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Trailers: hire or buy to carry the load?

Need extra haulage? There is an increasing trend for hiring trailers, but busy contractors may prefer to keep their wheels in-house. Jane Carley reports.

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Demand for high capacity, high specification trailers is driving the hire business forward.

Agricultural trailers are increasingly required to carry loads at higher speeds behind more powerful tractors on ever busier roads, so accordingly are becoming more sophisticated and expensive.


This is driving a burgeoning hire trade, both as part of dealer fleets and at general and specialist hire companies.


But do the numbers stack up in favour of or against hiring trailers? To get points of view from both sides of the hire or buy fence, we talk to hire firms, trailer manufacturers and end users (see panels).

Hire firm: SW Hire, Chippenham, Wiltshire

SW Hire, based in Chippenham, Wiltshire hires a wide range of machinery and has a fleet of 60 grain, dumper and bale trailers, mainly from manufacturer Richard Western, which are available nationwide.


Managing director Simon Williams (pictured) explains: “Traditionally farmers have relied on 12 tonne trailers running on super singles which cost them about £10,000 each. Now the demand is for 14-18 tonne models on commercial axles which are more like £20,000, so farmers are not keen to have this sort of money sitting in the yard for most of the year.”


Mr Williams adds that many of his customers only use a trailer for six to eight weeks, and that by hiring the trailer, all servicing and pre-season checks are carried out for them. An in-house maintenance team looks after the trailers locally and maintenance is subbed out when they are hired further afield. “They are also hiring a fresh trailer as we only keep them for two years to ensure a good second hand value.”


He comments that there is no typical customer now. “Many will hire eight trailers at a time for the season, but in winter we will hire out a trailer for a week or even just one day for someone who is clearing out a store.”

Hire firm: Rising Sun Trailer Hire, Aldwark, North Yorkshire

Based in Aldwark near York, Rising Sun Trailer Hire’s managing director Alan Boddy notes increased interest from larger farming companies who prefer not to invest large capital sums in machinery. He says; “We have also moved from being largely grain and fruit farmer-based to supplying trailers with extension sides fitted for forage crops such as maize, grass and wholecrop as contractors need extra haulage capacity for AD plant work.”


Where trade used to be seasonal, he now sees demand year-round. “We specify a minimum hire of six weeks at harvest, but many farms now have a trailer on hire for eight to nine months. We like to have them back in after that for maintenance, and we carry a full complement of spares for emergencies, although the customer is responsible for wear and tear such as punctures.”


Rising Sun relies on a local haulier for transport of its fleet of 80-100 Stewart trailers. “We have used another make of trailer but customers prefer the Stewart brand, which are all specified to a high standard with air over hydraulic brakes and rollover sheets. “Customer service is as important as the trailer itself, along with offering a fresh trailer which is better than the ones the farmer has in his own yard.”

Manufacturer: Rolland Trailers, Finistere, Brittany, France

Rolland Trailers’ Alex Clothier suggests that for a fixed harvest period it may be false economy to hire a trailer.


“The hire rate of £2-3000 a season mounts up over the ten-year life of the trailer, but if you purchase one it is still worth 70 per cent of what you paid for it after 10 years. Farmers tend to hire trailers because of financial constraints but you can save £10,000 by purchasing, especially if you finance over five years.”


The balance tips if the trailer is used more throughout the year, he comments, as the cost of tyres begins to mount up.

Contractor: M.E.L. Lee and Son, Crediton, Devon

Flexibility is a big consideration according to contractor M.E.L. Lee and Son of Crediton, Devon. The contracting outfit has eight Rolland trailers which are used for carting grain, maize, grass and fodder beet and Steve Lee comments that at least one trailer is on the road most days.


“When they are in use every day it makes sense to purchase trailers, but they are becoming more expensive to buy – around £30,000 each. One issue with hiring trailers is finding a suitable hirer who has them available when you want them.”


Mr Lee suggests that running costs have actually come down in recent years, due to the use of commercial axles. “Compared to agricultural running gear, the brakes last really well. But it is worth buying good quality trailers with a high specification.”

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