Thursday, November 13, 2014
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2014 Fall Farm Outlook:
The growth of farm transportation
By Angela Reiners

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[November 13, 2014]  LINCOLN - Ten years ago, the line to the scale at the elevator was long and was composed of what looked like a rag-tag fleet of dissimilar vehicles: various colored carts pulled by tractors, some rusty, some well used, interspersed by red grain trucks that looked like they should have been retired long ago. Everything producers had was used to get the crop to the market.

That scene has largely changed today. The line seems to be shorter, and although you see an occasional wagon or grain truck, the fleet is now largely composed of sleek, powerful semi-trucks pulling 50-foot Timpte Super Hoppers. Was it the size of the crop, the efficiency of hauling, or sheer economics that prompted producers to make the switch?

Talking to farmers about whether they are choosing to buy their own semi-trucks or contracting out, and the various factors in this decision brought a variety of responses.

Several area farmers still use tandems, grain trucks, or wagons to haul their grain. Others now own semis, though some still contract out, hiring truck companies or others with trucks to help with hauling the grain.


The Illinois Department of Agriculture states that “Illinois has a competitive edge over many other states due to its central location and superior transportation system” that allows for “fast and efficient” hauling. An article on “Corn Movement in Illinois” notes that as far as “total production,” Illinois ranks “second” nationally as the farmers “grow more than 2 billion bushels of corn per year.” With that much corn to haul, having a semi-truck that can ship longer distances can be a definite asset.

When weighing in whether to purchase a semi for transporting the grain, cost is certainly a factor. Taking into effect labor, fuel and lubrication, tires, repairs, taxes, insurance, license, depreciation and interest; operation costs per year can range anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000.

Still, as Laura Bedford notes in her article, Semi Pro, “as farmers continually look for the most efficient, low-cost ways to bring crop to market, more have turned to investing in a semi. Today, these massive grain movers have become an integral part of many farming operations.”

The semi allows them to haul more grain at once and it can also travel further distances than grain wagons. During the winter months, they can also use it to haul the grain in order to fill grain contracts. It also means the farmer does not have to wait to hire a truck when they are in demand during the busy harvest season.

For farmers who own several acres of ground, it is an asset to have a semi available at all times.

Owning a semi does seem to have its advantages. For example, area farmer John Klemm said that with having a semi, knowing that the truck available whenever it is needed is a major factor. He also feels it has been more efficient to have a semi than to have to hire one especially during busy time, and notes that though the cost is high, it saves money in the long run.

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Herman Schwantz used to contract out, but has owned a semi for approximately nine years. Major factors for him are “efficiency, time, and cost.” He says, “you can load more in a semi” [and make fewer] trips to the elevator.” In addition, “grain trucks have weight limits” that semis do not.

Some area farmers have more than one semi, so they often have to hire seasonal help in order to get all the grain hauled in.

Those who are not ready to purchase their own semi sometimes contract out by hiring truck drivers to help haul grain at harvest time, using one of the area trucking companies such as Steven Goodman Trucking and Excavating.

For hauling the piles on the ground, the drivers are paid hourly. When hauling to the elevators in places as far as Havana, they are paid by the bushel, and the distance also figures into the cost.

Whether farmers are using tandems and grain wagon, driving their own semis, or hiring drivers to help haul the grain, Illinois farmers are keeping busy hauling millions of bushels each year.

Read all the articles in our new
2014 Fall Farm Outlook

2014 Year in Review 4
Flip-flop Weather 10
The up-side-down harvest 16
Will corn producers make money this year? 18
At the Elevator 24
Harvest Quotes 29
What's bred in the ground 34
The growth of farm transportation 38
Behind the wheel 41
New combine head attachments 47
What's happening on the GMO/foreign trade issue 51

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