Face of defense: Airman’s innovation improves safety

An idea from an airman here could affect the entire trucking industry.

The “Meyer’s Bar,” named after its inventor, Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Meyer, is a 5-foot reinforced steel bar that supports a lowboy trailer’s hydraulic gooseneck hitch to prevent it from bending.

Before Meyer’s innovative idea, he and others in the 375th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s vehicle operations section depended on the tractor’s crossbar to support the hitch; however, their tractor’s crossbar wasn’t rated to support the gooseneck, and it consequently got bent in the process.

After witnessing repeated crossbar failings, Meyer began to experiment with various materials, such as treated wood and steel, to reinforce the gooseneck. But all broke under the pressure when used.

‘Something Needed to Change’

“During one mission to support a presidential movement, the bar slipped and caused one of our operators to fracture his thumb. After that I knew something needed to change,” said Meyer. “The main reason I designed it was to ensure the safety of our personnel and anyone who operates these types of trailers.”

Marrying the previous design materials together and using the strengths of one to shore up the weaknesses of the other seemed like a productive solution to Meyer, so he purchased the necessary supplies from a hardware store and began construction of the Meyer’s Bar.

During the process, Teddy Manning, 375th LRS chief of personal property, saw the bar and offered to help design and weld the final creation. Manning provided design pointers and suggestions to eliminate structural flaws on the original prototype.

He also reached out to people he knew to acquire the materials at less cost, as well as tweaking the original design resulting in a much tighter and more durable product.

Low-Cost Solution

“I thought Meyer had a wonderful idea,” Manning said. “When he contacted [the General Services Administration] to gather a cost analysis to retrofit the current fleet of trucks to correct the issue, he was informed the cost would be over $10,000 per truck. We retrofitted for less than $100. The impact of his idea has not only saved the government tens of thousands of dollars, but has impacted the Air Force as a whole.”

The current bar is made out of two 5-foot steel beams and has handles at each end and rubber pads for grip on the bottom. There is also a square tube on the front to maintain better contact with the trailer’s hydraulic arm. The length eliminates the risk of getting hands caught in the pinch point. 

“I was unsure how it would operate initially, due to it being a prototype design,” Meyer said. “However, after numerous successes and setbacks, it is performing exactly as it was designed to do. We are still tweaking the project, and changes are continually being made to make sure that the Meyer’s Bar is a quality piece of equipment.”

Meyer explained that the safety concern of the lowboy trailers is an issue throughout the military, and said he believes it will be beneficial to others. That’s why he contacted officials of the Air Force’s “Airmen Powered by Innovation” program about his invention, and they were interested in hearing more about it.

“This is really something that has taken flight and is shaping up to be an important safety device for operation of lowboy trailers,” Meyer said. “The broad scope of use for this product is staggering to me. This has the potential to impact not only my career field and others in the Air Force who use these assets, but across the services, including the (Defense Department) and civilian sector. I am humbled and ecstatic that my idea has the potential to affect the safety and operation of not only these assets, but the lives of the men and women using them.”

Manning said innovations like these are important, because they prove there are airmen who see a problem and provide a solution. “Instead of saying, ‘Oh, well,’ (Meyer) asked himself what he could do to fix the problem,” he added.

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