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User story: Weigh cells offer improved payload accuracy

When it comes to making the most of payload potential, one Northants contractor has opted for on-board weighing on his trailers. Geoff Ashcroft reports.

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A pair of Stewart Road King 20-tonners gives Northants contractor TomAgri a useful payload with low density materials.

Trailer data

  • Make: Stewart
  • Model: Road King XV 20 26H
  • Body LxWxH: 7.6m x 2.5m x 1.5m (2.4m with silage sides)
  • Capacity: 20 tonnes
  • Volume: 26 cubic metres (42 with silage sides)
  • Running gear: Tri-axle with rear-steer, 560/60 R22.5 tyres, air brakes, air suspension, LED lighting
  • Retail price: from £33,000

For Northants contractor Tom Dyer, the adoption of weigh cells on trailers is all part of a precision approach to muck handling and spreading services.


“You just can’t estimate the size of muck heaps if you want to provide an accurate service for customers,” explains Tom Dyer. His business, TomAgri, provides muck haulage, handling and spreading services for local farms, poultry units and water treatment plants.


“It is important to provide all my customers with an accurate measurement of what has been stockpiled or spread, so they can adjust their fertilising requirements accordingly,” he says. “When it comes to muck, there has been far too much guesswork and estimation and in my opinion, it’s no longer good enough when you are looking to get the most from every available resource.”


His high-tech approach sees the firm’s Stewart trailers and Bunning Lowlander muck spreaders kitted out with on-board weighing equipment.

Tom Dyer is pleased with the decision to go high-spec with trailer purchases.

This lets the firm accurately record tonnages hauled out of poultry units, leading to better utilisation of resources at spreading time. And with spreaders able to provide records too, customers are reporting far better usage of all manner of manures and sludges which TomAgri manages.


“The ability to weigh out of farms with our trailers let us give a very accurate assessment of a muck heap that we’ve tipped in a field ready for spreading,” he says. “Yes, there will be a bit of natural wastage if a heap dries out prior to spreading, but you won’t be 100’s of tonnes out.”


Operating from Colready Farm, the Brackley-based contractor’s high-tech approach involves more precision and less guesswork. And the latest additions to the TomAgri fleet include a pair of tri-axle Stewart Road King XV 20 26H trailers. With regular work moving chicken manure out of several farms in the area, Mr Dyer chose to replace two ageing Rolland trailers with a pair of 20-tonne capacity Stewart Road King models.

VPG on-board weighing gives operators an accurate record of payload.

While greater operating efficiency was the goal of going larger, he also took the opportunity to up-spec the new load-luggers to make the most of any pending change in trailer legislation which might have assisted with payloads. “I was anticipating an increase to trailer payloads, but of equal importance to us was the increased cubic capacity of the Stewart trailer bodies for low density materials. With silage-side extensions, we can run a boosted body volume of 42 cubic metres.”


He adds; “With these trailers, we can safely and consistently haul 15 tonne payloads with a good safety margin in place. And every journey is much more efficient for us, and we’re saving money for our customers.”


The greater safety margin comes from the triple axle trailer design. Its three axles offer a 50 per cent increase in braking capacity compared to a twin axle unit. Both trailers are identical and are bristling with specification. Mr Dyer opted for Hardox body construction to reduce the unladen weight and make the bigger trailers more fuel efficient when running empty.

Pairs of low- and high-level brake/direction indicators, plus high intensity flashing LEDs mean these trailers are hard to miss.

Air suspension, air brakes, LED lighting, rear work lights, hydraulic roll over sheet and rear following axle add to the kit list. And all running gear includes Nokian 560/60 R22.5 low ground pressure tyres.


Mr Dyer chose a PM On-board electronic weighing unit from VPG, which is powered directly from the trailer’s lighting circuit. “It is a live weighing system using four weigh cells, rather than a system that needs the body to be raised to a specific height so it can measure pressure in the tipping cylinders,” he says. “Weigh cells are very accurate and we’ve double-checked the trailers against on-farm weighbridges.”


One option he didn’t choose was a printer with the weigh system. “We have decided to stick with paperwork for load tickets,” he says. “Operators need to log farm collection and delivery details, plus date, time and payload. This provides the customer with traceability records, and it simplifies invoicing for us.”

Rear steering axle helps maneuverability and boost tyre life.

With its 7.6m long body, he says that the tipping capability of the Road Kings does help to create a large stockpile with ease. “When you tip one load up against the previous load, material gets fired over the previous heap, making a larger pile of muck rather than leaving individual trailer-sized lumps,” he says.


Despite the physical size of the two 20 tonners, he says the trailers are very maneuverable. But he says the next trailer purchase is likely to be an 18-tonner, without silage sides. “A smaller third trailer will give better flexibility for general purpose use, so we can keep the 20 tonners on poultry work,” he adds.


Mr Dyer’s attention to detail also extends to daily check sheets for equipment and the adoption of truck-type wheel nut pointers to simplify the checking process at busier times. “A quick visual reference is all you need when you walk around and look at the trailers,” he says.

While the XV 20-26H dwarfs TomAgri’s Pumas, they offer the safety, stability and professionalism that the business seeks.

The nature of the business and the frequency with which it moves from farm to farm also demands a particular approach to machine cleanliness. To make sure the firm stays one step ahead of any disease issues, it thoroughly washes and disinfects its trailers and muck spreaders on a weekly basis.


However, Mr Dyer avoids truck-type washing products, and his approach to cleaning is as fastidious as his equipment choices. After getting close with a hot water power washer while paying particular attention to painted surfaces, the TomAgri team resorts to hot water and washing up liquid to preserve the paint finishes. “It does provide amusement when I pick up a car washing sponge and set about the paintwork,” he says. “But I believe it is important to keep on top of cleanliness, and to look after the overall condition of our machinery.”


Sponging the paintwork also provides an opportunity to run an eye over components, and will easily show up any areas of fatigue or cracking, that may need attention. “Cleaning kit this often, and this intensively is a headache, but it is part of the process,” he says. “It is all part of our professional approach to offering a precision muck handling and spreading service.”

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