer. The testing period will allow Strick to address any problems or bugs that may arise. “Any time you have moving parts, you have to consider maintenance,” Bell noted.
Palmer said if all tests well, Estes has a couple hundred more runs where this trailer would work for his operations.
Strick said the Elevator concept, because it allows more cargo on one trailer, can decrease the number of tractors, trailers and drivers needed in a fleet. And because it essentially has a built-in trailer skirt, that’s another savings. Although the system does add weight to the trailer, this solution is likely more appealing for freight that cubes out before it weighs out.
The company said the Elevator trailer can be configured to meet the unique needs of many different types of operations.