Innovations in cargo securement often include new types of material to improve strength or performance; rarely do they involve electrical or other technological systems. Ancra Cargo, though, has managed to bring technological integration to cargo securement with its new AutoDeck decking solution.
The company is showing its innovative solution, first introduced last month at the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) event in Atlanta, this week at the National Private Truck Council’s (NPTC) 2019 Annual Education Management Conference and Exhibition at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, in Cincinnati, Ohio.
AutoDeck replaces a manual or captive decking solution and can reduce cargo claims and reduce damage while also cutting loading time of a trailer by up to 20 percent, Jeff Murillo, director of sales for engineered cargo systems, told FreightWaves.
“One of our fleet customers challenged us, saying we love the system but can you automate it,” he said.
It took Ancra just 16 months to do just that. AutoDeck is powered by a single Group 31 battery that can cycle 19 beams 50 times each on a single charge. The system uses less power than a typical liftgate, explained Jo Da Rosa, chief engineer. If power is lost, the beams can still be moved manually.
Built using Ancra’s Versa-Deck beam with modifications on the ends, AutoDeck is operated from a control panel at the rear of the trailer. Designed for sheet and post sidewall trailers at this point (a solution for composite trailers is likely as well), the operator simply types in the number of the beam they wish to move and the height (identified by numbers on the side of the trailer) at which the beam should be placed and the system will automatically lower or raise the beam to the correct location.
Each beam is capable of holding up to 3,000 pounds, the same as a standard Ancra Cargo beam system.
Return on investment, based on 90 percent of the estimated time savings in loading a trailer, is expected to be 18 months, Larry Bethel, president of Ancra International’s Cargo Systems Division, said. The first prototype will enter field testing this month and the expectation is to enter full production by mid- to late-2020.
Already, Da Rosa said a list of possible upgrades to the system is being developed and Bethel said there is even the possibility of connecting the system to autonomous forklifts in the future so that when a forklift loads a pallet and leaves the trailer, the AutoDeck would know which pallet will be brought on next and where the beams need to be placed for that pallet, saving further time in the loading or unloading process.
The system will not eliminate damage to decking or trailers, but Da Rosa believes it will help reduce it, and replacing parts that are damaged will be easy as it is a modular design for that very reason.
Murillo said getting potential customers to visit a cargo securement provider at a show can sometimes be difficult, but Ancra saw steady and higher-than-normal foot traffic at the TMC show and he thinks 50 percent of that traffic was because of word-of-mouth.
Adding electrical and other systems to a cargo solution is not easy, but Bethel praised Da Rosa and his team for the quick turnaround of the product.
“It is, of course, challenge when you step out of your comfort system,” he said, “but I think Jo and his team did a wonderful job integrating electrical with our [equipment].”