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11th December 1970
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Page 82, 11th December 1970 — GOOD DRIVERS SET THE PACE
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

An animal feed distributor of the Spillers group tells of the importance of having highstandard drivers and the right size and type of vehicle for deliveries in a country area.

"AN agricultural company employing agricultural people" is a self-description of A. R. Brummitt Ltd, Washingborough, Lincolnshire. And the statement of an ARB executive that the company has very good drivers of high standard who know their job could well arouse the envy of the typical fleet operator in an urban area. It explains why many of the problems of the company in the delivery of feed, both in bulk and bag (over a radius of 55/60 miles) and collecting backloads of grain—as well as other special jobs—tend to sort themselves out without any help from senior staff.

ARB is a feed distributor in the Spillers

group and is solely employed in distributing animal feeds in Lincolnshire and the surrounding counties. The bulk transport fleet comprises eight rigid vehicles of 11-1-112-1 tons payload capacity, while three platform lorries are used for transporting feed in bags.

Limitation of bulk vehicles size and similarity of capacity have two notable advantages. The collection of loads from Spillers' feed mill at Gainsborough (15 miles to the north-west of Washingborough)and journeys to farms can normally be organized to enable two runs to be made in the day, one long and one short. And size compatibility simplifies fair and acceptable working of the productivity bonus scheme, which in the Spillers group is based on mileage, number of loads and tons dropped.

Of the feed delivered in bulk by ARB, 90 per cent goes to intensive livestock farms. Broiler units account for about 50 per cent, other poultry farms for 20 per cent and pig farms for 20 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent is delivered to farms requiring feed for dairy herds, sheep or horses.

The backloading of grain to the Gainsborough mill from the farms to which animal foods are delivered in bulk represents an allimportant factor in transport economy that enables vehicle utilization to be increased to around 80 per cent. But the time taken for backloading a full load can vary from 45 minutes to I+ hours because of differences in grain-handling methods provided by the farmer.

Animal foods are discharged into a farm silo at the rate of up to 25 tons an hour and the rate does not vary to any extent. At the "best" farms the grain being loaded is discharged by gravity from an overhead hopper, but in many cases the vehicle is loaded at a much lower rate by an auger or series of augers. Loading from a floor drier can be particularly slow, although the use of the latest type of sweep auger with a bucket attachment improves the rate. The availability of a self-loading/pneumatic-discharge vehicle would facilitate loading from a floor drier but the operation of specialized vehicles of this type would be uneconomic because the total amount of grain loaded from the floor is relatively small.

The weight of the load in each compartment as well as the weight of the total load is recorded at the Gainsborough mill when the vehicle is loaded. And this is important because farmers rarely have a bin which incorporates a weighing system, although bin capacity is usually known. The advantages to the farmer of purchasing feed in bulk include a saving of about per ton derived from the lower handling charge and the elimination of bags. Moreover, it reduces the handling on the farm to a minimum and no farm personnel are required to help unload.

A bulk vehicle delivers at least 10 tons a day and may handle a total of 200 tons in a 5+-day week. A bag-carrying lorry could deliver from 8/12 tons a day, but is at a disadvantage because backloads are less frequently available. Feed is delivered in bulk to the majority of intensive farms in the area.

Broiler farms provide an interesting exercise in the transport of feed. The majority of broiler units in the area have 100,000 birds which reach maturity after about 56 days and the feed requirement varies between 11 tons in the first week to 90 tons in the seventh week, with a drop to 80 tons in the last week. This variation can create severe vehicleutilization problems but, fortunately, poultry packing stations require a steady throughput of birds and production in the area is planned accordingly. The transport problems that arise from variations in feed requirements are not, therefore, very serious in practice.

According to a comment by a spokesman for the Spillers Group Transport Department on bulk animal feed transport in the UK, operating a vehicle carrying a payload of less than 114/13 tons is uneconomic in the case of the average feed distribution unit. The break-even payload is therefore one that can be carried by a 22-ton-gross machine. A bulk vehicle of this size costs about £6000/ £7000 and has a useful life of 8/10 years, the standing weekly charge being approximately £50.

Apart from difficulties on the farm, the use of larger vehicles can be limited by the clearance height below the loading bins at the feed mill. Artics in the 32-ton-gross capacity class are suitable for more specialized operations of the group, and where the tipping height restriction applies, a non-tipping conveyor type is preferred. Such a vehicle normally has an overall height of 11ft 9in.

ARB employs Murfitt-bodied bulk tipping vehicles of the three/four compartment type with pneumatic/rotary-seal discharge, and Murfitt equipment is extensively employed by the Spillers group. The ready availability of spares in the event of a fault developing or damage is an all-important facility in reducing vehicle down-time to a minimum.

A substantial proportion of the delivery runs involve multiple drops in which the first load to be dropped is the consignment in the rear compartment and removal of this part of the load can result in overloading the front axle. The conveyor type of body has the advantage that the load in any compartment can be discharged independently and if the consignments are planned with this in mind front axle overloading can be avoided. A number of conveyor-type vehicles is employed in other operating areas. As intimated earlier in a specific reference to ARB drivers, driver experience in operating bulk vehicles is regarded by Spillers as a top requirement Lack of skill during the discharge operation could result in spasmodic flow and in separation of the ingredients. In an extreme case it could also result in blockage.

Spillers provide an advisory service to fanners who handle feed in bulk to ensure that the right type of bin is installed. The main consideration in the handling of a nonfree-flowing product like animal feed is that the angle of repose of the material and the height of the bin should be matched to avoid bridging problems. It is also important that measures be taken to eliminate condensation, which may cause serious deterioration of the feed.

Spillers also emphasize that while any bulk vehicle can discharge to heights of up to 8011, horizontal pipe lines and sharp bends have to be avoided in the construction of a bin system. The efficiency of rotary seals is a primary importance because a poor seal wastes air, increases discharge time and may lead to separation of ingredients. In practice a variety of couplings are used and Spillers advocate that every vehicle should carry a range of suitable adaptors to provide for discharge into all the types of bin in use.

Spillers do not operate the non-tipping pressure-discharge type of bulk vehicle, despite its low-height advantage for some applications and absence of a rotary seal and tipping gear, because it cannot be used for backloads and backloads are generally essential to economy.

Two Murfitt moving-bulkhead vehicles are included in the ARB bulk vehicle fleet that is based on Leyland and Dodge 22-ton-gross chassis and can carry a payload of 12+ tons. One of the special merits of this type of bulk vehicle is its stability on uneven ground, an additional advantage being its low unloading height.

An assessment is being made by Spillers of bulk vehicles equipped with a Holset turboblower, driven by the engine exhaust, for supplying air to the rotary seal for discharge. But while the advantages of the system of low weight and reduced cost and complexity are acknowledged, the verdict on the system's acceptability has been deferred pending full evaluation based on extended experience. In Spillers' view it is necessary to take into account the high engine rpm required and the unsuitability of some diesels for the application.

Other vehicles in the ARB bulk fleet comprise two Leyland 20-ton-gross machines having a payload capacity of 11/12 tons, three Albion Reivers of 20 tons gvw with a payload rating of 11+/111 tons and a Dodge 11+-ton-payload 20-ton-gross vehicle. The useful "mileage life" of a bulk body is twice that of the vehicle chassis and vehicle replacements are planned accordingly.

Two of the three bag-carrying platform vehicles are based on Ford D1000 chassis, one of which is a 16-ton-gross dual-purpose tipping type, powered by a Cummins V8, which can carry a payload of 9.15 tons. The other D1000 can carry 10.15 tons and the third lorry, a D800 14-ton-gross machine, has a payload rating of 8.5 tons.

While ARB is one of a number of feed distributors in the Spillers group exclusively handling Spillers feeds, it is probably the only one that serves an area in which very large farms or large farming enterprises make up the major proportion of the customers. Because of the size of the enterprises, the percentage animal feed carried in bulk is far higher than the national average which is currently around 25 percent. Spillers consider that delivery of feeds in bulk will expand and point out that a fair number of smaller enterprises have proved the advantages of handling bought-in feed in bulk, not least of which are the big reduction of on-farm handling and the avoidance of diverting men from normal farm work.

There is still a lot to be learned, Spillers say, about bulk handling in the field, notably with regard to farm access, capacity and siting of farm bins and efficient driver operation of pneumatic and rotary-seal equipment More sophisticated seals are required to reduce blow back and the noise of compressors will have to be reduced if night deliveries are required. Bin siting and providing optimum bin capacity should be a joint enterprise of the farmer and distributor, which might well reduce the cost of transport to the farmer. Distributors should have fully-trained drivers available to make deliveries in bulk to cover sickness and holiday periods.


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