8. my invention story
by Nigel Robinson
FROM A DREAM TO REALITY
I’m Nigel Robinson a retired old school trucker. This is my story of a dream to reality.
It all started many years ago an automatic coupling system first came into my head.
Then around 16 years ago I had a chance meeting with an engineer called David Morgan.
I had enrolled on a course in engineering drawing, with the hope of obtaining a city and guilds certificate.
David was my tutor for the duration of the project, and I have to say, good at his job, he wouldn’t cut corners, and was meticulous about precision. After a while, when I had learned the basics of what was required, and got to know David a bit better, I began to side track from the course work, and make sketches / drawings of my own idea, which had been in my head for some time, on how to make an automatic connection between truck, and trailer, which would work.
It didn’t take long before David noticed my mind had wandered, and asked me what the sideline design was all about?
I explained to him, for many years now trucks have coupled to trailers manually, of which is a dirty and dangerous job that all truckers out there, hate to do. We are advancing in technology all the time, so why not automate this procedure, and have a simple press button inside the cab, to connect air/electrics, and lift/lower trailer legs, making it safer, quicker, and cleaner for the driver.
David knew nothing about trucks, or trailers, only that they carried cargo from one destination, to another by hairy arsed men with big arms. After listening in depth to what I had to say, he could see the potential in this type of device, and soon became involved as an engineer helping me with the design.
The first thing I had to do was obtain information from a vehicle to be sure it was possible to make changes in the area we were looking to alter.
David and I approached a local manufacturer to ask if they would give us permission to look around their yard, and workshop, collecting some calculations.
The company manager agreed to see us for an informal chat. He seemed to be a polite young chap, very presentable, but I must admit, asked a lot of questions about the project, as well as having his own engineer in the office with us listening in to everything being discussed.
Obviously we had to be careful, so we kept the conversation on a purely research level, talking about the streamlining of vehicles, keeping it simple and straight forward, not letting on to what our real motives were for being there.
At one stage during our meeting, the manager produced a brochure advertising new trailer designs, all pictured with tractor units connected, much to my surprise and excitement, he raised the question of air/electric lines hanging off the back of the cab, and commented on how untidy, as well as old fashioned it looked.
Well you could have knocked me down with a feather, this man knew nothing of my idea, yet the first thing he talked about, was the very area I was about to try and change.
Not to give much away, we told him the information was for an assignment at college studying road transport advancement over the years, and we needed to make a few sketches, along with some figures, to help with the course work.
Over the following months David spent a lot of time at the drawing board working on the design with me, the more he understood it, the more positive he became, and soon began to share in my excitement. As we progressed, both he and I had many sleepless nights thinking about how to come up with ways that possibly could, and maybe would work.
Every morning we would exchange thoughts and sketches regarding different parts of the system, it could sometimes take several days, and nights, just to complete one piece, but we’d keep persevering, bouncing off one another with ideas, and eventually coming up with the answer.
Although I must admit, some of the frustrating times I had during the design, got me thinking it would never happen, and my dream would be squashed.
Around 10 months of hard work, and a lot of headaches, the last drawing was finally complete, which meant the system could now be made, and in theory, should function ok.
I thanked David for his help and made a note of his address and telephone number in order to contact him if there were any future developments.
My next move was to patent the design, giving it protection from thieving sharks.
I looked to various ways of doing this, and without going into huge amounts of money,
Which I didn’t have, the simplest and cheapest, was to put the drawings in a large envelope, seal it with sticking tape, take it to the post office, get them to stamp it with the days date across the seal, and then post it to myself,
when it arrived, leave it sealed,
And put them in a safe dry secure place for future reference. This is what’s known as
A copy write patent, and although not official, it could be used as proof if needed.
As time rolled on, I continued to do my job, trucking across the UK and Europe, for freight forwarders, Davis-Turner. A day didn’t go by without me thinking about the system, and its advantages, especially when dropping or picking up a trailer, getting covered in grease and muck off the lines, all you truckers out there know what I mean.
My biggest problem was money to finance the project, and believe me, were not talking peanuts, it would need a huge amount just to get it registered with a patent agent, let alone taking it further down the line onto prototypes, and eventually to manufacture.
By now several fellow truckers knew of my idea, and all agreed it would be a God send
If a device of this type were to hit the market place and be made available worldwide.
Some years on, and a few broken promises later, another chance meeting came my way, in the shape of serious financial help to get the design off the ground.
One night while socializing, a good friend of mine Neil, was talking about the system to an associate of his Ricky, the following night we all arranged to meet for a chat.
After explaining the potential advantages of the design to Ricky Davis, and his business partner Steve Crossland, it was agreed for a slice of the pie they would come on board to cover the financial side of things, and front all costs needed up to manufacture stage.
An agreement was drawn up by a solicitor, and as promised I gave them a piece of the action. Straightaway Ricky started to honor his side of the deal and made contact with patent agents to put the first faze of the official U.K. patent into place. I have to say, when the paperwork arrived, stamped up, with my name on it as the inventor, it was special.
I remember staring at the document, and letting my imagination run wild.
Over the next couple of years we advanced from the U.K. to the European patent faze.
As well as contacting the relevant certification bodies,they are a very important organization, and responsible for rubber stamping everything relating to vehicles, and there operations.
They requested we made a prototype trailer pin, and submitted it for trials, at there main
Test plant. There it would go through a rigorous
Process, and be tested statically to destruction. I can tell you waiting for the results was a bloody nightmare, but eventually they arrived, and much to my delight it was good news.
So from here on in, I needed to find a manufacturer to take the project further.
The big problem was trust, so armed with confidentiality agreements we set about approaching one or two different engineering companies in the U.K. with a view to them coming on board.
This was no easy task, they were either not prepared to commit wholeheartedly, or just weren’t interested in taking the risk on a new innovation.
By now the systems life had advanced so much, and a huge chunk of money spent,
we had to keep driving forward in the hope someday things would come good for us.
Then around a year later, out the blue, I received a phone call that changed everything.
Again a fate meeting was responsible, a conversation took place about the system with two guys, Tim and Mike, who ran a trailer company.
For quite some time they had been conducting business with a northern Italian company, and had struck a good working, as well as personal relationship.
A contact was made, and a brief description of our design given to them.
The first meeting with the Italians I remember very well. After giving them a presentation
Of the design and its advantages, their return response was so positive it gave me a lift like id never felt before, this along with their hospitality, to me spoke volumes, at last an honest professional company interested in the system.
An official launch of my system took place in Italy November 2007,There the complete working system was demonstrated on board a new truck,coupled to a new air ride skeleton chassis trailer. I can honestly say people, it looked the business.
this was a special time for me because after all said and done, at heart, I am still a trucker and to see it all working and know sometime in the near future, all fellow road buddies across the globe, will hopefully benefit from the my Dream.
On the back of this story, I would like to give BIG thanks to Roberto, David, Ricky, Steve, Tim, Mike, friends and family,Italian company, plus the truckers out there I spoke to about this idea, all of who gave me encouragement and help on pursuing my dream to the end.
Keep the hammer down, and truckem on safely and securely.
Cheers! Nige Robinson