Seeing a John Deere 6630 tractor equipped as a marked police vehicle isn’t exactly an ordinary sight. But farmers in eastern England have noticed one patrolling their neighbourhoods recently. It’s not chasing down speeders on local highways. Instead, the “crop car,” as it has been dubbed by Lincolnshire police, has been attending a variety of agricultural events in that county to highlight the growing problem of machinery theft.
“The tractor looks a bit of fun, but its purpose is to capture the public’s attention and deliver the message that we take rural crime very seriously,” says chief inspector Phil Vickers of the Lincolnshire police. “We recognize that when a working vehicle is stolen, it has a massive impact on businesses and livelihoods.” That impact on a farmer’s ability keep an operation going at a critical time could be the most serious problem facing producers who are victims of machinery theft, both in Europe and here.
While tractors in the United Kingdom may be vanishing at an increasing rate, just how big a problem is farm machinery theft here, on the Prairies? According to Richard Frost, a loss prevention consultant for national accounts and associations at Federated Insurance, Canadian farmers and equipment dealers are certainly not immune to the problem.
RECOVERY IS RARE
“Federated Insurance had 320 theft claims reported over the last five years,” he says. “Considering our ratio of (insured) equipment dealers to farmers, thefts occur slightly more often at dealerships than farms. The losses are primarily with small equipment (i. e. garden and lawn, ATV, quad, skid steers) and tractors.”
And the worst news is out of those 320 machines reported stolen, only 21 were ever recovered. “Smaller equipment is targeted more often because of demand and the ease of stealing,
Police in Lincolnshire, England are using this donated John Deere 6630 as their “crop car.” Painted as a marked police vehicle, the tractor is putting in appearances at agricultural events to draw attention to the problem of farm equipment theft.
transporting and hiding the equipment,” he adds. “Tractors are being stolen because of their value and versatility. The average loss per incident for small equipment is $13,470. With tractors, the average loss per incident is $30,580.” There is a lot of money at stake.
It’s important to remember this is only one of several insurance companies covering farmers and dealers; the overall number of incidents across the provinces is actually much higher than 320. All of which means even though the problem here may not have reached the same level it has in the UK, there is no reason for farmers to feel complacent about security. The days of leaving equipment at the edge of the field with keys in the ignition and being confident it will be there the next morning are over.
While it may not be necessary to take as many theft precautions on the farm as you would when leaving your pickup in the parking lot of a mall on a trip to the city, Frost recommends farmers at least cover the basics. “Similar loss prevention techniques can be used for protecting small or large equipment,” he says.
Those precautions include parking equipment inside whenever possible. But that’s clearly not always feasible, especially when machines need to be left in fields. In those cases, Frost recommends immobilizing them by disconnecting batteries or some other method. And installing a tracking device will make it much more likely a machine can be located if it goes missing. Factoryinstalled telematics systems like AGCO’s AgCOMMAND can reveal a machine’s location via GPS, even several hours after the transmitter has been disconnected from the main batteries.
If your equipment isn’t new enough to have a system like that, companies like Longview Advantage of Alberta offer a system that can be retrofitted into any machine or vehicle. “We offer a device that will find a machine once it’s stolen,” says Bill Quinney, Longview Advantage’s president. “It communicates that information back to the website by cell phone or satellite.”
Installing one of these devices can be a do-it-yourself project for most farmers. “Just hook it up to the battery and install the antenna,” he says.
The Longview system current- ly retails for $800, but Quinney says the company will introduce a more economical model that it hopes to retail through farm machinery dealers early in the new year. It will sell for about $500 and monthly cell access costs will only be about $15.
He notes the company’s current model is frequently installed on skid steer loaders and has helped police recover a lot of them soon after being stolen. But farmers need not buy one system for every machine they own. Instead, one device can easily be transferred between different equipment and vehicles as needed. “If he (a farmer) has one piece that has to be out a lot, it can be installed temporarily,” says Quinney. “The devices are not hard to move (between machines).”
For more information on the Longview Advantage system, call 877-562-8287.
WHO OWNS THAT TRACTOR?
And having one of your own machines taken isn’t the only risk posed by thieves. You could unknowingly buy something that is stolen and loose your investment. John Schmeiser, executive vice president of the Canada West Equipment Dealers’ Association, says in order to help dealers avoid falling victim to this problem, his organization publishes a list of serial numbers for equipment stolen off of retailers’ lots in Canada. “We’re sending out one announcement every two weeks (to member dealers),” he says. The list is also published online at www.cweda.ca.
If you are considering making a private deal on a used piece of equipment, it may be a good idea to first copy down the serial number and contact your local police to ask them if it’s been reported stolen. You don’t want to find that out after you’ve already paid for it.
Remember the old adage: if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Those 299 missing machines stolen from Federated Insurance’s customers in the last few years — and many others — are still floating around out there.
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Are you planning on buying a new tractor, combine or other self-propelled farm machine with more than 175 horsepower in 2011? If you are, be prepared for some serious sticker shock. Prices are set to jump significantly next year.
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, all new diesel engines over 175 horsepower installed in farm equipment after January 2011 first must comply with Interim Tier 4 exhaust-emissions limits. While that is good news for the environment, it’s bad news for farmers’ bank accounts. The cost increase associated with these engines could be huge. And it will likely cause one of the largest single-year price spikes seen in the new equipment market in decades.
“What the industry seems to be expecting is about a 10 to 12 per cent increase because of Interim Tier 4,” says Adam Reid, Buhler Industries’ marketing manager for the Versatile tractor brand. “We haven’t announced our final pricing yet, but it sounds like that number could be well in line. We’re still going through the numbers to see what the additional technology from Cummins is costing us.” Versatile uses engines supplied by Indiana-based Cummins Inc.
Speaking in an interview in July, Claas of America’s president Russ Green, said some of the speculation in the industry at that time pegged the potential cost increases even higher. He had heard estimates ranging as high as 22 per cent when applied to combines. But like Versatile, Claas has yet to decide on its pricing for Interim Tier 4-compliant machines. In fact, at the time of writing this article, no major manufacturer had yet released their 2011 retail prices.
U.S. Farmers in the market for new tractors and combines are flocking to dealerships to snap up a lower-cost Tier 3 machine while they have the chance. According to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), August sales numbers were up substantially across the U.S. Rigid-frame tractor models above 100 horsepower saw an incredible 48.8 per cent rise over the same month in 2009. Four-wheel drive tractors jumped 9.5 per cent, while combine sales climbed 9.9 per cent. September numbers continued to show similar increases.
But the story is different in Canada, even though farmers here will face the same price increases. AEM reports year-to-date sales are up over 2009, but the numbers lag well behind U.S. figures. “The U.S. has been talking about this — these upcoming rules — and what it means to the farmers for a year and a half,” says Reid. “I think we’re a little bit behind in terms of spreading the word in Canada, but I do expect there’ll be a run on new Tier 3 tractors. In January, the availability of new Tier 3 tractors will lessen and Tier 4 will take over.”
Manufacturers will still be able to sell any existing inventories of Tier 3-equipped tractors even after the 2011 implementation date. The U.S. EPA gave American tractor builders some options for slowly phasing in Interim Tier 4 engine production, even after the deadline. But farmers who want a new machine without paying for the new technology will certainly face increasingly limited choices over the next few months.
COOLED EXHAUST OR CATALYTIC REDUCTION?
After the last of the Tier 3 machines is spoken for, farmers will need to do some extra homework before making a buying decision. Engine builders have chosen two different paths in order to meet the new, much tougher, emissions standard. Both require treating engine exhaust. Deciding which method best fits your operation will be the first step. To do that, you’ll have to choose between CEGR (cooled exhaust gas recirculation) and SCR (selective catalytic reduction) technology.
When it comes to emissions, or pollutants, if you prefer, there are two main ones coming out of a diesel’s exhaust pipe: particulate matter (PM) and NOx (nitrogen oxides). Tuning an engine to minimize one results in an increase in the other.
Here’s a basic look at how each system works. First, lets look at CEGR.
Exhaust gas recirculation has been around since the 1970s when Detroit automakers used the idea to reduce tailpipe emissions on cars. Today, the technology has been refined with a few additional components. A portion of the exhaust coming from the engine is rerouted. After being cooled, it is fed back into the cylinders, using a variable- rate turbocharger to adjust the concentration as necessary.
That reduces the amount of oxygen in the cylinders and lowers combustion temperatures, significantly reducing NOx levels. But it increases PM. To deal with PM, a filter is installed in the exhaust flow to trap it. When the electronic engine controller senses the filter is restricting exhaust flow, diesel is injected into a chamber in the filter assembly and ignited to burn the trapped PM, which allows one filter to last for a very long time (about 4,500 hours, depending on the manufacturer).
The downsides are CEGR engines need a more extensive cooling package, which means engineers must allow for more space under the hood to install one. Particulate matter is really unburned hydrocarbons, so the engine isn’t capturing all the potential energy in a litre of fuel. But companies like Deere point to impressive fuel consumption tests at the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab to argue this technology can still be as fuel efficient as previous Tier 3 models and their new SCR rivals.
The second alternative, SCR, takes the opposite approach — the engine is tuned for a full fuel burn, which creates a lot of NOx but very little PM. A separate tank is added to the tractor to hold Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF), which is a blend of 32.5 per cent automotive-grade urea and de-ionized water.
The DEF is injected into a catalytic chamber built into the exhaust system. There, it reacts with NOx, breaking it down into harmless nitrogen and water.
The downside is you have to purchase an additional fluid — at an additional cost — and have it stored on the farm. But DEF doesn’t like cold weather, it freezes at -11 C. Tractors equipped with SCR circulate engine coolant around the DEF tank to keep it warm or thaw it in winter. Case IH spokesmen say their SCR engines will start and run for up to 30 minutes with frozen DEF, allowing enough time for it to thaw and flow normally.
SCR engines use relatively little DEF for every litre of diesel burned, and DEF can be stored for up to 36 months without degrading. For many, sorting out storage may be a case of simply putting DEF containers on a shelf in a heated farm shop.
Proponents of SCR say oil change intervals can be significantly extended with that technology because contaminants in recirculated exhaust won’t make their way into the engine oil, which is a cost saving. Case IH claims oil change intervals on some of their SCR-equipped, high-horsepower tractors can reach as high as 600 hours.
WHO IS DOING WHAT
Most manufacturers have announced their plans for Interim Tier 4. Here’s what they’ve said, so far.
John Deere has decided to go the CEGR route, as has Versatile, which uses Cummins engines. Case IH and New Holland have decided to use SCR in all engines above 100 horsepower. They will stick with CEGR in the smaller tractors. AGCO has also opted for SCR technology in high-horsepower engines.
For more on each manufacturer’s choice, take a look at their websites. There they explain their systems and rationale for adopting them.
And while each manufacturer has also been aggressively advertising the benefits of their chosen path to meet new emissions requirements, none have been too critical of the alternative. The reason, engineers quietly admit, is extremely stringent EPA regulations are pushing them into uncharted engineering territory. The technology required to meet Final Tier 4 standards is still evolving. Right now, the current thinking is it will require some combination of both CEGR and SCR. All we can do is watch and wait to see what happens.
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Engines using cooled exhaust gas recirculation (CEGR) route a portion of the exhaust back into the cylinders to reduce combustion temperatures. That virtually eliminates NOx. A two-part exhaust filter uses a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) and a diesel particulate filter (DPF) The DOC reacts with exhaust gasses reducing carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. The DPF traps particulates. These engines require much larger cooling systems that SCR versions.