The KEITH Freight Runner system allows an operator to use a handheld remote control to move pallets in and out of a trailer.

KEITH continues to innovate with Freight Runner

June 5, 2019
Mid-America Trucking Show 2019 coverage

KEITH Manufacturing doesn’t bill itself as a custom solutions provider, and the company would be just fine if customers would stick to ready-to-go, from-the-catalog products.

“But what happens is one thing leads to something else that leads to something else,” said KEITH President Mark Foster, speaking with Trailer/Body BUILDERS from the MATS showfloor.

The KEITH Freight Runner system, and its growing list of versions, is just such an example of how innovation works at successful companies.

In the beginning, of course, was the KEITH Walking Floor—the industry standard for the “horizontal unloading” of trailers. Walking Floor variants include specialized solutions for handling materials ranging from cotton to asphalt to ice, to the Pallet Walker system and to the recently introduced WalkBox unloader for chassis cab trucks.

But instead of the Walking Floor’s system of sliding floor slats to ease bulk materials out the back door, the Freight Runner—designed for palletized loads—uses conveyor tracks in the trailer floor. The object is to replace manual cargo handling and keep forklifts and pallet jacks out of the trailer. In turn, the system improves product throughput, reduces cargo damage and optimizes available warehouse resources.

An automated control system offers fast loading/unloading. Once the forklift positions cargo during the loading process, the conveying system automatically indexes it forward toward the front of the trailer. Unloading is just as simple, according to KEITH.

The bullet list of features includes:

• Easy Installation 

• Moves up to 30 tons 

• Cargo speed up to 30 feet/minute 

• Load/Unload full trailer in as little as two minutes; and

• Reduce labor costs up to 75%.

But wait, that’s not all.

Foster tells of a lumber delivery company in Seattle that asked for the Freight Runner system to be installed on a flatbed and to run from side to side, due to challenges of unloading lumber in an urban environment.

“They can unload from one side, but not from the other. So they have to turn the truck around, and often when they do their parking spot is gone,” he said. “What normally would take maybe 30 minutes ends up taking two or three hours. With the Freight Runner, they just find a spot and unload it all from one side.”

The company also asked about a system that could be used to deliver “small stuff,” whether bundled plywood sheets, boards, or palletized bags of gardening material in the bed of a pickup.

KEITH developed the Freight Runner LT (Light Transit) for just such jobs. The system features roller extensions that are positioned on the tailgate for loading and unloading, and are stowed in the bed when the tailgate is closed.

“We don’t know what kind of market there is, but they’re real excited about it—they’ve ordered four or five of them,” Foster noted.

Additionally, KEITH worked with a large shipper to come up with the Freight Runner D2T (Dock to Trailer), a “drawbridge” system that allows pallets to slide seamlessly and automatically between the dock and trailer.

Other innovations in the works include a version to work with liftgates, he added.

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