In a bid to be more flexible, we take a look at how a multipurpose trailer is benefiting one Belgian contracting business. James Rickard reports.
Originally shown as a concept at the 2011 Agritechnica event, Joskin’s Drakkar ejector trailer was designed as a versatile transport solution with the ability to handle varying types of loads and fit interchangeable rear-ends.
Rear-ends include vertical beaters, converting the trailer into a muck spreader, or an auger system turning it into a chaser bin, for example.
Since then the firm has refined the design and recently showed a second generation machine, the Drakkar Catena, at the 2015 Lamma show.
The Drakkar's headboard moves with the floor to discharge the load.
A key update of the concept is a new roll off floor design. Instead of the headboard hydraulically pushing material out of the trailer, the trailer now uses a large belt floor which is hydraulically rolled up like a carpet at the rear of the trailer, via two hydraulic motors.
The headboard also moves with the floor, with the floor returned to the front of the trailer via a hydraulically driven chain. This third hydraulic motor and chain can also aid unloading if the load is heavy or sticky.
This concept, says the firm, makes unloading much easier compared to normal push trailers and avoids compression of material and excessive stress on side walls. Trailer body is also tapered and is 50mm wider at the rear.
To see what the Drakkar Catena is capable of we travelled to its country of origin, Belgium, to see how one of the first users is getting on with it.
Frederick Laschet says product support and versatility were key decision factors.
Nestled at the foot of the Ardenne forest just outside Soumagne, contractor Vital Laschet and Son took delivery of a Drakkar Catena in June 2014, with the aim of improving transport versatility.
Primary contracting services in this predominantly livestock area include silaging and application of muck and slurry, all within a 60km (37 mile) radius.
Silaging is carried out by the firm’s three Claas self propelled forage harvesters and six Schuitemaker forage wagons, which also double up as transport trailers.
Grass cut sizes per client average at about 50 hectares (124 acres) with 90 per cent wanting the self propelled foragers and the rest forage wagons. About 1,300ha of maize per year is also chopped.
The contracting firm is no stranger to Joskin equipment, having run Silo Space transport trailers.
When it comes to silage, no ‘tipper’ trailers are found in the fleet, only moving floor machines are used for transport duties. However, the current slat and chain floor design of trailers which the company were using had their limitations. Frederick Laschet (son) says; “We needed a more versatile trailer which could handle multiple crops and materials including grain, grass and maize.”
Having run 50cu.m Joskin Silo Space trailers for many years, the contracting outfit was used to Joskin equipment and did not need much tempting to opt for the Drakkar Catena, although the price was quite eye watering says Mr Laschet.
“Product support and backup is very important to us, particularly as contractors, and we know we can get that with Joskin. And compared to other comparable products, it is the flexibility of the Drakkar which really attracted us.”
To avoid friction and help with unloading, the belt slides over the top of a slatted floor.
A high specification Drakkar was ordered with a 59cu.m capacity (30-32 tonnes of ‘green’ maize silage), triple axles (front and rear steered), hydraulically adjustable suspension (on all axles and drawbar), commercial air brakes and axles and hydraulically adjustable front and side extensions.
When opening up a maize field, with the tractor and trailer following the forager, the trailer operator can help the chopper driver by lowering the headboard extension, lowering the front of the trailer via the drawbar and raising the rear of the trailer via the suspension. This essentially tilts the trailer towards the forager giving the chopper diver an easier target to aim at, says Mr Laschet. A transparent headboard also helps to see what is going on in the trailer.
While the bulk of the Drakkar’s workload is hauling grass and maize silage, it is in winter when its grain carting credentials are required, transporting feedstock from arable areas to livestock farms and biogas plants.
“Emptying is really fast, about 45 to 60 seconds, which really helps with clamping logistics. It means the buckrake machine is held up with the minimum amount of time, allowing it to quickly get on with ensiling leaving plenty of time for consolidation.”
If required the trailer can also be remotely emptied from the rear.
Triple axles spread the load with hydraulic suspension keeping the trailer stable.
As well as high speed emptying, the trailer is swift on road too. “Unlike British roads, we are allowed a 44 tonne train weight, which in theory allows us to be more efficient as we need fewer tractors, trailers and staff. It also means less road journeys with fewer agricultural machines on the road.
“It travels well too and is very stable, unlike some mechanical suspension systems which have a tendency to rock. And with commercial axles and brakes it feels a safe trailer.”
Mr Laschet adds it travels equally as well in-field, with its triple axle design spreading the load. “Front and rear steering helps manoeuvrability particularly around small yards, as well as avoiding scuffing in-field. Its axle design, which are essentially pulled over the ground, also helps the tyres ride over soft ground and limit that bulldozing effect.”
Should more traction be required, the front axle can also be lifted to transfer more weight onto the tractor. The trailer can also be lowered when working on slopes, to lower centre of gravity.
Mr Laschet expects the Drakkar to do at least 10 years and is expecting to get another one next year. While they are initially very expensive, long term should prove cost effective. “The trouble we have now is operator’s fight over who is going to use it.”