Plow semi-trailers without falling

Déneigement de Toitures Excel has designed a compact and easy-to-install device to prevent the fall of employees who clear snow from the roofs of semi-trailers.

Posted at 1:00 p.m.

Marc Tison

Marc Tison
The Press


Its concept, called VanGripper, was developed by the industrial design firm Brio Innovation.


In addition to commercial buildings, Déneigement de Toitures Excel specializes in snow removal for semi-trailers.

To protect its employees from falls and comply with work at height standards, its president, François Bellerose, had the idea of ​​a system that would cling to the rails that run around the periphery of the roof of all semi-trailers.


One of the original Toitures Excel snow removal prototypes, made of aluminum by a machine shop.

A series of aluminum prototypes were tested, before final development was entrusted to the industrial design firm Brio Innovation.

François Bellerose founded the company VanGripper to market this product.

Several prototypes have been developed over the years to try to solve this problem. We had achieved something with a company that did welding. It was a large metal prototype, which was heavy and expensive to manufacture. It was safe, but it lacked finesse and it hurt performance a bit. That’s when we asked for the expertise of Brio Innovation.

Christel Ricard, Managing Director, VanGripper

The solution

Two large hooks cling like hands to the angles that border the roof of the semi-trailers. They are held together by a cable of fixed length, the elasticity of which is sufficient to install them and hold them in place.

The worker is held at each hook by two lanyards attached to the carabiners of his safety belt. He is therefore forced to circulate in a safety corridor in the center of the trailer, out of reach of a fall.


The movements of the worker are limited by two lanyards connecting him to the mobile hooks which cling like hands to the angles of the roof.

“The length of the lanyards has been calculated so that even if the snowplow slips or falls, it finds itself sitting on the trailer and not hanging from the side of the trailer,” explains Christel Ricard.

The hooks can slide along the roof to follow the movements of the worker.

Stoppers, previously fixed to the rails, limit the movement of the hooks at the two ends of the trailer.

Equipped with long handles, the two hooks are put in place by the worker at one end of the trailer, while he is still on his ladder, before accessing the roof.


Brio Innovation’s intervention consisted in taking up the concept “to adapt it to a mass production process. It was about moving from an idea with a prototype that has potential to a product that will be profitable, more functional, more aesthetic,” says Luc Bourgeois, director of innovation at Brio.

The welded aluminum hooks, equipped with plastic pads to facilitate sliding, have been replaced by a single molded plastic part. “There were many elements, welded and mechanically assembled in different materials. We decided to make everything in ultra-high density polyethylene, the same plastic that is used to make snowmobile skis. It’s super resistant to impacts, we know it’s going to support the load, it doesn’t break in the cold, it slides well. And it’s all molded into one nice big beefy piece. »

An aluminum handle fits into it, “on which, to reduce costs, we put a golf club grip”.

The future

VanGripper initially wanted to manufacture its product in Quebec, but production costs and the availability of raw materials prompted it to call on foreign subcontractors. The company had several units produced which were well received at various trucking shows across Canada. Relying on its website, VanGripper was on its way when the pandemic and subsequent supply difficulties put the project on temporary hold.

“We hope to restart the wheel,” said Christel Ricard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *