One of the biggest trends in ag equipment in recent years has been the rise in interest in tracked equipment. All the major brands have introduced high-horsepower tractors equipped with tracks over the past years, but now New Holland has pulled the wraps off an all new T8 “halftrack.” Combining rear tracks with larger diameter front wheels on a rigid-frame tractor, the halftrack concept offers farmers an alternative to the two-track Challengers and Deeres and four-track Case IH Steigers and NH T9s.
“We know that twin-track machines have a been a staple on many farms for years now,” said Nathan Graham, an NH product training specialist, as he stood in front of a T8 halftrack at the company’s test track in New Holland, Pennsylvania in July. “But the twin tracks have some inherent flaws. They leave a lot of berming on the ends. They act like a skid steer. What we’ve done is taken the comfort and the balance of a conventional tractor and added tracks to it.”
The three halftrack T8 SmartTrax models give producers another belted tractor option in the 311 to 379 horsepower range with either a CVT or powershift transmission.
“The rubber tracks are matched to large diameter front wheels to deliver excellent maneuverability and overcome some of the issues that may arise with twin-tracked vehicles,” said Dan Valen cash crop marketing segment leader. “A key feature of the SmartTrax is the ability to turn tightly and cleanly at the headlands.”
In fact, the T8 SmartTrax maintains a 55° turning angle.
Narrow track modules are available with belt widths of 16, 18 and 24 inches. Wide track versions get 24- or 30-inch belts. The track modules, which are manufactured in-house by CNH in Racine, Wisconsin, aren’t just bolted on as an afterthought to an existing T8. The drivelines in the SmartTrax models are unique, designed to maintain proper working and travel speeds. While the engine and transmissions remain the same, SmartTrax versions get a final drive drop-box arrangement designed to deliver the proper gear ratios to the track modules. That means the track modules aren’t interchangeable with rear wheels.
Overall tractor track widths can be set from 76 to 152 inches, making the SmartTrax concept suitable for both row crop and broad acre farms.
“We can put duals or singles on the front and it can be ballasted fully,” adds Graham. “One of the other things I like to let people know is if you’ve been in a wheeled tractor and you get into this tractor, you notice there’s no sideward sway. It’s very glued, if you will, to the ground. If you have an implement engaged in the ground, it turns just like a wheeled unit.”
A SmartTrax T8 stands a little taller than a comparable wheeled version. So you’ll find a modified step arrangement designed to maintain easy access to the cab. The shape of the fuel tanks had to be changed as well to accommodate the track modules, but they still maintain the same 673 litre capacity, along with 99 litres of DEF.
“We’re very, very pleased with it,” says Graham. “It performs very well in the field. We have all the benefits of tracks in a conventional tractor without the disadvantages.”
For a video look at Grainews’ test drive of the T8 SmartTrax, go to grainews.ca and visit e-QuipTV.