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
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.