PAYING EXTRA FOR RIDING SMOOTHER
THE growing demand for suspension systems on new tractors means that more customers are voting with their cheque books for a smoother ride.
As recently as four years ago there were just two options for farmers and contractors who wanted more than just a suspension seat to soak up the worst of the bumps. One of the options was Renaults Hydrostable cab suspension which uses a combination of coil springs, shock absorbers and torsion bars to isolate the cab from the rest of the tractor, and the other was the front and rear axle suspension system on the JCB Fastrac.
Both offer a long list of benefits, the makers claim, including a more comfortable ride for the driver as the springs soak up shock loads from the wheels. Working and transport speeds are increased in some situations as the extra ride comfort allows the driver to choose a faster throttle setting or a higher gear, and there is also a safety factor because reducing the effect of the bumps is said to keep the driver more firmly in control.
The improved ride can also reduce stress levels after long hours in the cab, and there are additional benefits for those with back problems.
Another factor – in this case specifically for the Fastrac – is that a proper front and rear suspension system is one of the legal requirements for tractors which can exceed the 20mph speed limit on public roads.
Suspension is standard on the Fastrac, which now claims a 20% share of UK tractor sales in the 120hp plus sector. Renault offers the Hydrostable cab suspension as a £1435 option on Ares tractors from 100hp to 120hp, and itis standard equipment on the bigger models up to 160hp.
Renaults Hydrostable cab option has been available since 1977, but sales were slow initially and after eight years only about 15% of customers were willing to pay extra for it.
The big increase in demand has come in the last three years, and Mike Clarke, UK sales manager, says the latest sales returns show that 54% of customers for Ares models of 100hp plus are choosing the Hydrostable cab.
"Demand for the cab suspension is growing," he says. "More people are aware of the benefits in terms of performance and driver comfort, and we will be introducing additional models with the cab suspension later this year."
Fendt offers both a spring mounted cab and front axle suspension. The combination of springs, shock absorbers and a transverse stabilising rod under the cab was first available on high horsepower versions of the Fendt Favorit 800 series, where it was designed to control both lateral and longitudinal movements, as well as vertical vibration.
The front axle suspension offered by Fendt is hydro-pneumatic and has a hydraulic ram, plus nitrogen-filled steel reservoirs to absorb shock loads
A front axle suspension system was added to the options list for Deutz Agrotron series tractors at last years Royal Show, and it was followed later by a cab suspension unit with springs supporting the back of the cab. The suspended front axle is an option on Agrotron tractors from 105hp; 120hp plus models can be supplied with both suspension units for an extra £5000.
Demand for the suspension options is close to 60% of sales, according to Paddy Flynn of Same Deutz-Fahr, and increasing.
"The interest is not just from contractors and big arable farms. We are also attracting more customers in the livestock areas," he said.
As demand for suspension systems increases, more tractor companies are introducing their own versions in order to grab a share of what is becoming an important growth market. Newest arrivals are John Deere and Case, other manufacturers have various forms of suspension under development.
John Deeres system is called Triple Link Suspension (TLS) and uses two hydraulic rams mounted vertically on the front of the tractor frame to absorb shock loads from the front wheels.
John Deere offers TLS on tractors on 100hp upwards in the latest 6010 series. TLS plus a set of front fenders adds £2619 to the price of the 105hp 6410 tractor, and John Deere produce specialist David Whitworth said it is already proving to be a sales success.
Case IH plans to introduce its front axle suspension at this years Royal Show. It operates hydro-electronically and is said to be the only system to provide fully independent suspension for both front wheels. *
Left:John Deere 6910 tractor equipped with the new triple – link front axle suspension. Above: Front and rear axle suspension improves driver comfort when the Fastrac is at full speed.
The hydraulically suspended front axle will be available as an option on Case Steyr built CS series tractors later this year.