26 Jun

How the right scale helps Tennessee farmer make hay while the sun shines (or not)

Recently I helped a farmer in northwest Tennessee select the right scale for his hay business. He has carved out a nice niche supplying hay to cattle ranchers and dairy farms in a variety of locations in the Western US and China. Right now he’s shipping about 20 flatbed truckloads of hay and if all goes as expected he anticipates that total to jump to 40-50 truckloads per day. Some is shipped all the way by truck and some goes to barges on the Mississippi River.

With over-the-road trucks that travel from 50 to 2,000 miles, the farmer stores and ships hay throughout the winter. In addition, that winter is what caused him numerous headaches and was the deciding factor in getting the right scale. Located in a major nasty weather band, his farm seems to get the worst of the region’s rain, tornadoes, ice, and sloppy or nasty snow. His operation gets an incredible mix of variable weather – he’s right at the northern edge of southern weather and the southern edge of northern weather.

With these challenging conditions, the farmer was extremely concerned about the safety of the drivers and his employees, and approached choosing the right scale as extremely important to his safe operations. Of course he also needed something that would allow him to collect basic data on his transactions.

He was originally contemplating a steel deck solution and our team just had to disagree – the grease and debris on a steel deck can make for slippery and unsafe conditions. If a driver comes up to an ice covered deck with a stop sign and slows down in advance, there is no problem. But all too often truckers approach the ice-covered steel deck scale just a bit too fast, slam on the brakes and it doesn’t take much to for the slippery deck conditions to result in damage to the scale, the truck, and the driver.

That’s why the team recommends a concrete deck for those conditions – whether the driver slams on the brakes or is walking across the platform, the concrete surface gives a lot better traction.

The team suggested the electronic, heavy capacity Trident truck scale which comes with a factory poured and steam cured, concrete deck scale. The Trident is shipped on one truck from the factory and installed in one day. He loved the idea that he could have the strength and durability of 8000 pounds per square inch (psi) concrete and the scale could be put into service as soon as the foundation was cured.  Even though the preformed Trident is a bit more expensive than a field pour, the customer understood that the result would be worth it, especially with stainless steel load cells and a 25-year warranty.

An interesting side note – the farmer is a retired lead construction engineer for Ford Motor Company plants around the world, and had been faced with similar problems fixing situations resulting from rusting steel decks and poor construction. It seemed to him that the other solutions he had been offered short-changed the scale foundation. The steel deck solution was accompanied by only a pier foundation (next to asphalt road that experiences frequent washout.) By contrast, the full slab foundation of the concrete deck would do a much better job of standing up to the weather and eliminate the headaches and safety issues he so wanted to avoid. He also selected a scale about 5 feet bigger than he originally planned for. This accommodates the super sleeper cabs. It increases the size of the foundation, which is more expensive, but provides more of what truckers need, while giving greater longevity.

In addition to the scale, our Tennessee hay farmer opted for an instrument that protects him from lightning strikes (there’s that weather again) and lets him call up reports on tonnages shipped as well as other data his growing business is likely to need in the future.

After months of awful weather, including swampy conditions that meant he couldn’t even get the hay out of his fields, things are slowly drying up and he hopes to get the scale installed in the very near future.

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