The role of the body builder is absolutely crucial for the agricultural sector, coordinating vehicle manufacturers and customers to ensure that exacting requirements are met and nuanced specifications are built in for everything from agricultural tippers and silage kits, to water bowsers, hay and straw bodies.
The harvest season, for example, is a short period that is susceptible to turbulent weather conditions and which therefore requires absolute reliability. Any function that can promote process efficiency can be vital. Robustness in use and durability of designated trailers to withstand long periods out of use is also as important as the need for a toughened vehicle drivetrain that can both withstand rough tracks used for farm access and operate in restricted spaces often not intended for trucks.
As William Baker of agricultural feed supplier, D Walsh & Sons comments of the vehicle specification favoured by the company, “A tag axle and rear steer Muldoon trailer combination can go places where a three- or four-axle rigid would never reach. The combination is essential for farm deliveries; many of these premises were built for horse and cart, not articulated bulk feed trucks.”
It’s a view that is echoed by Martyn Horn, MR Horn Transport managing director, whose Volvo FH rigid is fitted with a Turners Commercials platform body, dashboard load indicator and air suspension with three height settings: “Volvo’s product team in Warwick were brilliant and designed a 4.65m wheelbase rigid, with full air suspension and a rear lift axle for increased manoeuvrability. We’re definitely enjoying better access to sites thanks to a rear steer axle.”
Requirements for harvest can be very specific. As Chris Fido of C Fido Hay and Straw explains of his rigid with rear air suspension and Roco Truck Bodies flat body, “We’ve gone for a hardwood floor as well, because although it’ll be kept inside when it’s not working, the lorry will have to stand outside at times and take the weather. With a steel body the hay just slips about, so a wooden body is better for that as well.”
He explains that the company’s requirements also include the fitment of a ball-hitch and additional outlet for compressed air attachments from the chassis – ideal for adjusting air pressure of tyres for infrequently used balers, for example. Flexibility is vital for many agricultural vehicles and trailers and body builders work closely with farmers to ensure that often bespoke needs are met.
Bodies can be further adapted to meet the demands of straw lorries – such as overcoming inherent aerodynamic challenges of hauling tonnes of brick-shaped payload – by companies such as Mocho Fabrication, which undertakes bespoke builds. This can include incorporation of I beams into chassis runners – enabling a lower body to optimise height clearance and strength – over-cab racks with electric or manual pumps, and a range of bed and headboard materials, including aluminium, stainless or mild steel.
Thankfully, the sector is also embracing the latest technologies and manufacturing principles to ensure that durability requirements are met. Bailey Trailers, for example, which has recently moved its production line into a new 12,800 sq ft premises where it hopes to turn out an average of 35 trailers per week, has also invested in the latest Migatronic automated robot welding machines and laser cutters. Automated welding of headboards, doors and trailer sides is now possible, which accelerates the speed and accuracy of previously labour-intensive jobs.
Advanced drivetrain technology could also signal future operational benefits for the sector, as electrification specialist Equipmake explains, “We are experiencing huge demand from the farming industry as manufacturers see the benefits that electrified vehicles can bring, from reduced emissions and noise to increased efficiency and lower running costs,” says company managing director, Ian Foley, of the ability of an electrified powertrain to power ancillaries previously run by fossil fuel engines and generators, or loaders, harvesters and even tractors. “Our electric motors are extremely compact, lightweight yet powerful, which can play a huge role in improving the payload of a farm vehicle too. Factor in the lack of maintenance required compared to traditional diesel machinery, and it is not hard to see why electrification makes so much sense.”