Find out how changes in the grain industry increased demand for the Hopper Trailer Opener, the world’s first handheld, powered grain trailer opener.
Introducing a Safer Solution to Help Solve Common Industry Challenges
Prior to the introduction of the Hopper Trailer Opener (HTO), Arnold Company would occasionally receive inquiries about a product for opening grain trailers similar to the proven products for opening railcars.
Normally, these requests were few and far between; however, one year at a GEAPS Expo, several inquiries came in prompting Arnold Company to start investigating. After investigation, it became clear that the industry was changing.
“We’ve seen the industry change to where the larger facilities are no longer allowing the trucker to get out of the truck, and therefore they have an employee, or multiple employees, opening up hopper trailers all day long,” Arnold Company President Albert Middeke observed. “These people are opening several hundred trailers a day, and as a result, injuries and fatigue are setting in due to the higher volume. In addition, many employees just can’t do the job. It isn’t easy.”
As a result, the HTO was invented with the intention of eliminating issues such as strain, motion injuries, and fatigue that operators can face due to the repetitive nature of their role.
After exploring various ideas during the design process, including floor mounting, cart mounting, and handheld, the team settled on a handheld unit for a few key reasons:
- There is typically limited space in the unloading area.
- With a lot of variety in hopper trailer types, operators cannot afford to make several adjustments to an opener in order to fit to various trailers when time is of the essence.
- A handheld unit allows the operator to stay connected to the opening and closing process. Otherwise, gates could be damaged if operators do not realize when they hit the end of the gate track.
Completing the Hopper Trailer Opener Design
Per Middeke, “This tool was truly built from the ground up after significant customer discussion and hands-on testing. Several trials were performed in order to find the right combination of torque and speed to open trailer gates safely without damage to the gate.”
The final handheld design is ergonomic and allows the user to stand in a comfortable position when opening or closing the trailer gates. In addition, several unique features were created during design.
Manual Locking Mechanism
“The locking mechanism allows the user to manually lock the shaft in place allowing them to simply and quickly get the gate latch out of the way,” Middeke explains. “This is unique to the HTO design, and we have received great feedback from our customers on this feature.”
Quick Connect Mechanism for Changing Sockets and the Variety of Sockets Offered
With many variations of trailers, the ability to swap out sockets easily and quickly remains critical. The sockets themselves are unique as well, designed not only to fit the majority of trailers but also to prevent the sockets from falling through the grates of the unloading pit.
Customer Testimonial: Farmers Grain Terminal
Paul Mancini from Farmers Grain Terminal in Indianola, MS searched for years for a good tool to open hopper trailers on site. He considers the Door Demon HTO to be well-built and mechanically sound.
“It’s the best option out there,” Mancini comments. “It’s very user-friendly and saves labor by putting less strain on the employees than cranking hopper gates by hand. It also speeds up the unloading process.”
“We used it to open 4,000 trailers last fall. That’s roughly 4,000,000 bushels and it’s ready to go for next season! I give it an A+.” -Paul Mancini, Farmers Grain Terminal, Indianola, MS
Arnold Company continues working on ideas to increase the product offering, but the initial design has changed very little since the product launch.
A full patent, US Patent No. 10,507,567 was awarded in December of 2019 for the unit incorporating not only the hopper trailer opener in general, but also including the custom manual locking mechanism, quick change sockets, and the method of using a powered, handheld opener for opening hopper trailers. The team is very proud of this accomplishment!