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Feed trailer technology focuses on safety, profitability

Based on customer feedback, feed truck manufacturers' new feed trailer innovations focus on promoting employee safety and biosecurity.

Walinga-remote-control

From air wands that clean out grain residue to unloading feed via an app while sitting in the truck cab, North America is the mecca for producing feed trucks that help mills and farms ensure safety and increase profitability.

“The feed trailer is essentially a feed mill on wheels,” says Hensley Fabricating and Equipment Co. national sales manager Travis Hensley. “It’s common sense that truck and trailer manufacturers are constantly looking at ways to make feed transportation safer.”

Walinga USA president Terry Medemblick agrees: “We are always keeping our ear to the proverbial track and listening to the needs of the industry.” 

From preventing rollovers to reducing cross contamination to increasing biosecurity, here is a snapshot at how feed truck manufacturers are meeting the needs of the industry.

Feed trucks’ responsibility shifts gears

Feed trucks haven’t always been considered for their role in feed safety or business profitability. The feed trucks 20 years ago were hauling one type of feed to one farm. They were seen only as an expense.

Feed safety and quality is only part of the responsibility of feed truck manufacturers.

“It used to be that the feed truck was seen as a necessary evil,” Medemblik says. “Now it is a part of the conversation for producing healthy livestock and increasing profitability.”

This is in part because the feed industry has grown, and instead of delivering one load of feed, the trucks are hauling several loads for multiple species. As the industry has grown, so has the need to prevent cross-contamination and the spread of disease. The feed industry is also more aware how feed bodies can help them comply with more stringent regulations, like the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Biosecurity fires up inspiration

Disease control is at the forefront of the industry. Feed manufacturers are inundated with concerns from customers on how they can increase biosecurity. In response, engineers have designed feed trucks to include nozzles that spray sanitizer on the tires before and after they leave a farm.

“Our customers don’t want to take any chances to spread disease,” says Sudenga Industries product manager Doug Tecken. “We have a customer that provides his own feed to his hog farm, and washes his trailer between every load.” The sanitizing system on the tires is one more way, in addition to washing the trucks, to ensure that trailers aren’t infecting a farm.

More recently, Walinga Inc. has developed a way for truck drivers to deliver feed without ever exiting the cab of the truck. Using an app, truck drivers can operate the auger and unload feed from the comfort of the cab. The app includes information about the feed as well as information on the correct bin for the feed. In order to operate the auger, the driver logs on to the app and puts in the information about the load of feed and the bin number. If the load number and bin number don’t match, the app locks the auger. This provides the company with another way to ensure feed traceability. More importantly, the app limits the risk of spreading disease by keeping the driver in the cab.

High output speeds up efficiency

By controlling the augers from the cab of the truck, feed manufacturers are also making it easier for mills to increase efficiency. “The demands for the feed mill are getting higher,” Medemblik says. “We’re trying to help them meet these demands by increasing efficiency.”

With the control system, the driver doesn’t need to manually adjust the augers, which is similar to using cruise control. The control system senses the temperature, the back pressure of the boom auger and when the bin is full to ensure feed quality.

“This gives the driver more control — all from the cab of the truck,” Medemblik explains. “If you can control this, then the system will operate at peak efficiency and have fewer maintenance issues and use less fuel.”

Better control of the augers is especially important with high output trailers that are unloading 5,000 to 7,000 pounds each minute — a luxury that wasn’t available 20 years ago. High output trailers are engineered to make feed mills more efficient by decreasing the amount of time needed to deliver and unload feed.

“When we cut back on the unloading time with the first high output auger system, we were able to also reduce the amount of fuel used to transport feed. This led to increased profitability and at the same time helped reduce the environmental impact,” Hensley says. Twenty years ago, it took about one minute to unload 2,000 pounds of feed; today, trailers are unloading the same amount in 14 to 20 seconds.

Hensley low gravity feed truck

Feed bodies are designed with a low center of gravity to minimize rollovers and ensure driver safety. | Hensley Fabricating and Equipment Co.

Driver safety propels new designs

Feed safety and quality is only part of the responsibility of feed truck manufacturers. Transportation vehicles are also designed to be safe for the operator and the other vehicles on the road.

For example, today’s feed trailers and trucks are designed with a low center of gravity to reduce the number of rollovers. This was a concern voiced by a customer that wanted to reduce the number of on-road accidents.

In many cases, feed trailers, like the Generation X Low Center of Gravity feed trailer, are improved in response to customers' concerns.

“I always tell everyone that we only build the trailers –– we don’t own them,” Hensley says. “We have to listen to the customer to know what improvements can and should be made.”

Sudenga air wand

Air wands use pressurized air to remove feed residue and reduce cross contamination. | Sudenga Industries

New designs accelerate cleanout

Trailer cleanout has always been a concern for the feed industry. However, the onset of FSMA is increasing the pressure and putting feed truck manufacturers to work on new designs.

Today’s feed trailers have fewer ledges that can collect feed and contaminate other loads. They also have improved flush systems to clean out the auger — this allows the driver to add a safe material, like non-medicated corn, to the auger to flush out remaining feed.

Read more: Finding and keeping good feed truck drivers

“Auger transitions are designed for better feed flow and fewer ledges or catch areas,” Tecken says. “Sudenga uses a 4-vane flipper that propels the material from the bottom auger to the vertical, insuring the material moves through the auger at a critical location.” 

In addition, trailers can be retrofitted to include air wands that use high-pressure air to clean out the residue in the trailers. This prevents cross-contamination as well as keeps the trailer from collecting residue over time that can mold and affect the feed quality.

Technology revs up opportunities

Over the past few decades, feed truck manufacturers have made great strides in improving feed safety. But they’re not content to stop. They see technology as a great opportunity to improve safety and build a stronger feed industry.

“We sit in an economy where much can be done, and much is demanded from us,” Medemblik says. “The options for technology meet the demands of the industry.”

Just a few years ago the idea that an app could be used to operate the unloading system seemed impossible. Now, it’s a part of the list of safety advancements that truck manufacturers are making to drive the feed industry forward.

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