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To Haul or Not to Haul

December 14, 2013
By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal Columnist
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Single repair situations that can be accomplished with predictable parts in one trip are often easy and economical in-field fixes.   

Which is cheaper: to fix equipment on the farm or transport it to the dealership for repairs?

Cell phones and remote diagnostics are changing the equipment maintenance process. When a piece of machinery is in need of repair, is it more economical to haul it to the nearest shop or have a mechanic come to the farm?

The answer depends on the machine, the type of repair and several other variables. The biggest and most costly factor is time.

"If it’s a tractor that just needs a water pump, that’s a single repair that can be accomplished with predictable parts in one trip," says Chad Stoline, corporate service manager for the Van Wall Group, a John Deere dealership in central Iowa. "A service call is the perfect solution in that situation.

"If you’re looking at off-season inspection and maintenance for a combine with 3,000 or 4,000 hours," Stoline explains, "it’s a no-brainer to get that machine to the dealership shop because it’s going to take three or four days, which would mean multiple trips for the mechanic. The time a mechanic spends traveling to and from a machine is part of what makes service calls more expensive."

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Dealerships are offering incentives, including discounted haul rates in the off-season, for farmers to prioritize preventive maintenance.

Cost effective? In general, customers pay a dealership’s standard hourly shop rate from the time the mechanic leaves the dealership until he or she returns, along with a fee to cover fuel and vehicle expense. Anything that adds to the length or complex­ity of the service call, such as a return to the dealership for additional parts or tools, rapidly adds to the total cost of the repairs.

Because in-shop repairs tend to be more cost effective, many farmers find there is value in paying to have their tractors hauled to a repair shop. Lang Diesel, an AGCO and Challenger dealership in Hays, Kan., charges $5 per loaded mile to haul tractors to their shop.

"We really emphasize preventive maintenance," says Gabe Flaska, Lang service manager. "To

encourage that, if they send the tractor for off-season preventive maintenance and repair, we’ll haul it for half price. Not having to pay for the mechanic’s fuel and driv­ing time for a couple trips back and forth to the farm usually saves more than the cost of trucking."

Large combines and tractors with dual or triple wheels that are awkward to haul to the dealership often lead to hybrid repair strategies.

"We have two fully-equipped trucks with cranes," explains Scott McDaniel, service manager at Vetter Equipment, a central Iowa Case IH dealer.

"There’s a trend to pull the broken engine or transmission out of the machine on the farm and bring it to the shop. That lets us rebuild the engine or transmission in controlled conditions and saves the cus­tomer from having to bring the machine to the shop," McDaniel says.

A quicker response. Some circumstances eliminate the option of transporting all or part of the broken machine to a shop and mandate fast on-farm repairs.

"Places such as dairies don’t have days off or an off-season," Stoline says. "So any repair to their machinery is pretty much all mobile service."

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Mid-December 2013

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