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Title:
HYBRID CRANE MATS WITH LIFTING ELEMENTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/151244
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An industrial mat having a supporting structure; an upper layer provided above the supporting structure for forming an upper surface of the mat, a lower layer provided below the supporting structure for providing a lower surface of the mat; and lifting elements attached to the upper layer, the lower layer or the supporting structure. The lifting elements include a loop portion which is receivable in an opening of the industrial mat, such that said loop portion in a storage position is maintained at or below the working surface.

Inventors:
PENLAND, JR., Joe (6550 Tram Rd.Beaumont, Texas, 77713, US)
CALVERT, Scott (6550 Tram Rd.Beaumont, Texas, 77713, US)
RICHARDSON, Chris, L. (6550 Tram Rd.Beaumont, Texas, 77713, US)
CARBAUGH, Mike (6550 Tram Rd, Beaumont TX, 77713, US)
Application Number:
US2017/014661
Publication Date:
September 08, 2017
Filing Date:
January 24, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
QUALITY MAT COMPANY (6550 Tram Rd, Beaumont, Texas, 77713, US)
International Classes:
E01C5/22; E01C5/14; E01C9/08
Foreign References:
US20140183319A12014-07-03
US20080292397A12008-11-27
US20140154462A12014-06-05
US20140341649A12014-11-20
EP1600558A12005-11-30
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FANUCCI, Allan, A. et al. (WINSTON & STRAWN LLP, Patent Department1700 K Street, N.W, Washington District of Columbia, 20006-3817, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
THE CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A lifting element for a crane mat that has a working surface, a plurality of longitudinal members, and an opening or recess for receiving the lifting element, with the lifting element comprising:

a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hand, fingers, or a hook or other lifting member;

a support member for supporting the loop portion;

a securement portion for securing the lifting element to the mat;

wherein the loop portion, support member and securement portions are connected to each other; and

wherein the support member is secured to the opening or recess in the mat with the opening configured and dimensioned to have a floor for receiving the support member, a channel for receiving the securement portion, and a depth that allows the lifting element to be received in the opening with the loop portion in a storage position that is maintained at or below the working surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or for securing articles thereto, and wherein the support member and securement portion are fixed in the mat while the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the working surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the mat.

2. The lifting element of claim 1, further comprising a body member for joining the loop and securement portions, wherein the body member extends in the channel and into the mat away from the support member, and is fixed in position by the support member and securement portion.

3. The lifting element of claim 2, wherein the body member comprises an elongated rod that passes through the mat from the working surface to the opposite side, the support member is a head portion of the elongated rod that has openings for receiving and securing the loop portion thereto, and the securement portion comprises a threaded end of the rod member and a fastening nut, such that the lifting element is secured to the mat with the head and loop portions provided in the opening and with the nut present in an opening or recess on the opposite side of the mat from the working surface.

4. The lifting element of claim 3, further comprising a first contact plate present between the head portion and the floor of the opening; a second contact plate between the nut and the recess; or both first and second contact plates so that the lifting element is more securely attached to the mat.

5. The lifting element of claim 2, wherein the loop portion is a ring member that is secured to the support member in a manner that allows the ring to pivot between the storage and lifting positions, the body member comprises a first plate that passes into the mat, the support member has a thickness that is greater than that of the first plate with the body and support members fixed in position in the mat, and the mat includes lateral rods for joining together the longitudinal members and the securement portion includes an opening in the first plate sufficient to receive therein one of the lateral rods of the crane mat to attach the lifting element to the mat.

6. The lifting element of claim 2, wherein the body member comprises a first plate that passes into the mat, the support member is a second plate oriented perpendicular to the first plate, wherein the support member plate includes holes to receive fasteners that secure the support member plate to the floor of the opening or recess, wherein the mat includes lateral rods for joining together the longitudinal members and the securement portion includes an opening in the first plate sufficient to receive therein one of the lateral rods of the crane mat to attach the lifting element to the mat, and wherein the loop portion is the only moving part of the lifting element.

7. The lifting element of claim 6, wherein the loop portion is a D-ring that is attached to the support member by a U-shaped member that is welded to one side of the second plate, and the body member is welded to the opposite side of the second plate, and wherein the recess in the mat has a depth that is only slightly larger than the ring member of the lifting element in order to minimize the open area of the recess to facilitate removal of dirt or foreign debris therefrom.

8. A crane mat having a working surface and an opening or recess in the working surface, the crane mat comprising:

outer side members comprising first and second side beams or boards of engineered lumber, oak or other hardwoods, or bumper members of solid or filled or unfilled hollow plastic members that optionally may be reinforced;

a core structure comprising a plurality of longitudinal members;

a plurality of joining rods that attach the outer side members to the longitudinal members of the core structure; and

one or more lifting elements comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hand, fingers, or a hook or other lifting member, a support member for supporting the loop portion, and a securement portion for securing the lifting element to the mat, wherein the loop portion, support member and securement portions are connected to each other;

wherein the opening is configured and dimensioned to have a floor for receiving the support member, a channel for receiving the securement portion, and a depth that allows the lifting element to be received in the opening with the loop portion in a storage position that is maintained at or below the working surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or for securing articles thereto, wherein the support member is secured to the floor of the opening or recess with the securement portion fixed in position in the mat, wherein the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the working surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the mat.

9. The crane mat of claim 8, wherein upper surfaces of the longitudinal members form at least part of the working surface of the mat, wherein the opening or recess is present in one or adjacent longitudinal members, and wherein the mat optionally includes metal plates of the same height and length as the longitudinal members and which are provided between adjacent longitudinal members. 10. The crane mat of claim 8, further comprising external components including an upper layer of elongated members located above and attached to the core structure to protect the core structure, a lower layer of elongated members located below and attached to the core structure to also protect the core structure, or both of the upper and lower layers; wherein the elongated members are made of wood, engineered wood, metal or a thermoplastic, thermosetting plastic, or elastomeric material, wherein each lifting element is located in an opening that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members, with each lifting element connected to a joining rod to secure the lifting element to the mat.

11. The crane mat of claim 8, wherein the lifting element further comprises a body member for joining the loop and securement portions, wherein the body member extends in the channel and into the mat away from the support member, and is fixed in position by the support member and securement portion, wherein the securement portion includes an opening sufficient to receive a joining rod therein, and with a joining rod passing through the securement portion to attach the lifting element to the mat.

12. The crane mat of claim 8, wherein the core structure further comprises a metal frame that includes side and end members, and wherein the outer side members, side members of the frame and longitudinal members each include a plurality of spaced lateral apertures passing therethrough, with the lateral apertures being in alignment to form bores through the mat; wherein each joining rod passes through each of the previously mentioned members through the aligned lateral apertures and bores to hold the members together in the mat.

13. A crane mat comprising:

outer side members comprising first and second side beams or boards of engineered lumber, oak or other hardwoods, or bumper members of solid or filled or unfilled hollow plastic members that optionally may be reinforced;

a core structure comprising a metal frame that includes side and end members and that contains therein a plurality of longitudinal members made of pine or other softwoods;

external components including an upper layer of elongated members located above and attached to the core structure to protect the core structure, a lower layer of elongated members located below and attached to the core structure to also protect the core structure, or both of the upper and lower layers; and

a plurality of joining rods that attach the outer side members to the core structure; wherein the elongated members are made of wood, engineered wood, or a

thermoplastic, thermosetting plastic, or elastomeric material.

14. The crane mat of claim 13, wherein the outer side members, side members of the frame and longitudinal members each include a plurality of spaced lateral apertures passing therethrough, with the lateral apertures being in alignment to form bores through the mat; wherein each joining member passes through each of the previously mentioned members through the aligned lateral apertures to hold the members together in the mat; and optionally including steel plates of substantially the same height as the longitudinal members with each plate located between adjacent longitudinal members, wherein the joining rods also pass through the steel plates to hold those components together in the mat. 15. The crane mat of claim 14, further comprising one or more lifting elements each located in an opening in that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members of the upper or lower layer, with each lifting element connected to a joining rod to secure the lifting element to the mat; and with the lifting element(s) comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hook, fingers, hand or other lifting member, and a securement portion that includes an opening sufficient to receive a joining member therein, with the loop and securement portions either connected to each other or forming a unitary lifting element, and with the securement portion of the lifting element(s) receiving a joining rod passing therethrough to attach the lifting element(s) to the mat;

wherein the opening is configured and dimensioned to receive the lifting element therein in a storage position with the lifting element maintained at or below the surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or when securing articles thereto, and wherein the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the lifting element.

16. The crane mat of claim 13 wherein the frame member further comprises one or a plurality of cross members attached to side members to strengthen the frame, with the longitudinal members located between cross members and with additional filler members located between the cross members and end members of the frame, wherein a joining rod passes through the additional filler members through aligned lateral apertures therein to hold those members together in the mat; and further comprising one or more lifting elements each located in an opening in that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members of the upper or lower layer, with each lifting element connected to a cross member to secure the lifting element to the mat; and with the lifting element(s) comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hook, fingers, hand or other lifting member, and a securement portion that is connected to the cross member to attach the lifting element to the mat, with the loop and securement portions either connected to each other or forming a unitary lifting element;

wherein the opening is configured and dimensioned to receive the lifting element there in in a storage position with the lifting element maintained at or below the surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or when securing articles thereto, and wherein the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the lifting element.

WO 2017/151244 AMENDED CLAIMS PCT/US2017/014661 received by the International Bureau on 28 June 2017(28.06.2017)

What is claimed is:

1. A lifting element for a crane mat that has a working surface, a plurality of longitudinal members, and an opening or recess for receiving the lifting element, with the opening or recess including a lifting element comprising:

a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hand, fingers, or a hook or other lifting member;

a support member for supporting the loop portion;

a securement portion for securing the lifting element to the mat;

wherein the loop portion, support member and securement portion are connected to each other to form a structure which includes the loop portion at one end and connected to an upper portion of the support member and with the securement portion plate provided upon and extending away from a lower portion of the support member; and

wherein the support member is secured to the opening or recess in the mat with the opening configured and dimensioned to provide a floor for receiving the support member and to facilitate connection thereto, a channel for receiving the securement portion therein, and a depth that allows the lifting element to be received in the opening with the loop portion in a storage position that is maintained at or below the working surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or for securing articles thereto, and

wherein the support member and securement portion are fixed in the mat while the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the working surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the mat.

2. The lifting element of claim 1, wherein the support member comprises a body member for joining the loop and securement portions, wherein the body member extends in the channel and into the mat away from the support member, and is fixed in position by the support member and securement portion.

3. The lifting element of claim 2, wherein the body member has the form of an elongated rod that passes through the mat from the working surface to the opposite side, the support member includes a head portion of the elongated rod that has openings for receiving

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19) and securing the loop portion thereto and a first contact plate present between the head portion and the floor of the opening, and the securement portion comprises a threaded end of the rod member and a fastening nut, such that the lifting element is secured to the mat with the head and loop portions engaging the floor of the opening and with the nut present in an opening or recess on the opposite side of the mat from the working surface.

4. The lifting element of claim 3, further comprising a second contact plate between the nut and the recess so that the lifting element is more securely attached to the mat.

5. The lifting element of claim 2, wherein the loop portion is a ring member that is secured to the support member in a manner that allows the ring to pivot between the storage and lifting positions, the body member comprises a first plate that passes through the channel and into the mat, the support member comprises a second plate that has a thickness that is greater than that of the first plate, with the second plate secured to the floor of the opening or recess in the mat and with the body and support members oriented perpendicular to each other to form a T-shaped structure which includes the ring member operatively associated with and connected to an upper side of the second plate with the first plate extending away from a lower side of the second plate so that the first and second plates are fixed in position in the mat, and the mat includes lateral rods for joining together the longitudinal members with the securement portion being an opening in the first plate sufficient to receive therein one of the lateral rods of the crane mat to attach the lifting element to the mat.

6. The lifting element of claim 2, wherein the body member comprises a first plate that passes into the channel of the opening of the mat, the support member is a second plate oriented perpendicular to the first plate to form a T-shaped structure which includes the loop portion operatively associated with and connected to an upper side of the second plate with the first plate extending away from a lower side of the second plate so that the first and second plates are fixed in position in the mat, wherein the support member plate includes holes to receive fasteners that secure the support member plate to the floor of the opening or recess, wherein the mat includes lateral rods for joining together the longitudinal members and the securement portion includes an opening in the first plate sufficient to receive therein one of the lateral rods of the crane mat to attach the lifting element to the mat, and wherein the loop portion is the only moving part of the lifting element.

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19)

7. The lifting element of claim 6, wherein the loop portion is a D-ring that is attached to the support member by a U-shaped member that is welded to one side of the second plate, and the body member is welded to the opposite side of the second plate, and wherein the recess in the mat has a depth that is only slightly larger than the ring member of the lifting element in order to minimize the open area of the recess to facilitate removal of dirt or foreign debris therefrom.

8. A crane mat having a working surface and an opening or recess in the working surface, the crane mat comprising:

outer side members comprising first and second side beams or boards of engineered lumber, oak or other hardwoods, or bumper members of solid or filled or unfilled hollow plastic members that optionally may be reinforced;

a core structure comprising a plurality of longitudinal members;

a plurality of joining rods that attach the outer side members to the longitudinal members of the core structure; and

one or more lifting elements comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hand, fingers, or a hook or other lifting member, a support member for supporting the loop portion, and a securement portion for securing the lifting element to the mat, wherein the support member and securement portion each comprises a plate with the support member plate oriented perpendicular to the securement portion plate, and wherein the support member and securement portion are connected to each other to form a T-shaped structure which includes the loop portion operatively associated with and connected to an upper side of the support member plate and with the securement portion plate extending away from a lower side of the support member plate;

wherein the mat opening is configured and dimensioned to provide a floor for receiving the support member plate and to facilitate connection thereto, a channel for receiving the securement portion plate, and a depth that allows the lifting element to be received in the mat opening with the loop portion in a storage position that is maintained at or below the working surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or for securing articles thereto, wherein the support member plate is secured to the floor of the opening or recess with the securement portion plate fixed in position in the mat in one longitudinal member or between adjacent longitudinal members with the securement portion

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19) plate having an opening to receive a joining rod that passes therethrough to further secure the lifting element to the mat,

wherein the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the working surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the mat.

9. The crane mat of claim 8, wherein upper surfaces of the longitudinal members form at least part of the working surface of the mat, wherein the opening or recess is present between adjacent longitudinal members, and wherein the mat optionally includes metal plates of the same height and length as the longitudinal members and which are provided between adjacent longitudinal members.

10. The crane mat of claim 8, further comprising external components including an upper layer of elongated members located above and attached to the core structure to protect the core structure, a lower layer of elongated members located below and attached to the core structure to also protect the core structure, or both of the upper and lower layers; wherein the elongated members are made of wood, engineered wood, metal or a

thermoplastic, thermosetting plastic, or elastomeric material, wherein each lifting element is located in an opening that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members, with each lifting element connected to a joining rod to secure the lifting element to the mat.

11. The crane mat of claim 8, wherein the loop portion is a D-ring that is attached to the support member plate by a U-shaped member that is welded to one side of the support member plate, with the securement portion plate welded to the opposite side of the support member plate, and wherein the recess in the mat has a depth that is only slightly larger than the ring member of the lifting element in order to minimize the open area of the recess to facilitate removal of dirt or foreign debris therefrom.

12. The crane mat of claim 8, wherein the core structure further comprises a metal frame that includes side and end members, and wherein the outer side members, side members of the frame and longitudinal members each include a plurality of spaced lateral

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19) apertures passing therethrough, with the lateral apertures being in alignment to form bores through the mat; wherein each joining rod passes through each of the previously mentioned members through the aligned lateral apertures and bores to hold the members together in the mat.

13. A crane mat comprising:

outer side members comprising first and second side beams or boards of engineered lumber, oak or other hardwoods, or bumper members of solid or filled or unfilled hollow plastic members that optionally may be reinforced;

a core structure comprising a metal frame that includes side and end members and that contains therein a plurality of longitudinal members made of pine or other softwoods;

external components including an upper layer of elongated members located above and attached to the core structure to protect the core structure, a lower layer of elongated members located below and attached to the core structure to also protect the core structure, or both of the upper and lower layers; and

a plurality of joining rods that attach the outer side members to the core structure; wherein the elongated members are made of wood, engineered wood, or a

thermoplastic, thermosetting plastic, or elastomeric material.

14. The crane mat of claim 13, wherein the outer side members, side members of the frame and longitudinal members each include a plurality of spaced lateral apertures passing therethrough, with the lateral apertures being in alignment to form bores through the mat; wherein each joining member passes through each of the previously mentioned members through the aligned lateral apertures to hold the members together in the mat; and optionally including steel plates of substantially the same height as the longitudinal members with each plate located between adjacent longitudinal members, wherein the joining rods also pass through the steel plates to hold those components together in the mat.

15. The crane mat of claim 14, further comprising one or more lifting elements each located in an opening in that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members of the upper or lower layer, with each lifting element connected to a joining rod to secure the lifting element to the mat; and with the lifting element(s) comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19) grasping by a hook, fingers, hand or other lifting member, and a securement portion that includes an opening sufficient to receive a joining member therein, with the loop and securement portions either connected to each other or forming a unitary lifting element, and with the securement portion of the lifting element(s) receiving a joining rod passing therethrough to attach the lifting element(s) to the mat;

wherein the opening is configured and dimensioned to receive the lifting element therein in a storage position with the lifting element maintained at or below the surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or when securing articles thereto, and wherein the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the lifting element.

16. The crane mat of claim 13 wherein the frame member further comprises one or a plurality of cross members attached to side members to strengthen the frame, with the longitudinal members located between cross members and with additional filler members located between the cross members and end members of the frame, wherein a joining rod passes through the additional filler members through aligned lateral apertures therein to hold those members together in the mat; and further comprising one or more lifting elements each located in an opening in that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members of the upper or lower layer, with each lifting element connected to a cross member to secure the lifting element to the mat; and with the lifting element(s) comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hook, fingers, hand or other lifting member, and a securement portion that is connected to the cross member to attach the lifting element to the mat, with the loop and securement portions either connected to each other or forming a unitary lifting element; wherein the opening is configured and dimensioned to receive the lifting element there in in a storage position with the lifting element maintained at or below the surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or when securing articles thereto, and wherein the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the lifting element.

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19)

17. The crane mat of claim 13, further comprising one or more lifting elements each located in an opening in that is at least partially present in an opening in the mat, with each lifting element connected to a joining rod to secure the lifting element to the mat; and with the lifting element(s) comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hook, fingers, hand or other lifting member, and a securement portion that includes an opening sufficient to receive a joining member therein, with the loop and securement portions either connected to each other or forming a unitary lifting element, and with the securement portion of the lifting element(s) having an opening therein for receiving a joining rod passing therethrough to attach the lifting element(s) to the mat;

wherein the support member and securement portion each comprises a plate with the support member plate oriented perpendicular to the securement portion plate, and wherein the support member and securement portion are connected to each other to form a T-shaped structure which includes the loop portion operatively associated with and connected to an upper side of the support member plate and with the securement portion plate extending away from a lower side of the support member plate;

wherein the mat opening is configured and dimensioned to provide a floor for receiving the support member plate and to facilitate connection thereto, a channel for receiving the securement portion plate, and a depth that allows the lifting element to be received in the mat opening with the loop portion in a storage position that is maintained at or below the working surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or for securing articles thereto, wherein the support member plate is secured to the floor of the opening or recess with the securement portion plate fixed in position in the mat in one longitudinal member or between adjacent longitudinal members; and

wherein the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the lifting element.

18. The crane mat of claim 17, wherein the loop portion is a D-ring that is attached to the support member plate by a U-shaped member that is welded to one side of the support member plate, with the securement portion plate welded to the opposite side of the support member plate, and wherein the recess in the mat has a depth that is only slightly

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19) larger than the ring member of the lifting element in order to minimize the open area of the recess to facilitate removal of dirt or foreign debris therefrom.

AMENDED SHEET (ARTICLE 19)

Description:
HYBRID CRANE MATS WITH LIFTING ELEMENTS

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS (for US National Stage)

This application is a continuation-in-part of US application Ser. No. 15/400,951 filed Jan. 6, 2017, which is a continuation-in-part of US application Ser. No. 15/377,545 filed Dec. 13, 2016, which is a continuation-in-part of US application Ser. No. 15/244,614 filed Aug. 23, 2016, which is a continuation-in-part of US application Ser. No. 15/188,113 filed Jun. 21, 2016, which is a continuation-in-part of US application Ser. No. 15/155,685 filed May 16, 2016, which is a continuation-in-part of US application Ser. No. 15/081,340 filed Mar. 25, 2016, now US Pat. No. 9,476, 164, which is a continuation-in-part of US application Ser. No. 15/056,212 filed Feb. 29, 2016, now US Pat. No. 9,447,547, which is a continuation- in-part of US application Ser. No. 14/839,888 filed Aug. 28, 2015, now US patent 9,315,949, which claims the benefit of each of US application Ser. Nos. 62/054,186 filed Sep. 23, 2014, 62/138,143 filed Mar. 25, 2015, and 62/158,196 filed May 7, 2015.

US application Ser. No. 15/244,614 filed Aug. 23, 2016 claims the benefit of application no. 62/211,664 filed August 28, 2015.

This application is also a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 15/331, 130 filed Oct. 21, 2016, which is a division of US application Ser. No. 15/155,685 filed May 16, 2016, which is a continuation-in-part of US application Ser. No. 15/081,340 filed Mar. 25, 2016, now US Pat. No. 9,476, 164, which is a continuation-in part of application Ser. No. 15/056,212 filed Feb. 29, 2016, now US Pat. No. 9,447,547, which is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 14/839,888 filed Aug. 28, 2015, now US Pat. No. 9,315,949, which claims the benefit of each of application Ser. Nos. 62/054, 186 filed Sep. 23, 2014, 62/138, 143 filed Mar. 25, 2015, and 62/158, 196 filed May 7, 2015.

Each of the foregoing applications is expressly incorporated herein by reference thereto.

BACKGROUND

The present invention relates to new, hybrid crane mats that have lifting elements for movement and installation of crane mats. These mats are typically used in construction sites that require heavy lifting, crane support stabilization, temporary areas for installation of pipelines or bridges, and other support structures in locations where the ground requires grading and stabilization to provide a flat support surface for such equipment or activities. Conventional industrial mats are typically 4 feet wide and utilize beams having square or rectangular cross sections of sizes between 8x8 inch to 16x16 inch that are up to 40 feet in length that are connected by joining members or carriage bolts. Typically, the beams are made of oak and preferably white oak as that material provides acceptable performance of the mats for a significant service life at a reasonable cost. Such mats are available from Quality Mat Company, Beaumont, Texas. These mats, which are often called timber mats or crane mats. There are concerns regarding the lifting and movement of such mats due to their relatively large sizes.

In the past, lifting, manipulation and placement of the mats were facilitated by exposing part of the joining member for grasping by a lifting hook of a crane or other heavy piece of equipment. While the exposure of the joining or connecting rod facilitated lifting or moving operations, it presented an issue in that workers could inadvertently step into over the open hole that was provided around the connecting rod. Also, the larger sizes of these mats require lifting elements that facilitate overhead lifting elements. Thus, other designs are needed to more easily move these large mats as well as to provide greater safety to personnel working on these mats. Also, it is desirable to have improvements in the construction of such mats to provide extended service lives and better performance in use.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention now satisfies these needs in the art by providing new crane mats with improved properties as well having newly designed and improved lifting elements and associated structures and arrangements for lifting and manipulation of these crane mats.

These lifting elements, structures and arrangements also provide a lower profile where the lifting elements are maintained below the working surface of the mat to promote safety for workers. Also, the mat construction enables the use of lower cost core materials that are protected by a metal frame which in turn is protected by various outer boards, beams and/or bumper members.

The lifting elements are designed for use on a crane mat that has a working surface, a plurality of longitudinal members, and an opening or recess for receiving the lifting element. This lifting element comprises a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hand, fingers, or a hook or other lifting member; a support member for supporting the loop portion; and a securement portion for securing the lifting element to the mat; wherein the loop portion, support member and securement portions are connected to each other and wherein the support member is secured to the opening or recess in the mat. The opening is configured and dimensioned to have a floor for receiving the support member, a channel for receiving the securement portion, and a depth that allows the lifting element to be received in the opening with the loop portion in a storage position that is maintained at or below the working surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or for securing articles thereto. Thus, the support member and securement portion are fixed in the mat while the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the working surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the mat.

The lifting element generally has a body member for joining the loop and securement portions, wherein the body member extends in the channel and into the mat away from the support member, and is fixed in position by the support member and securement portion. In one embodiment, the body member comprises an elongated rod that passes through the mat from the working surface to the opposite side, the support member is a head portion of the elongated rod that has openings for receiving and securing the loop portion thereto, and the securement portion comprises a threaded end of the rod member and a fastening nut, such that the lifting element is secured to the mat with the head and loop portions provided in the opening and with the nut present in an opening or recess on the opposite side of the mat from the working surface. If desired, the lifting element can include a first contact plate present between the head portion and the floor of the opening; a second contact plate between the nut and the recess; or both first and second contact plates so that the lifting element is more securely attached to the mat.

In another embodiment, the loop portion of the lifting element is a ring member that is secured to the support member in a manner that allows the ring to pivot between the storage and lifting positions, the body member comprises a first plate that passes into the mat, the support member has a thickness that is greater than that of the first plate with the body and support members fixed in position in the mat, and the mat includes lateral rods for joining together the longitudinal members and the securement portion includes an opening in the first plate sufficient to receive therein one of the lateral rods of the crane mat to attach the lifting element to the mat.

In yet another embodiment, the body member of the lifting element comprises a first plate that passes into the mat, the support member is a second plate oriented perpendicular to the first plate, wherein the support member plate includes holes to receive fasteners that secure the support member plate to the floor of the opening or recess, wherein the mat includes lateral rods for joining together the longitudinal members and the securement portion includes an opening in the first plate sufficient to receive therein one of the lateral rods of the crane mat to attach the lifting element to the mat. Preferably, the loop portion is a D-ring that is attached to the support member by a U-shaped member that is welded to one side of the second plate, and the body member is welded to the opposite side of the second plate. Also, the recess in the mat preferably has a depth that is only slightly larger than the ring member of the lifting element in order to minimize the open area of the recess to facilitate removal of dirt or foreign debris therefrom.

Other embodiments are disclosed in the detailed description.

Generally, between 2 and 12 lifting elements are provided in the mat, preferably in a symmetrical pattern. The openings or recesses for at least two of the lifting elements are spaced about 1 to 3 feet from the front or rear ends of the mat so as to provide easy access by the crane or lifting device.

The invention also provides a crane mat having a working surface and an opening or recess in the working surface. The crane mat is designed for overhead lifting and comprises outer side members comprising first and second side beams or boards of engineered lumber, oak or other hardwoods, or bumper members of solid or filled or unfilled hollow plastic members that optionally may be reinforced; a core structure comprising a plurality of longitudinal members; a plurality of joining rods that attach the outer side members to the longitudinal members of the core structure; and one or more lifting elements comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hand, fingers, or a hook or other lifting member, a support member for supporting the loop portion, and a securement portion for securing the lifting element to the mat, wherein the loop portion, support member and securement portions are connected to each other.

Advantageously, the opening is configured and dimensioned to have a floor for receiving the support member, a channel for receiving the securement portion, and a depth that allows the lifting element to be received in the opening with the loop portion in a storage position that is maintained at or below the working surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or for securing articles thereto, wherein the support member is secured to the floor of the opening or recess with the securement portion fixed in position in the mat. Also, the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the working surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the mat. Preferably, the upper surfaces of the longitudinal members form at least part of the working surface of the mat, wherein the opening or recess is present in one or adjacent longitudinal members, and wherein the mat optionally includes metal plates of the same height and length as the longitudinal members and which are provided between adjacent longitudinal members. The crane mat may further comprise external components including an upper layer of elongated members located above and attached to the core structure to protect the core structure, a lower layer of elongated members located below and attached to the core structure to also protect the core structure, or both of the upper and lower layers. These elongated members are made of wood, engineered wood, metal or a thermoplastic, thermosetting plastic, or elastomeric material, wherein each lifting element is located in an opening that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members, with each lifting element connected to a joining rod to secure the lifting element to the mat.

The preferred lifting element further comprises a body member for joining the loop and securement portions, wherein the body member extends in the channel and into the mat away from the support member, and is fixed in position by the support member and securement portion, wherein the securement portion includes an opening sufficient to receive a joining rod therein, and with a joining rod passing through the securement portion to attach the lifting element to the mat.

When the core structure of the mat further comprises a metal frame that includes side and end members, and when the outer side members, side members of the frame and longitudinal members each include a plurality of spaced lateral apertures passing

therethrough, with the lateral apertures being in alignment to form bores through the mat; each joining rod will pass through each of the previously mentioned members through the aligned lateral apertures and bores to hold the members together in the mat. Additionally, it is possible for the lifting element to be directly attached to the metal frame by welding.

Additional crane mat structures are disclosed herein and in the documents that are incorporated by reference herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The nature and various advantages of the present invention will become more apparent upon consideration of the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters refer to like parts throughout, and in which:

Figure 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of a crane mat having new lifting elements according to the present invention;

Figure 2 is an exploded view of the mat of Figure 1 to illustrate the various components present therein;

Figure 3 is a top view of a first embodiment of a lifting element for use in the present invention;

Figure 4 is a side view of the lifting element of Figure 3;

Figure 5 is a front view of the lifting element of Figure 3;

Figure 6 is a perspective view of the lifting element of Figure 3;

Figure 7 is a cross sectional view taken through the crane mat of Figure 1 along one of the longitudinal members to show the arrangement of the internal and external members;

Figure 8 is a perspective view of a second embodiment of a crane mat having new lifting elements according to the present invention;

Figure 9 is an exploded view of the crane mat of Figure 8 to illustrate the various components present therein;

Figure 10 is a perspective view of a third embodiment of a crane mat having new lifting elements according to the present invention;

Figure 11 is an end view of the crane mat of Figure 10;

Figure 12 is a perspective view of a fourth embodiment of a crane mat having new lifting elements according to the present invention;

Figure 13 is an expanded view of the front end of the crane mat of Figure 12 with one of the longitudinal members removed to illustrate the connection of the lifting element;

Figure 14 is a cross sectional view taken through the crane mat of Figure 12 to illustrate the position of the lifting element in use;

Figure 15 is an exploded view of a fifth embodiment of a crane mat having an internal frame to illustrate the various components present therein;

Figure 16 is an exploded view of the frame member of the crane mat of Figure 15 to illustrate the attachment of the cross members;

Figure 17 is an end view of a sixth embodiment of a crane mat having new lifting elements according to the present invention;

Figure 18 includes Figures 18A and 18B which are a partial sectional views of the lifting element of the crane mat of Figure 17 in operative and storage positions, respectively; Figure 19 includes Figures 19A and 19B which are a partial sectional views of a variation of the crane mat of Figure 17 with the lifting element in operative and storage positions, respectively.

Figure 20 is a front view of another lifting element for use in the present invention; Figure 21 is a side view of the lifting element of Figure 20;

Figure 22 is a side view of the lifting element of Figure 20 in a storage position;

Figure 23 is a side view of the lifting element of Figure 20 in use;

Figure 24 is a front view of another lifting element for use in the present invention;

Figure 25 is a side view of the lifting element of Figure 24;

Figure 26 is a perspective view of a crane mat having a core construction of pine timbers that are protected by oak beams and boards;

Figure 27 is an exploded view of the crane mat of Figure 26 to illustrate the various components of the mat;

Figure 28 is a partial perspective view of the end of the crane mat of Figure 26;

Figure 29 is a partial perspective view of the end of the crane mat of Figure 26 with certain outer components removed to better illustrate the internal components of the mat;

Figure 30 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a mat according to the present invention;

Figure 31 is an exploded view of the mat of Figure 30 to illustrate the various components present therein;

Figure 32 is a perspective view of the support structure for the mat of Figure 30; Figure 33 is a perspective view of yet another embodiment of a mat according to the present invention;

Figure 34 is a partial sectional view of the support structure for the mat of Figure 33; Figure 35 is an exploded view of the collar members for the openings in the elongated members;

Figure 36 is a perspective view of the collar members in place on a mat;

Figure 37 is a perspective view of two alternative lifting members;

Figure 38 is a side cross-sectional view of the lifting elements of Figure 37 in their normal, non-use position;

Figure 39 is a side cross-sectional view of the lifting elements of Figure 37 in their operative position during lifting of the mat;

Figure 40 is a perspective view of a crane or pipeline mat according to the present invention; and Figure 41 is an exploded view of the crane or pipeline mat of Figure 40.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The new and improved crane mats of the present invention now provide a number of surprising advantages over conventional crane mats. The provision of a one or more lifting elements that are securely attached to these mats facilitates overhead lifting and manipulation of the mats in a much more secure manner. By securing the lifting element directly to the joining rod of the mat, the weight of the mat becomes directly distributed from the mat onto the joining rod to the lifting element. Prior crane mats included a large opening to expose the joining rod to enable a crane hook to access the rod for lifting. The provision of the lifting elements of the present invention now provides much smaller recesses and openings compared to conventional crane mats to avoid having workers operating on the upper surface of the mat from tripping over or stepping into the hole. In addition, the recesses and holes are sized and configured to receive the lifting element when not in use to provide essentially a flat in uniform top surface of the mat in the area where the lifting element is located, yet still allow the loop portion of the lifting element to be simply and easily accessed and exposed when the mat needs to be moved.

Another advantage of the present invention is that the lifting element is configured such that when the loop portion is exposed above the working surface of the mat, it also can be used to tie down equipment, tents, or other items to the mat to stabilize and secure such items to prevent movement during use.

Certain terms that are used herein are defined hereinbelow to assist in the

understanding of the invention.

The term "crane mat" is intended to cover relatively large mats made primarily of longitudinal beams or timbers having widths of at least about 4 feet with lengths running from about 4 feet to 40 feet and incorporating elongated members, beams, or other components having square or rectangular cross sections of sizes of at least about 6x6 to 24x24 inches with lengths from about 4 feet to as much as 40 feet or more. Preferred dimensions are described throughout the specification. As noted, previous and current mats of this type that are commercially available are primarily constructed of monolithic wood and typically of oak.

The term "non-wood" to describe the longitudinal beams or the support structure is used for its ordinary meaning. The components of the structure are generally not made of wood but instead are made of metal, a thermosetting plastic or other materials that are resistant to degradation due to environmental factors such as moisture from water, snow or ice, organisms that can cause wood rot, or similar external factors that affect wood.

The term "substantially" is used for its ordinary meaning to indicate that the dimensions are not precise or exact. A skilled artisan can readily determine what tolerances are acceptable to provide a surface that is considered to be flat based upon the size of the side beams and the type of service that the mat is expected to provide. There is no requirement that the beams and elongated members be flush with each other along the top and bottom surfaces of the mat. Typically, the term "substantially' will mean that the top surfaces of the beams and elongated members can vary by as much as a few inches although in the more preferred embodiments the variance is less than 1 inch.

Additionally, all dimensions recited herein are approximate and can vary by as much as ± 10 % to in some cases ± 25 %. In some situations, the term "about" is used to indicate this tolerance. And when the term "about" is used before reciting a range, it is understood that the term is applicable to each recited value in the range. Often, the craftsmanship and engineering procedures that are followed in construction of these mats minimize these tolerances as much as possible or industrially practical.

The outer top and bottom surfaces of the mat are deemed to be the working surfaces of the mat. Generally, the mat can have different upper and lower surfaces recognizing that one surface faces the ground while the other is used as a road, platform or other working surface, but preferably, the upper and lower surfaces are the same so that either surface can be faced downward with the opposite surface used for supporting equipment or allowing movement on the mat. Also, the surfaces are preferably made with symmetry as to the lifting elements to facilitate efficient lifting of the mats.

A wide variety of lifting elements can generally be provided by the invention.

Typically, the lifting element can include D-shaped members, O-shaped members, U-shaped members, eyelets, hooks, circular or polygonal rings, chains, or cables. These elements generally have a unitary structure that can provide the necessary strength and versatility in allowing the mats to be certified for overhead lifting to facilitate pick up, delivery, installation and reclamation of the mats. Each lifting element has a strength rating of from 1/2 ton to 12 tons depending upon the size of the mat.

All of the elements have a component that includes a loop portion that is generally an opening or open area in the lifting element that can be grasped by a hook or other member of a crane or similar lifting device. The elements also include a further securement portion, again in the form of an opening or open area that allows the lifting element to receive a joining rod therethrough so that the lifting element is securely attached to the mat.

The number of lifting elements can vary based on the size of the mat. At least one lifting element is provided on each of the top and bottom surfaces of the mat when

symmetrical mats having the same top and bottom surfaces are provided. It is also possible to have two lifting elements in the center of the mat near each end as shown in Figure 1. Greater numbers of lifting elements can be used with 4 or even 8 or 12 lifting elements on each surface of the mat. These can be arranged symmetrically in the mat surface to facilitate access by the lifting device.

The lifting elements are located in recesses which can be provided between adjacent beams or if desired, within the beams. As noted, the recesses can be arranged horizontally and parallel to the working surface of the mat, or vertically and perpendicular to the working surface of the mat. The specific arrangement is determined based on the type of lifting element that is to be used. Additionally, the recesses can be provided in adjacent beams while also located in or over the spacing between the beams.

In the most preferred arrangement the recesses are rectangular in configuration and shape but other configurations and shapes can be used. For example, sloped walls of the recess can be provided to create a V shape for the vertical embodiment while the horizontal embodiment can vary based on the shape of the support plate and can be round, oval or other polygonal shapes other than rectangular or square.

To prevent movement of the lifting element in the horizontal embodiment, the support plate can include a number of openings for nails, bolts or screws to more firmly attach the lifting element to the mat. The support plate can include 2, 3, 4 or more openings depending upon the size of the mat and lifting element. These help prevent any movement of the lifting element during movement of the mat except of course of the loop member.

The preferred embodiments for the lifting elements include a D- or O-shaped member that can pivot from a horizontal position, where it can be stored beneath the working surface of the mat, to a lifting position where the D- or O-shaped member is exposed for grasping by a hook member of a crane or other equipment. Other rings or plate members that have arcuate ends or edges and that include the appropriate opening or openings can be used.

Other suitable lifting elements includes chains one end of which is secured or attached to a joining rod and the other end of which includes a chain link or other loop portion for engaging a crane hook for lifting of the mat. The chain is retained in the recess when in the storage position. The chain is configured of steel having sufficient strength to be able to lift the entire mat without bending or breaking. Also, the links at either end of the chain can be securely attached to the joining rod when the mat is assembled.

In a preferred arrangement, only one end of the chain is permanently secured to the joining rod, while the other is attached by a conventional connectable link. Thus, after the mat is moved into position, the chain can be disconnected and stored inside support structure so that personnel working on the mat will not trip over the chain.

Alternatively, if a removable chain is desired, such as may be supplied with the equipment used to move the mats, the chain can be provided with a connectable link on each end so that the workers can attach each end of the chain to the joining rod when the mat is to be moved. After the mat is installed, however, the chain can be removed from the joining rod and reused for moving or installing other mats. This again provides greater safety for workers as the chains are not present on the surface of the mat during use.

For additional safety, the size of the opening that receives the chain is reduced compared to mats of the prior art. As the opening provided for connecting the chain is much smaller than the previous opening or cut away beam that exposed the j oining rod, personnel who are working or conducting operations upon the mat have a much lower chance of stepping into hole.

Instead of a chain, a suitable cable can be provided. This is often constructed of metal strands for greatest strength. Also, when cables or chains are to be used, they should have at least three drop forged clamps. Cable can be new 3/4 inch steel core, extra improved plow (EIPS), right regular lay wire rope, having a minimum breaking strength of over 29 tons. Chains should be 3/8" high test chain, having a working load limit of 5400 lbs. and a minimum breaking strength of 16,200 lbs. with 3/8 inch double clevis links, in order to provide a safe working load limit of about 5400 lbs.

The mat is typically made of longitudinal members having a rectangular cross-section with all members having the substantially the same dimensions. In an alternative

embodiment, some or all of the beams can be made smaller than the desired thickness of the mat and can be protected on their top and bottom surfaces by elongated members of boards or other structural components. These beams are typically made of lower cost materials having sufficient strength for use in the mat but that may not have sufficient ruggedness for the intended use of the mat. In this arrangement, the protective members and components are selected to provide better impact and abrasion resistance than the smaller beans such that the strength of the beams can be obtained with mat surfaces that are more resistant to the movement and placement of equipment across or onto the mat. In a preferred embodiment, the beams are made of wood with oak or other hardwoods being preferred. For the embodiments where the upper and lower surfaces are protected by boards or other elongated members or components, the beams can be made of pine or other softwoods and the boards can be made of oak or other hardwoods, plastics, elastomers or even metal. The beams and outer boards can each be made of materials that are not wood if desired. Accordingly, the invention provides many different materials and combinations that can be used for different applications.

When the longitudinal beams are made of non-wood materials of metals, plastics or elastomers or combinations thereof, timber resources are conserved rather than being harvested to provide the long length beans for construction of the mats. It is possible to use wood only for the outer side beams with a support structure providing the remaining width of the mat. For the arrangements where the beams are of smaller dimensions than the thickness of the mat, further conservation of wood resources is achieved with the inner beams protected by upper, lower or upper and lower layers of elongated materials of any of the materials mentioned. This is particularly advantageous when the smaller beams are made of pine or other softwoods with the upper and/or lower layers of one or more boards, plates or other elongated members being made of a more durable material to protect the softwood beams that are used in the core of the mat.

And other variations are possible. The side beams can be made of a plastic, elastomeric or metal materials. These are generally rectangular in cross section and have a height that is the same as the overall thickness of the mat. They can be made as a solid member, a tubular member that is open or filled, or as flat sheets or strips that are layered vertically and are attached to the mat by the rod members. If desired, steel plates can be interspersed between some or all of the side beam layers.

When the smaller beams in the core are protected by the upper and lower layers of other boards the working top and bottom surfaces of the mat are configured to be substantially uniform. In one arrangement, the top or bottom surfaces of the mat includes the top or bottom surfaces of the side beams and of the boards that protect the core beams. And in other arrangements, all beams can be of the same height with the upper and lower layers of boards covering all beams. In this arrangement, the top and bottom surfaces of the mat are the top and bottom surfaces of the protective boards.

A preferred embodiment uses fiberglass reinforced thermosetting resins, generally in the form of a pultrusion, for the side beams, all internal beams or the support structure, and for the elongated members essentially eliminates the use of any wood in the mats. This further conserves timber resources.

The use of a non-wood core or support structure enables that component to be reused in the event that the side beams or elongated members become damaged or experience deterioration due to use and exposure to harsh environmental conditions. By being made of more robust and environmentally resistant materials, it is possible to disconnect the joining rods to take apart the mats and remove the damaged side beams or elongated members, and then add new components to the structure to form a new mat. This also reduces the demand for wood beams or elongated members in particular by 50 to as much as 100%.

The mats of the invention typically include a plurality of longitudinal beams having top, side and bottom surfaces, with the beams having width and height dimensions of between 6x6 inches and 24x24 inches and a length of at least 4 feet and typically between 10 and 60 feet. Preferably the lengths of the beams are in the range of 20 to 40 feet and preferably 30 to 40 feet as these length mats are easier to transport and ship compared to longer mats. Other dimensions that are typically used for the side beams are 8x8, 10x10, 12x12, 14x14 and 16x16 although a skilled artisan can select other dimensions as desired.

Typically, the widths and heights of the beams are of the same dimension so that the beams have a square cross-section. Alternatively, for certain designs, the beams may be rectangular in cross section, with the width being about twice the dimension of the height or vice versa. Other typical dimensions are 6x12, 6x18, 8x10, 8x12, 12x14, 12x16, 12x24, and 18x24. These rectangular beams may be connected to the support structure with the longer side as the height or with the longer side as the width, depending upon the desired use of the mat. Using the longer side as the width is generally preferred for interlocking mat arrangements.

The beams are typically made of any type of wood with oak being the most preferred.

They may also be made of engineered wood or lumber since that will be easier to make long lengths without having to obtain one piece virgin wood lengths. As oak becomes more difficulty to obtain, eucalyptus grandis trees have been harvested to provide the necessary length of beams, timbers, and elongated members. This species is commonly known as the flooded gum or rose gum, is a tall tree with smooth bark, rough at the base fibrous or flaky, grey to grey-brown. At maturity, it reaches 50 to 80 meters tall so that it can easily provide the long lengths needed for the larger mats. Additionally a layered veneer laminate can also be used for these members or beams. It is expected that the cost for these new wood materials would be about the same as the price for oak thus making them attractive alternatives. Engineered lumber (or engineered wood) includes a range of derivative wood products which are manufactured by binding or fixing the strands, particles, fibers, or veneers or boards of wood, together with adhesives, or other methods of fixation to form wood composite materials. These materials provide the surprising benefit of repeatable consistency of the required sizes, the ability to mix different wood species to arrive at the final product, and exceptional properties generally exceeding what is provided from monolithic boards.

There are three types of engineered wood that can be used in the present invention:

- parallel strand laminate (PSL), which is a beam that can be manufactured up to about 12x12 inches in any length due to the production of the beam by a continuous process;

- layered stand laminate (LSL), which is a billet that can be made at thicknesses of from about 1 " to 4", in widths from about 2 inches to 54", and in lengths of about 8 feet to 64 feet; and

- layered veneer laminate (LVL) which is also a billet that can be made up to about 4 feet square by any length.

Alternatively, the beams may be made of a fiberglass reinforced thermosetting plastic material such as fiberglass reinforced polyester or epoxy resins. These materials may be pultruded into a solid form or preferably as a rectangular or square tube. If desired, hollow tubes can be filled with any one of a variety of materials to contribute to the overall strength or compression resistance of the tube. Typically, crumb rubber, recycled tires or other plastic or elastomeric materials, sand, crushed rock or polyurethane foam may be provided inside the tube either before or after attachment to the support structure. A polyurethane foam is preferred for this purpose as it can be injected in a liquid form after the pultrusion is attached to the support structure. For stronger or heavier filler, the joining rods may be initially placed into the beam so that the filler does not block the insertion of the rods when joining the side beams to the support structure. Additionally, a metal or pultruded plastic tubular sleeve can be provided in the beams at the locations where the rods are to be inserted, so that the rod has an opening that remains after the filler is placed into the beams.

While the beams are typically made of wood, as noted other materials may instead be used. When the beams are made of metal, steel is typically used as that material is readily available and of low-cost. Although not necessary for most applications, the beams can instead be made of a more corrosion resistant material such as stainless steel, copper, bronze, or other alloys. When carbon steel is used, however, the corrosion resistance can be enhanced by painting or coating the structure so that it would be more resistant to moisture. Also, steel can be galvanized or provided with another type of protective coating so that it would have a lower tendency to rust when contacted by moisture. It is preferred that the metal be weldable to facilitate construction of the beams.

Aluminum or titanium can also be used for the beams in specialty applications. All of these materials generally have higher cost than steel and some present greater difficulties during welding or brazing.

The metal beams are typically provided as square or rectangular tubular structures or as a plurality of plates. These members can be prepared in the desired shape and

configuration by welding smaller shapes or segments together.

Alternatively, the beams may be made of a fiberglass reinforced thermosetting plastic material resin, which is typically a polyester or epoxy resin. The components of the structure may be pultruded in the form of a rectangular or square tube which may be hollow or filled with other materials depending on the overall weight and compressibility desired for the construction.

The plastic or elastomeric materials can be used either as solid rectangular structures or as layers with or without interleaving steel plates. Depending upon the anticipated service and conditions to be experienced, different combinations of beam materials can be used. Thus, the invention provides a wide range of different beam materials and material combinations that can be selected for any particular end use or service requirement for the mat.

The mat must also provide sufficient load bearing capacity: a fully supported mat (one that is properly installed on a suitable prepared ground surface) must be able to withstand a 10 ton load, spread over a 12 inch diameter surface without degradation of mat properties or permanent deformation of the mat. The support structure would have a crush resistance of between about 500 and psi to possibly as much as 1000 psi depending upon the application and when properly installed on a suitably prepared ground surface. This provides resistance against compression as large vehicles or equipment move over or are placed upon the mat.

A plurality of joining members are used to secure the beams together. These joining rods are typically large rods or carriage bolts that include threaded ends to receive nuts that when assembled will hold the components together. These rods are spaced about 3 to 6 feet apart depending upon the size of the mat. These rods or carriage bolts are typically made of a high strength steel.

In a preferred embodiment, the crane mat comprises outer side members comprising first and second side beams or boards of engineered lumber, oak or other hardwoods, or bumper members of solid or filled or unfilled hollow plastic members that optionally may be reinforced; a core structure comprising a metal frame that includes side and end members and that contains therein a plurality of longitudinal members made of pine or other softwoods; external components including an upper layer of elongated members located above and attached to the core structure to protect the core structure, a lower layer of elongated members located below and attached to the core structure to also protect the core structure, or both of the upper and lower layers; and a plurality of joining rods that attach the outer side members to the core structure. The elongated members are advantageously made of wood, engineered wood, a metal such as steel, or a thermoplastic, thermosetting plastic, or elastomeric material, including recycled plastic materials.

The outer side members, side members of the frame and longitudinal members each generally include a plurality of spaced lateral apertures passing therethrough, with the lateral apertures being in alignment to form bores through the mat; wherein each joining member passes through each of the previously mentioned members through the aligned lateral apertures to hold the members together in the mat. Preferably, the mat further comprises steel plates of substantially the same height as the pine timbers with each plate located between adjacent pine timbers, wherein the joining rods also pass through the steel plates to hold those components together in the mat.

The crane mat advantageously includes one or more lifting elements each located in an opening in that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members of the upper or lower layer, with each lifting element connected to a joining rod to secure the lifting element to the mat; and with the lifting element(s) comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hook, fingers, hand or other lifting member, and a securement portion that includes an opening sufficient to receive a joining member therein, with the loop and securement portions either connected to each other or forming a unitary lifting element, and with a joining member passing through the securement portion to attach the lifting element to the mat.

The opening is preferably configured and dimensioned to receive the lifting element therein in a storage position with the lifting element maintained at or below the surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or when securing articles thereto, and wherein the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the lifting element. Alternatively, the frame member may further comprise one or a plurality of cross members attached to side members to strengthen the frame, with the longitudinal members located between cross members and with additional filler members located between the cross members and end members of the frame, wherein a joining member passes through the additional filler members through aligned lateral apertures therein to hold those members together in the mat. One or more lifting elements can be included, again with each located in an opening in that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members of the upper or lower layer, with each lifting element connected to a cross member to secure the lifting element to the mat.

The crane mat preferably includes outer end members to protect the end members of the frame, the outer end members comprising first and second side beams of engineered lumber, oak or other hardwoods, or bumper members of solid or filled or unfilled hollow plastic members that optionally may be reinforced. Also, the side and end members of the frame are preferably made of steel C-beams that retain the longitudinal members

therebetween.

The working surfaces of the mat can be configured in different ways. In one arrangement, the outer side members each have a top surface and is located in a position that aligns the top surface of each outer side member with the upper surfaces of the elongated members of the upper layer to form an upper working surface for the mat. Additionally, the outer side members each also may have a bottom surface and is located in a position that aligns the bottom surface of each outer side member with the lower surfaces of the elongated members of the lower layer to form a lower working surface for the mat. Alternatively, the elongated members of the upper or lower layers extend across the entire width and length of the mat including over the outer side members to form a working surface for the mat.

For the lifting elements, the loop portion preferably is a D- or O-shaped ring and the attachment portion is a U-shaped member attached to the support plate and having a sufficient opening to allow the loop portion to pivot between the storage and lifting positions. The support plate is preferably oriented and positioned to be parallel to but beneath the working surface of the mat, with the attachment member located on an upper surface of the support plate, and the base plate is attached to a lower surface of the support plate and is oriented perpendicularly thereto. The lifting element is made of steel or another metal, preferably one that is weldable, so that the attachment member and base plate can be welded to the support plate. The recess is preferably a horizontally configured recess provided beneath the working surface of the mat upon adjacent longitudinal beams with the base plate extending in the space between the beams, wherein the recess has a depth that is greater than the combined thickness of the support plate, attachment member and loop member so that the lifting element resides beneath the working surface of the mat when in the storage position.

Another embodiment of the invention relates to a crane mat having a working surface and comprising outer side members comprising first and second side beams or boards of engineered lumber, oak or other hardwoods, or bumper members of solid or filled or unfilled hollow plastic members that optionally may be reinforced; a core structure comprising a plurality of longitudinal members; a plurality of joining rods that attach the outer side members to the longitudinal members of the core structure; one or more lifting elements comprising a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hook, fingers, hand or other lifting member, and a securement portion for attachment to a component that is present in the core structure. The mat includes an opening or recess in the working surface which is configured and dimensioned to receive the lifting element therein in a storage position with the lifting element substantially filling the recess and maintained at or below the working surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or when securing articles thereto. The loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the lifting element.

The core structure can includes only longitudinal members with or without

intermediate steel plates of the same height and length so that the upper surfaces of the longitudinal members form at least part of the working surface of the mat. Each lifting element then would be located in an opening that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members of the upper or lower layer, with each lifting element connected to a joining rod to secure the lifting element to the mat. In particular, the securement portion of each lifting element would include an opening sufficient to receive a joining member therein, with the loop and securement portions either connected to each other or forming a unitary lifting element, and with the joining member passing through the securement portion to attach the lifting element to the mat.

Alternatively, the frame member may further comprise a metal frame that includes side and end members, and wherein the outer side members, side members of the frame and longitudinal members each include a plurality of spaced lateral apertures passing therethrough, with the lateral apertures being in alignment to form bores through the mat; wherein each joining member passes through each of the previously mentioned members through the aligned lateral apertures to hold the members together in the mat. The frame preferably includes one or a plurality of cross members attached to side members to strengthen the frame, with the longitudinal members located between cross members and with additional filler members located between the cross members and end members of the frame, wherein a joining member passes through the additional filler members through aligned lateral apertures therein to hold those members together in the mat. Thus, the one or more lifting elements are connected to a cross member to secure the lifting element to the mat.

In yet another embodiment, the recess provides a sufficient opening in the mat to expose a portion of the joining member and the lifting element comprise a ring, cable, or chain that receives the exposed joining member. Advantageously, the recess opening also provides sufficient space to receive and maintain the lifting element in the storage position beneath the working surface of the mat. If desired, the opening of the recess can be reinforced with metal plates or a collar which protects the opening from contact by the ring, chain or cable and which adds stability as the mat is being lifted or moved.

The invention also provides a crane mat having a working surface and an opening or recess in the working surface. This crane mat comprises outer side members comprising first and second side beams or boards of engineered lumber, oak or other hardwoods, or bumper members of solid or filled or unfilled hollow plastic members that optionally may be reinforced; a core structure comprising a plurality of longitudinal members; a plurality of joining rods that attach the outer side members to the longitudinal members of the core structure; and one or more lifting elements. The lifting elements include a loop portion that is configured with an opening sufficient to receive and allow grasping by a hand, fingers, or a hook or other lifting member, a support member for supporting the loop portion, and a securement portion for securing the lifting element to the mat, wherein the loop portion, support member and securement portions are connected to each other. The mat opening is configured and dimensioned to have a floor for receiving the support member, a channel for receiving the securement portion, and a depth that allows the lifting element to be received in the opening with the loop portion in a storage position that is maintained at or below the working surface of the mat when not used for lifting or moving of the mat or for securing articles thereto, wherein the support member is secured to the floor of the opening or recess with the securement portion fixed in position in the mat, wherein the loop portion is movable to a lifting position that exposes the loop above the working surface of the mat for engagement by a hook or other grasping element for certified overhead lifting, manipulation or movement of the mat or for securing other articles to the mat.

One version of the mat has the upper surfaces of the longitudinal members forming at least part of the working surface of the mat, wherein the opening or recess is present in one or adjacent longitudinal members, and wherein the mat optionally includes metal plates of the same height and length as the longitudinal members and which are provided between adjacent longitudinal members.

Another version further comprises external components including an upper layer of elongated members located above and attached to the core structure to protect the core structure, a lower layer of elongated members located below and attached to the core structure to also protect the core structure, or both of the upper and lower layers; wherein the elongated members are made of wood, engineered wood, metal or a thermoplastic, thermosetting plastic, or elastomeric material, wherein each lifting element is located in an opening that is at least partially present in an elongated member of the upper or lower layer and a subjacent longitudinal member or present in adjacent elongated and longitudinal members, with each lifting element connected to a joining rod to secure the lifting element to the mat.

Another version of the mat has a lifting element that further comprises a body member for joining the loop and securement portions, wherein the body member extends in the channel and into the mat away from the support member, and is fixed in position by the support member and securement portion, wherein the securement portion includes an opening sufficient to receive a joining rod therein, and with a joining rod passing through the securement portion to attach the lifting element to the mat.

Also, for some mats, the core structure further comprises a metal frame that includes side and end members, and wherein the outer side members, side members of the frame and longitudinal members each include a plurality of spaced lateral apertures passing

therethrough, with the lateral apertures being in alignment to form bores through the mat; wherein each joining rod passes through each of the previously mentioned members through the aligned lateral apertures and bores to hold the members together in the mat.

And in yet another embodiment, an industrial mat is provided that has a support core that includes a frame having first and second spaced longitudinal side members, front and rear end members, and internal connecting or cross members, with the core configured and arranged to support other external components of the mat; external components including an upper layer located above and attached to the frame of the support core that forms an upper surface layer for the mat and that protects the support core, and a lower layer located below and attached to the frame of the support core that forms a lower surface layer of the mat and that also protects the support core; and lifting elements directly attached to the support core, with the lifting elements comprising D-shaped members, O-shaped members, U-shaped members, hooks, circular or polygonal rings, chains, or cables that are attached to a connecting or cross member that is attached to the longitudinal side members of the support core, either directly or through the upper or lower surface layers, with sufficient strength to provide certified overhead lifting of the mat for installation and reclamation thereof.

In a preferred embodiment, lifting element is not a chain that is attached to a lateral rod in an opening in the mat, nor is it a simple D- or O-ring mounted on a plate that is nailed or otherwise attached to the mat. Instead, the preferred lifting elements have a body member that connects a movable upper portion, such as a D- or O-ring, to the lateral rods in a manner that secures the lifting element to the mat in a fixed position so that only the D- or O-ring rotates or is movable for exposure out of the mat opening or recess when needed for lifting or for securing objects to the mat. This provides unexpected advantages in the lifting and movement of the mat compared to an elements such as a chain or cable. It also has better securement to the mat compared to lifting elements such as the simple D- or O-ring mounted on a plate. Thus, the preferred lifting elements provide certified overhead lifting of the mats.

Turning now to the drawings, Figures 1 and 2 illustrate a crane mat 100 in accordance with a first embodiment of the present invention. For this embodiment, the crane mat includes side beams 110, 140 and end beams 120, 130 each made of oak or other hardwood, and four internal beams 125 A, B, C, D each made of softwood such as pine timbers to reduce the overall cost of the mat. Four internal pine timbers are illustrated but the number can vary depending upon the size of the mat. As these pine timbers are not as abrasion and abuse resistance as other materials or components, they are protected on all sides by being placed in a frame 135.

The metal frame 135 is typically made of steel but which also can be made of aluminum or other metals. This frame is generally rectangular and includes flange portions on the upper and lower sides to help maintain the internal components therein. Generally, the frame members are configured as a C-shaped beam with the open side of the C facing into the core and with the flat side facing the side beams to facilitate attachment thereto. It is also possible for these members to be flat plates or even I-beams. The end and side beams can be configured for attachment to the frame members without leaving substantial amounts of open space. The top and bottom surfaces or the pine timbers are protected one or more different elongated members, shown in Figures 1-2 as upper elongated boards 150A, B, C and lower elongated members 155 A, B, C which are placed on the respective upper and lower surfaces of the pine timbers. The pine timbers are configured to be shorter than the longitudinal oak beams to provide space for the upper and lower surfaces of the pine timbers to receive the elongated members and form relatively flat upper and lower surfaces of the mat. The elongated members and more durable than the pine timbers and are typically made of oak or other hardwoods, plastic or elastomeric members or even metal sheets or plates. And instead of multiple elongated members, a single plate or sheet of steel, wood, plastic or elastomeric material can be used depending upon the size of the mat and the service life performance needed.

The mat is strengthened by the addition of steel or metal plates 105 A, B, C which are placed between each adjacent pine timbers as well as between the oak beams and the adjacent pine timbers. These are needed for certain applications but they may be considered as optional as the present invention is also operable without these plates.

The two side beams 110, 140 which are made of white oak have dimensions of about 12 x 12 inches and a length of approximately 16 feet. The core of the mat is made primarily of the frame 135 and pine timbers, the latter of which have dimensions of approximately 12 inches wide and 8 inches high. The steel "C" beams of the frame have a height of about 8 inches. The frame and pine timbers are located adjacent the center of the height of the side beams such the side beams extend approximately 1 to 2 inches above and 1 to 2 inches below the frame and pine timbers. To prepare uniformly flat upper and lower surfaces of the mat, elongated boards 150A, B, C and 155 A, B, C, each of which is approximately 1 to 2 inches thick, 8 inches wide and 16 inches long, are provided above and below the pine timbers as shown. The boards can be made of wood, engineered lumber, plastic or recycle materials.

The oak beams and boards thus protect the pine timbers from abuse while reducing the cost of the mat due to the substitution of the pine timbers for oak timbers. And when these elongated boards are spaced apart, channels 152 are formed between them which allow water to drawing from the mat during use.

The frame is protected at the forward and rearward ends of the mat by end beams 120,

130, but as these ends are not usually subjected to great abuse, the inclusion of these beams are optional. When the end beams are not used the steel frame is configured to form the ends of the mat. Alternatively, if desired, bumper members as disclosed in the prior applications that are incorporated by reference herein can be provided on the forward and rearward ends of the mat to provide further protection of the ends of those pine timbers.

The side beams, pine timbers and when used the steel plates are joined together by joining rods 160 which extend across the width of the mat. Typically, rods 480 are carriage bolts having a head 162 that engages an opening on one of the side beams and a threaded end and nut 165 on the other end of the bolt on an opening in the other side beam. Preferably, the ends of the longitudinal members are recessed into the mat or are provided with a low profile that does not protrude significantly from the mat. A number of joining rods or bolts are used spaced every 3 to 6 feet of length of the mat. The bolts pass through each of the beams and timbers and when used the plates and are secured in placed by the washer and nut arrangement 165. The upper and lower boards 150 are either nailed or bolted to the pine timbers.

To facilitate lifting of the mats, a lifting element 170 according to the invention is provided. This element is best shown in Figures 3-6. A D-shaped ring 172 is preferably provided that is pivotally attached to a steel support plate 174 by way of a U-shaped channel member 176 that is welded 178 to the steel support plate 174 to provide space to facilitate the pivoting movement of the ring 172. The lifting element 170 also includes a base plate 182 that is arranged perpendicular to the support plate 174 and that is welded 184 thereto. The base plate includes an aperture 186 that receives the support rod 160 to secure the lifting element to the mat. This lifting element is provided in a recess 175 that is present in the center board 150 and that extends onto the upper sides of the pine timbers 125 while the base plate extends into the spacing between those pine timbers to reach the point where the support rod 160 passes through the pine timbers. The plate is accommodated in the pine timbers by the recess 175 into which the plate can be seated. To further prevent movement of the lifting element during use, four holes 188 are provided in the support plate to receive nails or screws that secure the support plate to the timbers. This provides a very secure connection that allows overhead lifting of the mat for installation or removal as well as to facilitate loading or unloading of the mats on a truck or train bed. It also prevents wear and abrasion compared to lifting elements that move within the mat as only the D-shaped ring needs to be removed from the recess to be operated.

The D-shaped ring of lifting element 170 is provided in an opening or recess 175 in the center board 150B in such a way that when not used to lift the mat, the D-shaped ring lies flat in the opening so as to not hinder movement of personnel over the mat. This is shown in phantom in Figure 3. And while the two lifting elements are shown on the upper surface of the mat, it is advantageous to also provide the same arrangement on the lower surface of the mat. Furthermore, the number and precise location of the lifting elements is not critical but can be selected by a skilled artisan depending upon the overall size and weight of the mat.

Figure 7 illustrates a cross-section of the mat to show how the components are joined together. Side beams 110, 140 are joined to frame 135 and pine timbers 125A, B, C and D. Frame 135 is made of the preferred C-shaped members having upper and lower flanges that assist in confining the internal wood members in the support core. The internal members includes smaller boards 126 A, 126B which may also be made of pine that fit within the space between the flanges of the frame members 135. The pine timbers on the front and rear ends of the mat have chamfered ends while the outermost pine timbers have a chamfered outermost edge in order to provide a shorter height so that they can fit into the C-shaped members of the frame. The remaining upper surfaces of the pine members, the upper surfaces of the intermediate steel plates and the flanges of the frame members for, substantially flat upper and lower surfaces of the support core. This facilitates attachment of the protective elongated members to the core structure.

The use of a small recess for the D-shaped ring also minimizes the amount of dirt or other debris that can enter the recess. And as the ring occupies a significant portion of the recess it is easy to grab the ring to move it to a lifting position.

Generally, one lifting element is located on a lateral rod at the center of the mat nearest one end and another lifting element is located on a lateral rod at the center of the mat nearest the opposite end. It is also possible to utilize four lifting elements, two spaced lifting elements on the lateral rod nearest the first end of the mat and two other spaced lifting elements located on a lateral rod nearest the opposite end of the mat. These can be provided between the pine timbers or between the longitudinal oak beams and pine timbers. While four lifting elements are sufficient in most cases, higher numbers can be used if desired. For large mats 6, 8 or even 12 lifting elements can be used to provide versatility in movement and manipulation of the mats. Preferably, the lifting elements are arranged and located symmetrically on the working surface or surfaces of the mat.

Figures 8-9 illustrates a variation of the crane mat of the previous embodiment although the same lifting element 170 is used as in Figures 1-2. Crane mat 200 has three pine timbers 125A, B, C that have upper and lower surfaces protected by elongated boards 250A, B, C and 255 A, B, C. Boards 250 are the same as boards 150 in Figures 5-7 and are smaller in width than pine beams 220, 230. Boards 255 have the same width as pine beams 210, 240. While the upper and lower surfaces of the mat are formed by the upper and lower surfaces of the boards, this example illustrates that the width of the boards that are used can vary as desired. And as previously noted, a single plate or sheet can be used instead of multiple boards if desired. The use of multiple boards however is preferred because if a particular board is damaged it can be replaced rather than having to replace an entire unitary sheet or plate that covers the entire top or bottom surface of the mat. In some situations, however, a plate of steel or unitary plastic or elastomeric material layer can provide additional advantages when covering the entire surface on the top or bottom of the mat.

As a steel frame is not used in this embodiment, the ends of the mat include the exposed ends of the pine timbers and steel plates. As noted, in certain embodiments, these ends of the mat do not need to be protected as they experience less abuse that the sides and top and bottom surfaces of the mats. The pine timbers and steel plates 205 A, B, C are joined together by the rod members 260 as in Figures 1-2.

Figures 8-9 illustrate another variation of the invention. Instead of using side beams 210, 240 that have a greater height than the pine timbers, the side beams can have the same height as the pine timbers. This is shown by the dotted lines on beams 210, 240. With this arrangement, additional protective boards can be provided on the top and bottom surfaces of the side beams. This allows the protective boards to be removed from those surfaces and replaced so that the service life of the crane mat can be extended. The boards would be sized as shown above and below the dotted lines on the side beams. This arrangement may be useful when the side beams are made of other than wood as the upper and lower surfaces of the side beams can be protected by oak boards or other more rugged materials. This arrangement also allows pine beams to be used as side beams.

Figures 10-11 illustrate another variation of the crane mat of the previous embodiment with the only change being the use of smaller pine timbers in the core. Instead of using 2 or 3 pine timbers of larger size, the crane mat 300 uses pine boards of smaller dimensions, such as 2 by 8 inches, instead of 6 by 8 or 8 by 8 inches. This results in seven pine boards 325A, B, C, D, E, F, G and six intermediate steel plates 305A, B, C, D, E, F. Using a greater number of steel plates with the reduced width of the pine boards provides a reinforced structure that does a much better job of withstanding loads on the mat. The steel plates are 3/8" thick in this embodiment but they can vary from ¼" to ½" in other embodiments.

Figures 12-14 illustrates yet another variation of the invention. In these Figures, crane mat 400 is made only of longitudinal beams, typically of oak although other durable materials such as thermoplastics or thermosetting plastics (hollow or filled), elastomers or even metal tubes can be used. The same lifting element 170 is used as in the preceding Figures. In Figures 12-14, mat 400 has four longitudinal beams 410, 420, 430, 440. Unlike the other embodiments, there are no intermediate steel plates, no protective members nor is there a metal frame. The beams are joined in the same manner as in the other figures by rod members or carriage bolts that pass through apertures that extend through the width of the beams.

In the preceding Figures, the bottom surface of the mat is not shown, but the mat is preferably made with the same structure on both surfaces so that either one can be used as the upper surface of the mat that is to receive equipment or vehicles thereon. While this facilitates installation in that there is no requirement for placement of the mat in a particular orientation, it also allows the installer to select the surface of the mat that is in better condition to be used as the upper surface of the mat.

Figure 13 illustrates the crane mat 400 with longitudinal beam 430 removed so that the position and placement of the lifting element can be shown. The lower vertical plate of the lifting element 182 is placed in a vertical recess 177 between beams 420 and 430. Support plate 174 is located in recess 175 and is secured to the mat by engaging rod member 460 which passes through aperture 186 as well as be being nailed or screwed to the beams though the apertures on the support plate 174.

The mat is provided with at least two lifting elements each located in an opening between the innermost beams when an even number of beams are use or between the innermost bean and an adjacent beam when an odd number of beams are used. Alternatively, for wider mats, two spaced lifting elements can be provided at each end of the mat.

Figures 13-14 illustrate the lifting element 170 in use. The hook 450 which is connected to a high strength chain of a lifting device engages D-shaped ring 172. The same type of attachment is made to the lifting element on the other end of the mat. As the mat is lifted, the chain and hooks provide an angle of 60° with respect to the mat surface, with an imaginary line passing from the chain though the lifting element and through the center of the rod member that is located in hole 186. This provides the optimum arrangement for safe lifting of the mat by the lifting device. Using the same length of chain with each hook assures that the 60° angle is achieved.

It is also possible to configure the opening sidewall to support the D ring in an upright, generally upright or angled position to allow attachment of a hook to the ring without requiring separate holding of the ring by an operator or worker. This is advantageous in that the worker has two hands in which to attach the hook rather than using one hand to hold the ring in position while using the other hand to attach the hook. There are a number of ways to facilitate this maintenance of position. The D ring can lie against the opening and be generally upright or at least at an angle of about 45 degrees or greater and typically at 60° for optimum lifting performance. The U-shaped part that attaches the D ring to the support plate can also be configured with a structure thereon that assists in maintaining the ring at the desired angle for engagement by a hook or other lifting member. The structure can be a bump or protrusion on the U-shaped part that does not allow the ring to move past a certain angle. For example, the ring can be prevented from moving more than 120 0 from the storage position as this provides the 60° lifting angle. The angle has to be greater than 90 0 so that the weight of the ring maintains it in an upright or substantially upright position.

Figures 15-16 illustrate another embodiment of the invention. This crane mat 500 is similar to that of Figures 1-2 such that the same components have the same element numbers. Instead of having an open frame, however, the frame 560 of Figures 15-16 includes cross members 585A, 585B. These cross members are placed near the front and rear ends of the mat and are bolted to the side members of frame 560. In fact, all frame members can be bolted together to facilitate construction of the mat.

Lifting elements 570 A, B are provided and are configured in a similar manner to lifting element 170 of Figures 1-2, with the exception of the omission of base plate 182. Instead, support plate 174 is welded to an upper surface of each cross member so that it is securely attached to the mat. As above, the D ring 172 of the lifting element resides in a notch or recess 175 that is present in protective board 150B. As in the other embodiments, this allows the upper surface of D-ring to be flush with or slightly below the surface of the mat while blocking the recess 175 so that workers will not step into the hole or trip over the D ring when it is not in use. The lifting element 570 also allows the mat to have to have certified overhead lifting capabilities.

The pine beams 125A, B, C, D in this embodiment are shorter than in the previous embodiment and extend between the cross members 585A, 585B. The same is true of steel plates 105 A, B, C. The space between the cross members in the end plates of the frame can be left open if desired, but in a preferred embodiment are filled with boards and plates in the same arrangement as between the cross members. In the front end of the frame, shorter pine timbers 126 A, B, C, D and steel plates 106 A, B, C are used to mimic what is present in the middle of the core structure between the cross members. These shorter pine timbers and steel plates are also connected to the mat through the lateral rod 160 that passes through the space between the cross members and frame end members. Similarly, on the opposite end of the frame, shorter pine timbers 127 A, B, C, D and steel plates 107 A, B, C are used to mimic what is present in the front end of the frame. These shorter pine timbers and steel plates are also connected to the mat through the lateral rod 160 that passes through the space between the cross members and frame end members.

Figure 16 is an exploded view of frame 560 of Figure 16. To assemble the frame, one longitudinal member 562 and one end of the end members 563, 565 and cross members 585A, B can be welded to the longitudinal member 562. The other longitudinal member and cross members 585A, 585B include side plates 585C, 585D, respectively. These plates are provided with holes 566A, 566B that align with holes on the side members of the frame so that the cross members can be attached to the frame using bolting. This is typically done after the internal beams and if used steel plates are provided in the frame between the cross members and between the cross members and frame ends, otherwise it would be difficult to insert those internal components into the frame, especially when inwardly directed "C" shaped steel members are used to make the frame. The use of bolting allows the frame and cross members to include upper and lower flanges which assist in maintaining the pine beams and steel plates in the core structure of the mat. If flange members are not provided on the frame and cross members, then the entire frame including the cross members can be welded together prior to the addition of the internal components which are then slid into the frame.

And as in the other embodiments, the materials for the various components of crane mat 500 can be made of any of the different materials specified herein. Also various combinations of materials can be used for any particular sized mat for any intended use thereof. And the elongated boards that are used to protect the core structure can be provided as separate boards or as a single plate or sheet. Multiple plates or sheets can be used for larger size mats. As noted, the material for these sheets or plates can be wood, a metal, preferably steel, a thermoplastic, a thermosetting plastic or an elastomer. When a steel plate is used the lifting element can be welded onto the steel plate or an opening can be provided in the steel plate so that the lifting element is attached as shown in the preceding embodiments.

Figures 17, 18 A, 18B, 19A and 19B illustrate different lifting elements for use in any of the crane mats disclosed herein. Each of these lifting elements 600 is in the configuration of an eyelet. The lifting element 600 has a body 605 with a first end thereof 610 having a securement portion in the form of an opening 615 for receiving and connecting to a lateral rod and a second end 620 having a loop portion 625 that acts as grasping means for a hook or connecting element of lifting equipment to engage the loop portion for lifting and

manipulation of the mat. The loop portion 625 is an aperture in the second end 620. Instead of an aperture, the loop portion can be a hook element or J- or L- shaped bar that can engage a mating connecting element on the lifting equipment. The body 605 is typically a flat plate that preferably has rounded edges but it also can be a bent or angled member that near one end has the necessary aperture to receive the lateral rod therein for attachment to the mat, and on the opposite end includes the aperture or other loop portion. In some cases, a chain or cable can be used instead of the flat plate with the chain or cable passing around the rod and out of the aperture to be engaged by the lifting equipment. The flat plate is preferred because it is compact and requires a smaller hole than a chain or cable.

A vertical recess 650 having a flat bottom surface 655 is configured and dimensioned to hold and maintain the lifting element 600 therein in a first retracted or storage position as shown in Figure 18B when not in use and to allow retrieval and removal of the second end 620 of the lifting element from the opening or recess 650 to a second operative position that exposes the loop portion 625 to allow grasping when the mat is to be lifted or manipulated, as shown in Figure 18 A. The opening 650 is either positioned at an end of the mat so that it is open at that end as shown or has a sufficient volume to allow a user to reach therein to grab and move the loop portion 625 from the retracted position to the operative position. And while Figure 18B shows the lifting element well below the surface of the mat, in practice, the open space above the lifting element should be minimized so that the lifting element helps form part of the surface of the mat. This prevents tripping or stumbling by workers who step into the opening 650 when moving across the mat surface.

The lifting element 600 shown in Figures 17 and 18 A, 18B is spaced from the end of the mat by a few feet, e.g., 1 to 3 feet. To provide access to the lifting element, the opening in which the element resides is elongated so that it extends from the point where the lifting element is present all the way to the end of the mat. This provides access to the lifting element to remove it from its retracted position, which is shown in Figure 18B, to an operative position as shown in Figure 18 A. Again, the lifting element 600 has an arcuate first end to allow the lifting element to more easily pivot about the joining rod between those positions.

And although the opening 650 is illustrated as being much longer than the length of the lifting element, it is also possible to simply widen the opening about the retracted lifting element rather than have a thinner opening that extends to the end of the mat. The

configuration of the openings 650 should simply be sufficient to allow an operator to be able to reach in and grab the lifting element to raise it to its operative position. When the opening is placed further back in the mat, it is generally widened to allow the hand of the operator to reach into the opening. Figures 19A and 19B illustrate a variation of the lifting element of Figures 17, 18A and 18B. The lifting element features are the same as in the prior Figures, but the vertical recess 660 is configured with a sloped bottom wall 665. This enables the recess to be of overall smaller size while still retaining lifting element 600 below the working surface of the mat. Also, the recess 660 does not need to extend to the end of the mat and terminates at a vertical wall 670.

A number of variations of the lifting element of the preceding Figures can also be used in the present invention. Instead of two holes separated in the plate as shown for lifting element 600, a single, larger hole can be provided in the plate. The open center plate can be used on smaller sized mats where the overall lifting element does not need to be as long as lifting element 600. It is possible to obtain a metal or steel stamping in the desired shape and thickness which will have the same outer circumference and size of lifting element 600 but without the body portion 605 between the two openings - in effect being a single larger opening.

And for certain mats, it is possible to instead use a ring that is made of a metal, preferably steel, bar of cylindrical or rectangular cross-section that is configured in the shape of a ring with the ends of the bar welded together. This ring can be shaped as shown in the prior Figures with a similar outline to the shape of those lifting elements, or it can be made as an oblong, oval, elliptical or circular ring. These non-linear shapes are preferred as they are easy to manipulate with respect to removing a portion of the ring from the slot for use when the mat is to be moved, as well as to allow the ring to fall back into the slot into the storage position after the mat is installed and in use. A shape other than circular is preferred, however, as it will more easily fit within the vertical recess 650 or 660. The shape of the ring would be selected based on the thickness and overall weight of the mat. This will also be used to determine a suitable thickness for the plate embodiment of the prior Figures or for the diameter or circumference of the cylindrical or rectangular rod that is shaped as a ring.

To avoid the lifting element damaging the wood sides of the slot or recess, the edges of a rectangular bar or plate can be rounded. Alternatively, the slot or recess can be lined with a plate preferably of metal in areas where contact by the lifting element during movement of the mat is expected. Such a construction requires additional time and labor to configure the slot or recess so that the collar embodiment is preferred. A metal collar that can be used to protect the opening in the mat from damage due to contact with the lifting element is described as element 1302 in US patent application Ser. No. 15/244,614 in Figures 6 and 7. This collar protects against contact and abrasion from the lifting element when lifting the mat. Alternatively, other replaceable structure of metal or other materials can be used to protect the sides of the opening.

For any of the embodiments that are used with the slot of the preceding Figures, the angle of the sloped bottom wall is sufficient to allow the lifting element to fall back down under its own weight into a position where it does not protrude above the working surface of the mat. And when the lifting element is to be used for receiving a hook of a crane or other heavy equipment device, a worker can simply reach into the slot and pull up the lifting element to expose an opening or hole that the hook can engage to then move the mat.

Figures 20-23 illustrate another lifting element 700 in the form of a T shaped member that is similar to that of Figures 3-6. Figure 20 illustrates that the D ring 705 is attached to a widened, reinforced opening 710 on one end of the lifting element 700. This reinforced opening acts as a support plate for the D ring and is configured as in the other embodiments so that the D ring 705 can form a 60° angle with opening 720 when a lifting hook 755 is attached to the D ring 705. As noted herein, this angle has been found to provide ideal overhead lifting capacities. Using hooks 755 connected to each lifting element from lines that are joined at a common point achieves this arrangement, but if necessary the reinforced opening 710 can include bumps or other protruding structures on the sides so that the D-ring will stand in position to form the 60° angle.

The lifting element 700 is provided in a rectangular recess 750. When the D ring 705 of the lifting element 700 is needed for use, it is raised for attachment of a hook or other lifting member thereto. For this, the D-Ring is removed from the recess 750 so that it can be located above the working surface of the mat as shown in Figure 23 to allow attachment of the hook 755 to the D-ring. And when the D ring 705 is not being used for lifting the mat or for tying other articles to the mat, it can conveniently retracted into the recess 750 or opening in a storage position wherein the D ring substantially fills in the recess or opening. In this position, a worker or other person operating on the mat has less of a chance of stepping into the opening or recess as it is more or less filled with the lifting element. This can prevent injuries to workers moving on the mat. Also, the storage of the lifting element beneath the mat surface clearly avoids workers tripping over an exposed lifting element when moving about the mat.

It is also advantageous for configuring the recess in the mat to have a depth that is only slightly larger than the ring member of the lifting element, e.g., but no more than 0.25 to 0.5 inches. This minimizes the open area of the recess and facilitates cleaning of the recess by removal of dirt or other foreign objects that enter the recess. This minimized area of the recess provides another advantage by presenting a smaller opening that is less likely to be causing tripping or stumbling of workers operating on the surface of the mat.

Figures 24-25 illustrate yet another lifting element 800 in the form of an "I" shaped member. This lifting element includes a specially shaped ring member 805 is securely attached to an enlarged head member 810. Typically the ring member 805 is attached to the head member 810 by a pin that passes through the head member 810. For lighter weight mats, the ring member can be configured with end legs that securely engage openings in the head member 810. For either embodiment, the ring member can pivot back and forth so that when not in use it can lay flat against a supporting surface such as the floor of a recess or opening in the mat. As in the other embodiments described herein, the ring member 805 and head member 810 would be located in a recess in the mat so that when not in use the head member 810 and ring member 805 would substantially fill in the opening. And when needed to move the mat, the ring member 805 can simply be pivoted out of the recess and above the mat surface for engagement.

The lifting element 800 has a body member 815 that passes through the entire beam of the mat construction. The opposite end of the lifting element 820 is threaded so that it can receive a nut 825 and washer 830 to secure the lifting element to the mat. The nut and threaded end of the body member are located in a recess on the opposite side of the mat so that they do not extend out of the surface on that side of the mat.

For additional securement, round, square or rectangular plates 835, 840 can be provided in contact with the beams to provide greater resistance against lifting element pull- out when the mat is being moved. These lifting elements 800 can be used alone or in combination with the other lifting elements disclosed herein depending upon the type of mat being made and the need for having such lifting elements for moving the mat or for tying articles to the mat.

Although Figures 24 and 25 do not show the lifting element seated in an opening or recess, it would be understood that this would be necessary for the same reasons previously mentioned and with the same configurations so that the ring element does not protrude above the working surface of the mat. Ring element 805 can be pivoted downward, i.e., to the right or left in Figure 25, in order to be maintained in the recess. Therefore, the recess will have a height that is at least as high as head member 810, and a width that would be at least as wide as the length of ring member 805 and half the width of head member 810.

Also, plate 835 can be of a width and length that encompasses the entire floor of the opening or recess. Of course, a plate having dimensions that are smaller than the recess is also acceptable. The same is true for plate 840. The goal of plates 835 and 840 are to help distribute the load on the lifting element to the surface of the member to which it is attached as well as to more securely connect the lifting element to the mat.

And to the extent that the plates 835, 840 have smaller dimensions than the recess, it is also possible to provide a further recess or cutout below the plate so that the plate has an exposed surface that is at the same level as the floor of the lifting element recess. This will also further limit the depth of the lifting element recess needed to maintain the lifting element below the working surface of the mat.

Washer 830 is not always needed but is typically used to facilitate the attachment of the lifting element to the member of the mat. This is typically round but can be square or of other peripheral shapes. If desired, the washer can be a lock washer to offset loosening of the nut from the threaded rod.

And to the extent that the mat has upper and lower working surfaces that enable either one to be selected as the top of the mat when installed, the lifting elements can be provided on the opposite side of the mat with a reverse orientation to the ones shown in Figures 24 and 25. This of course would apply to any of the arrangements of lifting elements disclosed in the present application. It is often common for such mats to include both upper and lower working surfaces so that upon installation, the surface in better condition can be selected as the top or exposed surface of the mat that is used to experience worker or equipment travel or placement thereon.

The crane mats of the invention may be 2' wide to 12' wide with all mat components being square or rectangular timbers or beams/bumper members connected together by the lateral rods. Various mat thicknesses can be used from 2" to 24". And instead of single beams, boards or layers of boards can be used. In a preferred embodiment, oak or other hardwood beams can be used alone at those dimensions with the beams connected by the lateral rods although combinations of different materials can be used if desired. For any of these embodiments, at least two lifting elements are provided on the upper working surface with the base plate of each lifting element connected to one of the lateral rods. The lifting element would preferably be one like lifting elements 475 or 476 and be provided in a recess in one or more of the mat components. Intermediate steel plates can also be included between the beams if desired.

Figures 26-29 illustrate another crane mat 900 in accordance with the present invention. For this embodiment, the crane that includes internal beams made of softwood such as pine timbers to reduce the overall cost of the mat. As these timbers are not as abrasion and abuse resistance as other materials or components, they are protected on all sides by one or more different mat components. In the simplest construction, the adjacent pine timbers can be assembled into the core of the mat and protected on either longitudinal side with oak beams. The pine timbers would also be configured to be shorter than the longitudinal oak beams with the upper and lower surfaces of the pine timbers protected by more durable elongated members. In a further embodiment, a steel or metal plate can be placed between each adjacent pine timbers as well as between the oak beams and the adjacent pine timbers to further strengthen the mat.

All mat components and their arrangement in the mat are best illustrated in Figure 27. This crane mat 900 includes two side beams 910, 920 which are made of white oak and which have dimensions of about 12 x 12 inches and a length of approximately 16 feet. The core of the mat is made primarily of three pine timbers, each labeled 930, which have dimensions of approximately 12 inches wide and 8 inches high. The pine timbers are located adjacent the center of the height of the side beams such the side beams extend approximately 1 to 2 inches above and 1 to 2 inches below the pine timbers. To prepare uniformly flat upper and lower surfaces of the mat, boards 940, each of which is approximately 2 inches thick, 8 inches wide and 16 inches long, are provided above and below the pine timbers as shown. The boards can be made of wood (and specifically including the eucalyptus grandis species), engineered lumber, plastic or recycle materials. The oak beams and boards thus protect the pine timbers from abuse while reducing the cost of the mat due to the substitution of the pine timbers for oak timbers. And when these boards are spaced apart, channels 955 are formed between them which allow water to drawing from the mat during use.

And although the timbers are exposed at the forward in rearward ends of the mat, these are not usually subjected to great abuse. Additionally, if desired, bumper members can be provided on the forward and rearward word ends of the mat to provide further protection.

Another embodiment of the invention that is shown in Figure 29 is the use of rectangular steel plates 950 that are approximately 3/8 of an inch thick and have dimensions of 12 inches high and 16 feet long. Four plates are shown, one between each beam and timber, to provide additional strength to the mat. While these plates are shown as being the same height as the side beams, alternative embodiments utilize plates that are 1 to 2 inches shorter than the side beams of the mat. When such shorter plates are used, the upper and lower surfaces of the mat are thus provided with channels that allow water to drain from the mat during use. The plates can be of the same height and length as the pine timbers, or they can be 1 to 2 inches shorter than those timbers. The shorter steel plates reduce the overall weight of the mat compared to larger steel plates while still providing additional ruggedness to the mat.

The side beams, pine timbers and plates are joined together by bolting 960 which extends across the width of the mat. A number of bolts are used spaced every 3 to 6 feet of length of the mat. The bolts pass through each of the beams, plates and timbers and are secured in placed by a washer and nut arrangement 965. The upper and lower boards 940 are either nailed or bolted to the pine timbers.

To facilitate lifting of the mats, a new lifting element arrangement is provided. This arrangement includes a D-shaped ring 970 that is pivotally attached to a steel plate 975 that is welded to the steel plates 950 that are present on the outer sides of the pine timbers 930 and as well as in between the pine timbers. The plate is accommodated in the pine timbers by a formed slot 980 into which the plate can be seated. Also, the lifting element plate 975 would be welded at its ends to two or three of the longitudinal reinforcement plates 950 to provide a very secure connection that will would allow overhead lifting of the mat for installation or removal as well as to facilitate loading or unloading of the mats on a truck or train bed. And the D-shaped ring is provided in an opening 985 in the center board in such a way that when not used to lift the mat, the D-shaped ring lies flat in the opening so as to not hinder movement of personnel over the mat. And while the two lifting elements are shown on the upper surface of the mat, it is desirable to also provide the same arrangement on the lower surface of the mat. Furthermore, the number and precise location of the lifting elements is not critical but can be selected by a skilled artisan depending upon the overall size and weight of the mat.

Figures 30 and 31 illustrate another embodiment of the invention in the form of a mat 1100 having substantially flat top and bottom surfaces. Although the bottom surface of the mat is not shown, the mat is preferably made with the same structure on both surfaces so that either one can be used as the upper surface of the mat that is to receive equipment or vehicles thereon. While this facilitates installation in that there is no requirement for placement of the mat in a particular orientation, it also allows the installer to select the surface of the mat that is in better condition to be used as the upper surface of the mat.

The mat 1100 includes first and second side beams (1105, 1110) having top, side and bottom surfaces, with the beams having width and height dimensions of between 6x6 inches and 24x24 inches and a length of at least 4 feet and typically between 10 and 60 feet.

Preferably the lengths of the beams are in the range of 20 to 40 feet and preferably 30 to 40 feet as these length mats are easier to transport and ship compared to longer mats. Other dimensions that are typically used for the side beams are 8x8, 10x10, 12x12, 14x14 and 16x16 although a skilled artisan can select other dimensions as desired.

Typically, the widths and heights of the side beams are of the same dimension so that the beams have a square cross-section. Alternatively, for certain designs, the beams may be rectangular in cross section, with the width being about twice the dimension of the height or vice versa. Other typical dimensions are 6x12, 6x18, 8x10, 8x12, 12x14, 12x16, 12x24, and 18x24. These rectangular beams may be connected to the support structure with the longer side as the height or with the longer side as the width, depending upon the desired use of the mat. Using the longer side as the width is generally preferred for interlocking mat

arrangements.

A support structure 1115 is located between and connecting the first and second side beams (1105, 1110), with the support structure having upper, lower and side portions, a height that is less than that of the side beams, a width and a length. The support structure, which is set forth in more detail in Figure 32, includes first and second longitudinal members (1120, 1125) that are joined together by a plurality of cross members 1130.

The support structure 11 15 may be made of steel components with the cross members 1130 welded to the longitudinal members 1120, 1125 to form a ladder type structure which forms a frame for the support structure. At the front and rear ends of the frame, additional cross members 1135, 1140 may be provided to form a peripheral rectangular structure. For this embodiment, it is preferred that both the longitudinal members and additional cross members 1135, 1140 be C-shaped beams having a relatively flat plate with upper and lower flanges directed away from one side of the plate. The surface of the flat plate opposite the flanges of the longitudinal members faces the side beams 1105, 1110 so that a close and secure connection can be made between the two. The flanges of the C-shaped beam also serve as a point of connection for elongated members (1145 A, 1145B: 1150A, 1 150B). Bolts 1155 can be attached to the flanges or to the cross members for this purpose. The flanges of cross- members 1135, 1140 also face the interior of the support structure so that the ends of the ladder frame have relatively smooth faces.

The cross members 1130 can be attached to the C-shaped beam between the top and bottom flanges to form vertical connectors of the support structure that provide the desired strength and rigidity. As shown in Figures 31 and 32, the resulting structure is a rectangular box frame with spaced cross members on the front, back, top and bottom.

The cross members 1130 of the support structure greatly contribute to the stiffness and rigidity of the frame. These members are typically spaced 12 to 24 inches apart for support structures that are used for the smaller sizes of height and width beams. For larger size beams, the spacing can be reduced to 10 to 16 inches in order to provide sufficient strength to hold the mat together. The determination of the spacing of the cross members can be calculated for any particular size mat using generally known engineering guidelines and equations so a more detailed explanation is not needed herein. The cross members typically have a height that is at least half the height of the longitudinal members to which they are attached and preferably are about the same height as the longitudinal members. If desired, reinforcement members can be added to the structure. In one such arrangement, additional plates, rods, beams or other structural components can be added to the top and/or bottom portions of the support structure between the longitudinal members. This is certainly advantageous when supporting the largest or heaviest equipment on the mat. Also, other structural members can be provided between the cross members however in most situations this is not necessary. If additional reinforcement is needed, care must be taken for positioning such members to avoid blocking or interfering with the passage of the joining rods through the longitudinal members and into the support structure.

The C-shaped beam and cross members are typically made of a metal such as steel so that the structure can be made by welding the cross members to the beams. While the preferred construction of the metal frame of the support structure is by welding, the frame components can instead be joined together by brazing, rivets or bolting if desired depending upon the size and configuration of the overall support structure. When filler is to be added to the frame, the frame can be partially welded while leaving the last side or end unwelded so that it can be attached by bolting after the internal components are added. Instead of a C- shaped beam, a flat plate (i.e., one without flanges) of the appropriate thickness can be used. For this arrangement, the cross members may have an I-beam shape to provide further strengthening of the support structure. A C-shaped steel beam is preferred for the longitudinal members, however, because the flanges provide additional rigidity and support to the structure as well as support for the cross members during installation. Of course, this can be

compensated for by using a thicker flat plate for the longitudinal members when that embodiment is to be used. And the I-shaped beams can be used for the cross member when a C-shaped longitudinal member is used, with appropriate adjustments made where the flanges of each come into contact with each other.

As in other embodiments, a plurality of joining rods 1160 are used to attach the side beams to the support structure, with the joining rods passing through the sides of the beams and support structure. These joining rods 1160 are typically large carriage bolts that include threaded ends to receive nuts that when assembled will hold the components together. These rods are spaced about 3 to 6 feet apart depending upon the size of the mat. Figure 31 shows the rods 1160 passing through side beam 1105 and toward the side structure: Figure 32 shows how the rods 1160 would appear when present in the support structure. These carriage bolts are typically made of a high strength steel. Also, in some embodiments, the beams can include a sleeve that facilitates passage of the bolts through the support core. The sleeve can be a flanged hollow tube that extends through the support core and if desired into one side beam and part of the opposite side beam. The tube would terminate in the opposite beam so that it would not interfere with the net that engages the threaded end of the bolt. The sleeves are shown in Figure 32 as elements 1165.

To form a substantially flat surface on the mat, various elongated members for upper and lower elongated members (1145 A, 1145B, 1 150A, 1150B) are provided. A first plurality of elongated members (1145 A, 1145B) are attached to an upper portion of the support structure 1115 while a second plurality of elongated members is attached to a lower portion of the support structure 1115. Thus, the top surface of the mat is formed by the top surfaces of the side beams 1105, 1110 and the first plurality of elongated members 1145A, 1145B, while the bottom surface of the mat is formed by the bottom surfaces of the side beams 1105, 1110 and the second plurality of elongated members 1150A, 1150B. The flat top surface of the mat is best shown in Figure 30.

As the upper and lower surfaces of the mat must be somewhat uniform, the support structure and upper and lower elongated members generally have a combined height that is the same as that of the side beams. Typically, the support structure is centered vertically with respect to the side beams. As an example, the side beams can be 12x12 and the support structure would have a height of 8 inches so that the beams extend 2 inches above the top of the support structure and 2 inches below the bottom of the support structure. This provides room on the top and bottom of the support structure to accommodate 2 inch thick elongated members so that the top and bottom of the mat has substantially uniform surfaces. This type construction is preferred in that it minimizes the different types of thickness that need to be used for the elongated members and also provides a symmetrical mat that be oriented with wither surface facing up to receive equipment thereon. In other embodiments, different thicknesses of elongated members can be used on the top than on the bottom with the intent being that the thinner members are used on the bottom to prevent dirt or other materials from entering the support structure, while the elongated members on the top surface are provide to support the equipment or vehicles that are located or move upon the mat. In this embodiment, it is possible to provide a flat plate on the support structure of the lower surface rather than elongated members.

The same is true for the ends of the support structures. The longitudinal members 1120, 1125 can be shorter than the length of the side beams 1105, 1110 by a distance of about 1 to 24 inches on each end or by a total of 2 to 48 inches. The distance of the shortened ends can correspond to the width of the side beams, if desired. The space between the shortened ends of the support structure 1115 and the side beams can be filled in with bumper members 1175, 1180 which then allow the mat to have substantially flat front had rear ends. These bumper members can be of the same width as the elongated members so that the same material for the elongated members can be used to provide bumper members for the front and rear of the support. This creates a symmetrical structure but different thicknesses of the bumper members can be used.

In a less preferred embodiment, the longitudinal members 1120, 1125 can be substantially the same length as that of the side beams 1105,1110 so that the front and rear cross members 1135, 1140 form with the ends of the side beams the front and rear ends of the mat.

Figure 30 also illustrates a lifting element 1190 in the form of a chain the ends of which are secured to a joining rod 1160. Each end of the chain 1190 passes through an opening 1185. The chain is configured of steel having sufficient strength to be able to lift the entire mat without bending or breaking. Also, the links at either end of the chain can be securely attached to the joining rod when the mat is assembled.

In a preferred arrangement, only one end of the chain 1190 is permanently secured to the joining rod, while the other is attached by a conventional connectable link. Thus, after the ma is moved into position, the chain can be disconnected and stored inside support structure so that personnel working on the mat will not trip over the chain.

Alternatively, if a removable chain is desired, such as may be supplied with the equipment used to move the mats, the chain can be provided with a connectable link on each end so that the workers can attach each end of the chain to the joining rod when the mat is to be moved. After the mat is installed, however, the chain can be removed from the joining rod and reused for moving or installing other mats. This again provides greater safety for workers as the chains are not present on the surface of the mat during use.

And for additional safety, the size of the opening 1185 is reduced compared to mats of the prior art. As the opening 1185 provided for connecting the chain is much smaller than the previous opening or cut away beam that exposed the joining rod, personnel who are working or conducting operations upon the mat have a much lower chance of stepping into hole 1185.

Figure 31 illustrates that the joining rod 1160 includes a flange or ring 1195 which is welded to the joining rod beneath hole 1185. This flange or ring 1195 is used to retain the end or connecting link of the chain 1190 in the proper position beneath hole 1185. In this way, the chain is pulled upward in a way that does not interfere with elongated members 1145A, 1145B.

As noted in Figures 30-32, openings 1185 are provided on the near the front and rear portions of the upper surface of the mat, as well as on the lower front and rear portions. This allows the installer to grasp any side or end of the mat to facilitate installation. And when a removable chain is provided, it can simply be attached to the holes at the easiest accessible end of the mat for lifting.

The mat must also provide sufficient load bearing capacity: A fully supported mat (one that is properly installed on a suitable prepared ground surface) must be able to withstand a 10 ton load, spread over a 12 inch diameter surface without degradation of mat properties or permanent deformation of the mat. The support structure would have a crush resistance of between about 500 and psi to possibly as much as 1000 psi depending upon the application and when properly installed on a suitably prepared ground surface. This provides resistance against compression as large vehicles or equipment move over or are placed upon the mat.

The side beams of the mat prevent or reduce damage to the support structure from side entrance or egress onto the mat from large vehicles with steel tracks. These beams can be replaced when necessary while the support structure can be reused to make a new mat.

The elongated members as well as the side beams are preferably made of any of the materials disclosed herein.

As these mats are relatively massive, provisions should be made for moving, transporting and installing the mat at the desired field location. For this purpose, holes or recesses are provided in the upper surface, lower surface, or both to provide access to the lifting elements or one or more of the joining rods. These holes are formed as cut out portions 1185 of the elongated members 1145, 1150. In this way, the holes allow access by a hook from a crane or other mechanical attachment to the joining rods for lifting or manipulation of the mat. For convenience, the attachment openings 1185 are provided both on the upper and lower surfaces of the mat so that either surface can contact the ground or be exposed on top as the surface upon which the equipment is to be installed, thus facilitating installation. Turning now to Figures 33 and 34, an alternative embodiment of the present invention is illustrated, in the form of a mat having side beams configured and dimensioned to allow interlocking of adjacent mats. Where like components are used from the previous

embodiment, the same reference numerals will be used in Figures 33 and 34 and only the different features of this alternative embodiment will be described.

Mat 1200 includes side beams 1205, 1210 which are configured and dimensioned to represent only one half of the thickness of the mat. On one side of the mat, beam 1205 is attached to the upper portion of the support core 1215. This is done in a manner to extend the upper surface of beam 1205 above the top surface of the support structure 1215. As in the prior embodiment, elongated members 1145 A, 1145B can be provided on the top portion of the support structure 1215 so that the top surface of the mat adjacent the side beam 1205 is relatively flat. In a similar manner, side beam 1210, which also has a thickness that is one half the thickness of the entire mat, is mounted to a lower end of the support structure 1215. The lower surface of side beam 1210 extends below the lower surface of the support structure to allow elongated members 1150A, 1150B to be accommodated to form a substantially flat surface for the bottom of the mat adjacent beam 1210.

This structure allows one mat to be initially placed on the ground with an adjacent mat placed such that beam 1205 sits upon beam 1210. This arrangement can be continued for as many mats as necessary to achieve a desired working base for cranes or other equipment.

The top surface of mat 1200 has a step on the opposite side from beam 1205, above beam 1210, while there remains an open space or step below beam 1205 adjacent the lower surface of the matt opposite beam 1210. While these surfaces allow interlocking of adjacent mats, it does not provide a stable mat surface on the outermost sides of the working base. To compensate for this, modified mats can be provided wherein the outermost end mats on one side of the working base can be made with beam 1 105, which is the full thickness of the mat, on one aside and with beam 1210 on the opposite side to allow interlocking with adjacent mats that are configured like mat 1200. Similarly, the outermost end mats on the opposite side of the working base can be made with beams 1110 instead of 1210 on one side beam 1205 on the opposite side.

Alternatively, when the full extent of the entire working base is not known, of if an insufficient number of modified mats are not available, the mats on the outermost sides of the final working base can be provided with stabilizing beams of the same size and dimensions as beam 1205 provided in the space below attached beam 1205 so that the side of the mat can be stabilized. The same thing can be done for the outermost mats that have a step above beam 1210. A separate stabilizing member can be provided of the same size as beam 1210 to finish the upper surface of the mat at those locations. The stabilizing members can be attached to the beams of the mat if desired.

Mat 1200 requires a different system for connecting the beams 1205, 1210 to the support structure 1215. The connection of beam 1205 to the support structure 1215 will require that the joining rods 1260 A pass through an upper portion of the support structure, whereas beam 1210 is connected to the support structure with joining rods 1260B passing through the beam and a lower portion of the support structure 1215. This is best shown in Figure 34 where the relative positions of the joining rods 1260A, 1260B are illustrated, along with sleeves 1265 A, 1265B.

Figures 33 and 34 illustrate a lifting element in the form of a lifting chain 1 190 for a stepped mat 1200 which is used to provide an interlocking configuration with adjacent mats. The connection of chain 1190 to the joining rod is the same as shown in Figures 30-33, with the exception that the joining member 1160 A on the top portion of the mat would be used when the chain or hook is accessing the mat from the top surface, while j oining member 1160B would be used when the chain or hook is accessing the mat from the for the bottom surface. As in the other figures, the joining rod would include a flange or ring element 1195 to assist in positioning the terminal chain links in the proper location on the joining rod for lifting of the mats.

Figures 35 and 36 illustrate a metal collar 1302 that can be used to protect opening

1185. As shown, the collar 1302 has a flat upper plate 1304 that protects the surface of elongated members 1145A and 1145B adjacent opening 1185. Collar 1302 also includes a side plate 1306 which closes the side of opening 1 185 and also protects the inner cut edges of opening 1185 in elongated members 1145 A and 1145B. In particular, the inner cut edges of opening 1185 are protected by an inwardly extending wall 1308 which is bent from the top plate 1304 of collar 1302. This wall 1308 protects against contact and abrasion from the chain when lifting the mat. The collar member may also be designed to be in contact with the lifting member (1332 or 1328) to add stability to the assembly when the mat is being hoisted or moved. In addition to being used with a chain that can be attached to the mat through the two openings, the collar also facilitates attachment of a hook or other elongated member from a crane or other heavy equipment vehicle to engage joining rod 1160 for lifting or installation of the mat. Figures 37-39 illustrate additional lifting elements for the mats of the invention. These are shown schematically in Figure 37 side by side although in practice these elements would most likely be used separately or at least in different areas on the mat.

One preferred element is a D Clip 1322, having a D-shaped ring 1323 the ends of which engage a metal tube 1324 that is welded to the top plate 1133 of one of the crossing members 1130. This structure allows the clip 1322 to be rotated to the position where it is perpendicular to the crossing member top plate 1133 so that it can be engaged by a hook of a crane or other heavy equipment vehicle. After the mat has been placed for service, and the hook removed, the clip 1322 can rotate so that it lays flat against the angled side wall 1345 of the opening in the elongated member, as shown in Figure 38. This opening does not have to be deep and simply allows the clip 1322 to be pivoted through an angle of between 90 and 180° to facilitate access to and movement of the clip as the mat is being lifted. As in the other designs, the D clip can be provided in multiple locations on the mat, such as near the forward and/or rear ends or both on either or both of the upper and lower surfaces of the mat so that the mat can be lifted no matter how it is located on a transporting truck or train or after being installed. If desired, depending upon the width of the mat, a plurality of these lifting elements can be provided. They generally are provided about 10 to 24 inches away from the front or back end of the mat and preferably on the top and bottom surfaces. Typically, one or two clips near each end of the mat are all that would be necessary for manipulation of the sizes of the mats of the present invention, but a skilled artisan can determine whether more or less lifting elements are needed for any particular mat size and design.

Figures 37-39 also illustrate an alternative embodiment of a U-shaped member 1332 that is attached to the support structure in a way that the U-shaped ring 1335 does not protrude above the elongated members on either the top or bottom surfaces of the mat. The hook 1332 is welded to a plate 1334 that is mounted on a rod 1336 that passes through the support structure. While only one U-shaped member is often suitable for lifting the mat from one side, it is advantageous to provide the opposite end of the rod with a second U-shaped member 1328 of the same configuration protruding from the lower surface of the mat as this allows the mat to be lifted from either the top or bottom surface. In a non-operative state, as shown in Figure 38, each U-shaped member sits in an opening in the elongated member that has angled sides 1345 with its upper member approximately uniform with the top surface or bottom surface of the elongated members of the mat. The angled holes 1345 are essentially the same regardless of whether clip 1322 or U-shaped member 1332 are used and allow greater access to the lifting member. Rod 1336 is mounted for reciprocal motion through a bushing 1342 that is located in a plate 1344 that is welded to a central portion of the support structure, typically to one of the cross members. Rod 1336 is also capable of rotating in bushing 1342 as well as in the bushings that re provided in the upper and lower portions of the support structure so that U- shaped portions 1322, 1328 can rotate 360 degrees to facilitate attachment of a crane hook or manipulation of the mat during lifting or movement. Plate 1344 is preferably attached to cross members or side beams of the support structure. Bushings 1347, 1349 are provided in the upper and lower plates of the cross members or side members of the support core. The U- shaped portions 1322, 1328 are each maintained in a static position by springs 1346, 1348. When the mat is to be lifted, the ring 1335 is engaged with another hook from a crane or heavy equipment vehicle and as it lifts the mat, spring 1348 is compressed with ring 1335 being pulled partially out of the angled hole. This arrangement allows the hook on either U- shaped member on either side of the mat to be accessed and pulled for lifting the mat. After the lifting operation or placement operation is complete, and the hook is removed, the U- shaped member would return back to its normal unhooked position.

As above with the D-shaped lifting element, each U-shaped member is provided in an opening 1345 which is beveled or otherwise angled or widened to allow access to the U- shaped member by the crane hook.

For certain mats, the U-shaped member can be simply welded to a plate on the top of the of one of the cross members, but in this embodiment the U-shaped member must extend sufficiently above the top surface or bottom surface of the mat to allow access by a crane hook. For this reason the spring mounted lifting elements are preferred.

Figures 40 and 41 illustrate another embodiment in the form of a crane/pipeline mat 1700 that has a typical thickness of about 8 to 12 inches, a typical width of about 4 feet and a typical length of between 12 and 20 feet. The mat 1700 includes two side beams 1705, 1710, a steel box frame 1720, an upper layer of elongated members 1715 A, 1715B, 1715C, and a lower layer of elongated members 1725A, 1725B, 1725C. The core structure can be between 2 and 3 feet wide depending upon the width of the side beams. The upper or lower layers can also be a single sheet or plate of wood or metal of various thicknesses depending upon the size of the mat and the supporting properties that are needed for the intended. As noted herein, multiple plates or sheets can also be used if desired.

The steel frame 1720 includes a forward lifting element 1735 and two upper side lifting elements 1740. If desired, a rear lifting element and two lower side lifting elements (not shown) can also be provided. These lifting elements allowed the mat to be lifted overhead by a crane having a suitable lifting capacity to facilitate loading, unloading, and installing of the mats.

The lifting elements can be constructed as desired. If cables or chains are to be used, any holes made in the mat for such cables or chains must be drilled through the entire mat, and not just looped in between board or component spacings. The chains or cables must have at least three drop forged clamps. Cable must be new 3/4 inch steel core, extra improved plow (EIPS), right regular lay wire rope, having a minimum breaking strength of over 29 tons. Chains should be 3/8" high test chain, having a working load limit of 5400 lbs. and a minimum breaking strength of 16,200 lbs. with 3/8 inch double clevis links, in order to provide a safe working load limit of about 5400 lbs.

Other lifting elements may be used as described herein. The lifting elements can be used with any of the mats disclosed herein provided that the appropriate core structure is present.

The components of mat 1700 are more clearly shown in the exploded drawing of Figure 40. The steel frame 1720 is shown as having a plurality of components including two elongated side components, a front end component, a back end component and two cross members 1745, all of which are welded or bolted together to form the frame 1720. Side beam bolting members 1735 are also welded to the box frame 1720. These bolting members are configured to pass through openings in the side beams 1705, 1710 to secure the side beams to the steel box frame 1720. This is done by tightening nuts onto the ends of the bolting members 1735 after they pass through the holes in the side beams. The side beam holes are recessed so that the bolting and nuts do not extend beyond the sides of the beams.

The lifting elements 1730, 1740 are preferably in the shape of a D ring which is welded or bolted to the box frame 1720 or its cross members 1745 as best shown in Figure 41. The upper layer elongated members 1715 A, 1715B, 1715C, and lower layer elongated members 1725 A, 1725B, 1725C are also bolted to the box frame 1720.

As the box frame 1720 defines open areas therein, it is best to fill those open areas with material that will contribute to the ruggedness and weight of the mat. In particular, a filler of wood members 1750 that either are scrap pieces from the production of other mats or are end grain or engineered wood can be used. It is also possible to use a less expensive wood material such as treated pine because the purpose of these filler materials is simply to add weight to the mat and they are not exposed to wear or abuse. And instead of wood material, the open areas of the core may be filled with other materials of the types disclosed elsewhere herein. Additionally, the mats can be made of various combinations of components including frames of a metal such as steel or of a thermosetting plastic. The internal components in the frame can be beams, board or other structural shapes of wood, engineered wood, plastic or elastomeric materials. These can be of sizes that vary from width and height dimensions of about 2" by 2" to as much as 24" by 24". The interior timbers can be from 2" x 2" up to 12" x 12" or even 16" by 16". Generally, the various beams and mat components are square but rectangular shapes are also acceptable. Useful core thicknesses are 2", 3 ", 6", 8", 12" and 16" with the upper and lower protective boards making up the balance of the thickness of the mat. The upper and lower protective boards can also be provided in multiple layers rather than in larger thicknesses, and these are attached to the mat by the use of various fasteners that are generally known and used in the art. Bolting is preferred, however, as that allows any damaged beams or boards to be removed and replaced while the core of the mat is reused.

Therefore, in sum, it is to be realized that the optimum dimensional relationships for the parts of the invention can include variations and tolerances in size, materials, shape, form, function and use are deemed readily apparent and obvious to the skilled artisan, and all equivalent relationships to those illustrated in the drawings and described in the specification are intended to be encompassed by the claims appended hereto.

Unless defined otherwise, all technical and scientific terms used herein have same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention belongs. Also, as used herein and in the appended claims, the singular form "a", "and", and "the" include plural referents unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. All technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning.

The foregoing detailed description is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily be apparent to those having ordinary skill in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact constructions demonstrated. In particular, it would be understood that the various sizes, materials, configurations and arrangements disclosed herein may be combined and constructed in any way that is feasible to create a hybrid may for any particular end use. Accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to falling within the scope of the appended claims.