27 September 1996

Students trailer challenge

STUDENTS at Newton Rigg College in Cumbria took up the challenge of designing and making cheap, ATV-towed trailers for forestry work. And they have succeeded on a budget of £75 and less.

Lee Lightburn, forestry machinery lecturer at the college, has been working with students on the project which has so far produced two pieces of equipment.

A logging arch – a simple steel frame on two rubber wheels used for hauling logs – and a small four-wheeled, multi-purpose trailer for carrying thinning, planting and fencing materials, highlight the value of ATVs and towed equipment which give greater manoeuvrability in confined forestry working conditions.

"One of the biggest problems when designing this type of equipment is ensuring the pulling capacity is within the guidelines for ATVs. Timber is a lot denser than bales of straw or hay. You do not need much timber for a tonne load," said Mr Lightburn.

So far all the trailers designed and made at the Cumbria college have not been braked, although ideas to develop a system which can be operated from the seat of the ATV are being considered.

A wide range of ATV equipment is now available from manufacturers, but the project undertaken by students had to be kept within a strict budget. It resulted in the home-made trailer being built for £60-£75, although labour was not costed and all materials were second-hand including scrapped metal, car tyres and hubs.

"It is something anyone with basic workshop and fabrication skills could do," said Mr Lightburn. Cost has dictated design, which has taken account of the load capacity of the bike. The latest, which has a load length of 2-2.5m, has a multi-use capability by dropping the "wire-mesh" headboard to create a flat trailer and is fitted with an oscillating hitch. Future designs will look at a trailer able to carry the ATV and be legally towed by a larger vehicle on the road.

The simple logging arch, a steel frame mounted on a two-wheeled axle, has been built for about £55 and is basically a framework on to which logs can be roped, hooked and dragged from the felling site.

College staff are well aware of the importance of safety when building such equipment. Lecturer John Jones says its is up to the "manufacturer" to undertake a risk assessment.

"We would advise anyone embarking on home-made equipment to contact the Health and Safety Inspectorate to advise on safety. The Agricultural Engineers Association should also be contacted," says Mr Jones.

The projects at Newton Rigg highlight safety aspects of home-made ATV trailers and equipment. An important consideration must be the maximum towing capacity – about 450kg to include both trailer and load for most ATVs – with a downward force on the hitch between 15 and 25kg.

"Although many new ATVs now have improved hitch designs, it in no way increases the carrying capacity. Over-loading any trailer, either home-made or factory built, puts the driver at serious risk, especially when working on inclines, when the load can easily jack-knife," says Mr Jones. &#42

A simple timber hauling trolley numbers among the equipment built by students for a fraction of the cost commercial firms charge for such tackle.

Cheap to make, yet entirely functional. Newton Rigg college lecturer Lee Lightburn with one of his students creations. A "safe" build is essential.