Photo: John Hitch
Level Deck inventor Steven Downing demonstrates how the self-leveling beam technology works at TMC 2022 in Orlando.

Doleco self-leveling decking system doubles adjustment speed

March 16, 2022
The system allows a user to set the height of a beam in half the time. Other benefits include durability, along with quiet and smooth operation, the company noted.

ORLANDO, Florida—Doleco USA unveiled a faster way to adjust captive decking beams that help maximize cargo space in trailers. Called the Level Deck Self-Leveling Decking Beam, the securement device simplifies the leveling process by allowing a worker to engage the locking mechanism on only one side of the beam as opposed to both.

“The operator can just release the system and then bring it down; the other side releases to the angular force extending up,” explained the system’s inventor, Steven Downing, at American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council 2022 annual meeting.

This ends up doubling worker productivity, noted Ralph Abato, president and managing director of Doleco.

See also: Zero-emission reefer trailers begin rollout in North American market

Downing said that the dry van and reefer trailers that could use this system employ up to 20 beams, so this system becomes “a significant time-saver.”

The system moves quietly and smoothly along the Doleco LayerLok track, which uses beveled teeth as opposed to notches. Raising the beam now requires less physical exertion, and thus reduces shoulder strain from the repetitive task, Downing noted.

It can be adjusted without the use of special tools. In addition, the tough die-cast nickel aluminum foot assembly prevents a common but highly discouraged practice—using a forklift to raise or lower the beam.

“The biggest causes of damage that I've seen for captive beam systems is when they get hit by a forklift,” Downing explained. This is because the pressure from the forks bends the metal pieces that lock the foot assembly to the track.

He designed the Level Deck with this in mind.

“Rather than the foot assembly being encased inside the channel, the foot assembly wraps itself and hugs the channel,” Downey explained. “And it's made of a nickel aluminum alloy, which prevents bending and has a nice shear force.”

Innovating efficiency

Downing started engineering the system over a decade ago while working as a project manager at Con-way Freight. The former Marine spent a lot of time working in and out of trailers, analyzing how to better secure loads in less time and with less effort. During that time, the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt experienced all of the pain points of working with a captive decking system.

“They're great systems for the company to provide better loads faster and reduce damages; however, as an actual end-user, there are a lot of inefficiencies,” Downing explained.

The inefficiency comes from requiring a special tool to disengage the locking mechanism on one side, moving it up or down, and then doing the same to the other side. On top of that, the process may need to be repeated to get the height right, and sometimes the tool isn’t around when you need it.

Downing said a recent Doleco innovation, which was unveiled at the TMC 2021 Fall event in Cleveland, Ohio, made the system possible.

“The final mile was getting a piece of the new LayerLok track in my hands,” he said. “As soon as I got that, I knew how to overcome the final engineering struggles that I had to be able to bring this product closer to market.”

About the Author

John Hitch | Editor

John Hitch, based out of Cleveland, Ohio, is the editor of Fleet Maintenance, a B2B magazine that addresses the service needs for all commercial vehicle makes and models (Classes 1-8), ranging from shop management strategies to the latest tools to enhance uptime.

He previously wrote about equipment and fleet operations and management for FleetOwner, and prior to that, manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician aboard a nuclear-powered submarine.

For tips, questions or comments, email [email protected].

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