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Open-End Grain Trailers Dominate the Marketplace

CALGARY, Alta. - The grain trailer is evolving, with the closed-end variety all but disappearing from the Prairie landscape. Barry Burton, Fort Garry Industries regional manager for Saskatchewan, says about 95 per cent of grain trailers are now op...


CALGARY, Alta. – The grain trailer is evolving, with the closed-end variety all but disappearing from the Prairie landscape. Barry Burton, Fort Garry Industries regional manager for Saskatchewan, says about 95 per cent of grain trailers are now open-ended – a trend that shows no signs of letting up.

“They’re all open-end bulkers now, which eliminates corrosion on the slope sheets,” says Burton.

Previously, closed-end grain bulkers were subject to rust buildup and corrosion at the ends, but the open-end design allows owners to clean the area and prevent it from rotting away.

“All we manufacture are open-end designs,” says Ray Strelic, a design engineer with Advance Engineered Products. “It allows the guy to wash it out better and prevent the corrosion that used to happen.”

The vast majority of Doepker’s grain bulkers are also open-ended, however chief customer officer, Lionel Doepker says some customers still prefer the close-end models.

“There are still a certain amount (of closed-end trailers) that go out for two reasons: One is just plain old personal preference and the other is that there’s the ongoing debate about whether they’re any more fuel-efficient or easy to pull in the wind,” explains Doepker. “We’re sitting on the fence – we have reports from both sides. They are both there and we’ll let the customer decide.”

Although closed-end bulkers are still an option with Doepker, he says most of the company’s customers opt for the increasingly popular open-end design. Not only does it prevent corrosion, but the trailers are also lighter than their closed-end predecessors (which would appear to put the fuel-efficiency argument to rest) are. Doepker says between 500 and 600 pounds can be shaved off the weight of a grain bulker by leaving the ends open. It also provides for faster unloading even though there is one fewer chute (closed-end grain bulkers traditionally had a third chute on the rear which also had to be emptied.)

“It speeds up the unloading process,” says Burton. “You don’t have to pull out and back in to unload that back chute.”

Commercial grain haulers typically spec’ super-B bulkers on the Prairies in order to maximize payload, says Doepker.

“For the most part the rates now are built around super-B loads,” he says.

But there are still other options. For instance, Doepker still manufactures farm bulkers, which generally have lower wall heights to accommodate combines and other farm machinery in the field. With the size of farm equipment constantly increasing, however, he says even commercial bulkers can be spec’d for farm applications.

Most grain bulkers are diverse enough to handle any form of granular product, ranging from grain to fertilizer and sand.

“If the guy is hauling something really light, that’s where custom wall heights would come in,” says Strelic. “We can build them quite a bit higher so a guy can get more payload on with a light product.”

The grain hauling business is volatile, with volumes shipped decreasing in recent years due to drought. So when commercial haulers invest in a new trailer they are typically looking for a lightweight trailer that’ll last a long time, Doepker says.

“We do everything we can to either take a pound off so they can haul a little more product or make the trailer last a little longer,” he says. Durability is generally a more important consideration than weight for Advance’s customers, Strelic says.

“There was a push for them to get lighter but guys have backed off of that and gone for a little more durability,” he says. “You can only take so much weight out. Guys would rather have a trailer that never sees the shop than have the lightest trailer that ends up being in the shop quite often.”

Most manufacturers have gone with aluminum slopes in place of steel to save weight, which also makes the trailers easier to maintain, says Fort Garry Industries’ Burton.


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