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May (No. 496)

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New bin trailer saves soil, saves workers' backs

A new bin trailer system for grape transport from vineyard to winery has been put through its paces in Mildura this vintage.

Designed by Bruce Chalmers and Rodney Capon of Chalmers Nurseries, the trailer system has demonstrated excellent reduction in soil compaction and increased agility, particularly in the confines of narrow vine rows.

Bruce Chalmers said the design was only a matter of months in the concept stage before Chalmers enlisted the assistance of Laurie Riordan of Riordan’s Engineering, Mildura. Riordan built, and then refined a prototype before manufacturing the trailers and lifting frame. Six of the trailers have been used in vintage operations at Chalmers Nurseries (with carriage companies already seeing the advantages of the lifting frame and ordering the manufacture of their own) during the 2005 harvest.

Chalmers estimates a 50% reduction in soil compaction has been achieved at Chalmers Nurseries vineyard through use of the new trailers, particularly under-vine. He said soil compaction is a significant factor in modern vineyard management and reducing wheel traffic through the vine row can prevent problems such as loss of irrigation efficiency, and improve vineyard health and yields overall.

“These trailers are four-wheeled instead of two-wheeled, as is traditional for tipping trailers. Under-mounting of the wheels provides space for the utilisation of wider tyres as their width is not contributing to the overall breadth of the trailer. Traditional systems had to use narrower wheels simply to allow the trailer to fit down the rows, placing the total weight in the prime root zone on a smaller surface area.

“The use of four, wider tyres in our new trailer system spreads the accumulated weight of the bin and vehicle over a greater surface area in the vine row, reducing depth and severity of wheel indents. The pressure exerted by each wheel is more than halved by this strategy.

“Trailers are only 1450mm-wide, compared with the traditional 1900mm trailers, from the outside of one wheel to the outside of the other, and so they fit down the modern-styled closer row plantings. One tractor can pull multiple trailers.”

Further, Chalmers said the trailers were self-tracking. When multiple trailers were being pulled, the last trailer tyres track exactly behind the first trailer because of the specially-designed turntable assembly. This innovation too, assists in reducing wheel-traffic compaction through the vine rows.

Chalmers said the decision to investigate a new form of trailer for Chalmers Nurseries came about because his Paiko Vineyards plantings are in narrow rows and the reduction of under-vine soil compaction is an utmost priority.

Vintage workers at Chalmers Nurseries have also given the new system the thumbs up.
“Because of the lowered bin deck the centre of gravity of the trailers is lower than a standard trailer making the rig more stable and improving safety for the chaser bin as they negotiate the vineyard,” Chalmers said.

“The trailers are designed with turntables fore and aft and are long in the wheelbase, so the ride along the rows and roads, is very smooth.

“Empty bins are not tipped onto the trailers, but placed on with a crane, tele-loader or forklift. Empty bins usually do not have to be tipped off the truck as a full bin is loaded from the trailer to the truck by a tele-loader and an empty bin lifted from the truck onto the trailer,” he said.

A purpose-built, fork-mounted “Lindemans”-style bin-lifting frame has also been designed by Chalmers and Capon in conjunction with Riordan’s Engineering. Chalmers said this has made the traditional sling or chain system redundant at Chalmers Nurseries during harvest.

“It means trailer loading and unloading is simpler, faster and safer,” Chalmers said.

The new bin trailer system has greatly reduced the amount of bin damage in 2005. Carriers make a sizeable investment in bins which traditionally require off-season maintenance, so an improvement to the handling procedures of bins which would reduce bin damage, had high priority when manufacturing the new system.

“Damage at harvest usually comes from tipping empty bins off trucks and pushing empty bins from the vertical on-ground position onto the conventional trailers. Not only does this add to the wear and tear on the bins, but on occasion we hear accounts of truck drivers and harvest staff sustaining injuries from these procedures,” Chalmers said.

The Chalmers bin trailer system is designed to carry two half-tonne bins as well as the normal single three-tonne “Lindemans” bin that is the industry norm.

One final benefit has been incorporated into the engineering of the new system.

“We have built in a Digital Load Cell on the lifting frame and this means that the tele-loader driver can monitor the exact weight of each bin of fruit,” Chalmers said.

“This is a major concern for winegrape growers given the current industry climate where the winery has the power to refuse truckloads which are over-tonnage. The load cell comes back to a digital display in the cab of the tele-loader giving net bin weight which can then be tallied for quick calculation of delivery tonnages.”

“The implementation of the new Chain of Responsibility transport regulations places the onus on the grower to ensure that trucks are not overloaded, so the ability to accurately weigh loads of fruit is of high importance.

Chalmers said the start-up cost of this new system in not small as the trailers are approximately $8500 each, the tele-loader hire comes in around $1000 per week and the lifting frame costs $2500.

“However these costs are offset by the advantages of the crane hire being eliminated, harvest labour costs are reduced because of the double/triple trailer system, greater safety is assured for all those workers associated with the harvest operation and the benefits to the health of the vineyard are priceless.

“We are not patenting, manufacturing or marketing this system as a product but highly recommend it for reducing the strain placed on the vineyard and staff during harvest,” Chalmers said.
For further information about the Chalmers Bin Trailer system contact Laurie Riordan of Riordan’s Engineering on (03) 5022 1073



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