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Finding the right size semi

Justin Davey 11/13/2012 @ 9:15am

Efficiency is the name of the game at harvesttime, and having a semi truck and wagon adequately sized to move the right amount of grain for your operation is key. Agriculture.com Machinery Talk member Nebfarmer is considering getting a 10-wheel after struggling to keep up with his hauling demands this past year, and recently sought help.

"I bought a super-cheap 6-wheeler last winter, and I still couldn't keep up hauling what I wanted to," he says. "I figured if I put the $1,000 to $3,000 I will probably wind up paying a semi each year to haul towards a bigger truck, I could not only get it all done myself, but also get the harvest in quicker. However, I don't know much at all about them."

He says his biggest issue isn't mileage, estimating he'd put about 2,000 miles or less on the truck each year. Instead, he cares most about the time it takes to move all the grain from the field to the bin. "I figure for another 5 to 10 minutes a load, I could be hauling 500+ bushels a load, instead of 325, and that would be enough to get it all myself."

Nebfarmer's questions included the benefits of twin-screw and tag axles, gas and diesel engines, air and hydraulic brakes, steel and wood box, and more.

Shaggy98 finds himself in a similar situation. "I've got three 400-bushel single-axle trucks and am looking to do some type of updating but not exactly sure what I want to do. I have been considering a good used semi tractor but not sure if I can justify the expense of that type of truck. My miles and situation are very similar to yours. Current trucks are big enough that they can hold a large load from the combine, but it only makes them around 3/4 capacity. With the price of fuel, I hate to send them to town only 3/4 full, but leaving them in the field to wait for a full load takes more time and eventually (with a good crop), the combine will be waiting for trucks to return. In this business, time is definitely money."

"Diesel engines have been the norm for the last 20 years because gas engines in midsize trucks have to run so hot to meet emission requirements," says Pupdaddy. "If you can find an old mechanical-injection DTA466, you have enough horsepower for a 550- to 600-bushel load. You also have a very simple engine without all the electronics that will cause all sorts of fits in some instances." Bed width makes a lot of difference, he adds, saying that a 20-foot by 52-inch bed will hid about 530 bushels of soybeans.

"I have two old 1972 International 1800 'Binders,'" adds Pat in CMO. "One twin-screw with a 5-speed and 4-speed auxillary transmission, the other is an air tag (not a lift) with a 5-speed and 2-speed axle. Both have 392ci. engines. The tag-axle truck is far prettier, but hauling out of the field is no contest. The twin screw is definitely better. Both trucks have air brakes, and I don't think I would ever buy one with hydraulic brakes. The air brakes work so much better and are easier and cheaper to maintain and repair. As far as diesel vs. gas, with the miles I put on these trucks and what it would cost to upgrade to diesels (not to mention a diesel would be heavier), I don't believe it would pay."

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