It can fix, tow and fuel just about anything
With farms in Kansas and North Dakota and custom harvesting jobs from Texas to Montana, Kevin Clark needed a fully equipped service truck. Thankfully, Clark, his sons Kendall and Scott and his crew enjoy passing the winter months in their Kiowa, Kan., shop.
The truck they built can fix, tow and fuel just about anything. "We have compressed air, hydraulic capacity, everything we need," Clark says. "It makes everything much easier when we are in the field." The truck won the Service Truck Category of Farm Journal’s 2012 "I Built the Best" contest.
Clark’s crew started with a one-year-old Peterbilt, with a 475-hp engine rated to tow 90,000 lb. "It came with an UltraShift transmission, which makes it possible for anyone to drive the vehicle," Clark says.
They lengthened the frame rail at the rear by welding on another 8' of Peterbilt frame and reinforced the entire rig. Then they built the box, which stretches 80" from ground level. "Every hinge on the box has a grease zerk," Clark says. "The grease helps keep road salt out."
Compartments on each side of the bed contain compressed air hose reels; metric and standard wrenches; tools; nuts and bolts stored in magnetic trays; and parts for combines, tractors and implements. Drawers slide easily on angled iron frames coated with plastic. A lip at the rear keeps the drawers from falling out. Other compartments contain fuel and lubricant hoses, meters and pumps; an air compressor; a generator; and a 302-amp welder/generator. The welder compartment has a 220-volt, 50-amp outlet and four 110-volt outlets.
Air in, dust out. With a push of a button, the lid opens over the compartment that contains the
hydraulically driven air compressor. "The lid lets the compressor get plenty of air, even though we close the doors to keep out dirt and chaff," Clark says.
At the rear of the bed are four air outlets and two reels with 100' of ½" hose. The outlets are set in recessed slots for protection.
"For additional air pressure, we made a direct hookup to bypass the regulators," Clark says. "We can dial in the air pressure or have constant 120 psi for big jobs that need more air. There is an outlet with 25' of ¾" hose for the big air guns we use to change big combine duals and semi-truck tires."
One compartment houses hydraulic outlets and controls to raise, fold or tow implements. "To run the hydraulics, all you need is air to operate the PTO that runs the hydraulic pump," Clark says.
A compartment under the rear deck contains chains, jumper cables and odds and ends.
The walls and bottom of the acetylene torch compartment are reinforced to protect the contents in case of an accident. The compartment that houses filters is double-sealed with rubber to keep dust out.
Every compartment is lighted by LED bulbs, one on the inside and one on the door. Fold-down steps make the bed and compartments easily accessible.
The fuel-hose compartment contains meters for farm fuel and highway fuel. Drip nozzles prevent fuel from being lost after filling a tractor or combine. With oil, the operator dials in the desired amount, and the pump shuts off automatically.
All fuel and lubricant hoses are 2" in diameter. The 60' hose is rolled up by an air-powered roller.
Oil and fuel. Tanks, located between the outer compartments and the open deck, carry 500 gal. of highway fuel, 1,000 gal. of farm fuel, 120 gal. of motor oil, 120 gal. of hydraulic oil and 55 gal. of used oil. The fuel tanks contain a manhole and vent.
Sensors in each tank keep track of the fuel level. The meters on the pumps record how many gallons have been pumped. Tanks are enclosed inside a framework that protects them in case of an accident. The framework is protected by a cover with a lid that opens to fill the tanks. If fuel is spilled into the covered area, it can be drained with a hose and shutoff valve.
The fuel tanks are anchored onto ¾" base plate with 1¼" bolts. The bolts are on springs, which prevent them from shearing. "If the truck turns over, these bolts will keep the tanks in place," Clark says. Rubber bushings around the bolts reduce vibration.
The truck’s 30-gal. hydraulic reservoir is mounted at the front of the truck bed between the welder and air compressor, where it is protected in case of a rollover. It provides enough hydraulic capacity to run several systems at once. Items up to 24' long can be carried on top of the compartments, anchored to a railing or there’s a C-channel to connect tarp straps.
The open deck area has tie-downs in the floor and sides. The deck and the top of the compartments are double-plated to resist dents, and the deck is coated with a spray-on lining to create a non-slip surface.
"The deck is just the right height for a workbench," Clark adds. "Stake pockets in the deck hold vises on universal mounts. If we need an angled surface to work on, we can use the fifth-wheel hitch."
Towing ability. For towing, the back of the service truck contains ¾" plates at the rear and on top of the deck; safety chain hook-ups; plug-ins for RV and semi-truck lights; receiver pins; and standard ball, gooseneck ball, clevis, pintle and fifth-wheel hitches.
Six working lights around the bed of the truck illuminate night-time repair jobs. The lights shine underneath a 24' tarpaulin strapped to the rub rail.
The service truck box is 24' long to the pintle hook, for a total length of 40'. "Yet its turning radius is tighter than a four-door pickup," Clark says.
The vehicle weighs 42,000 lb. "Truck manufacturers warned us it would be too heavy, and the front axle would be overloaded," Clark says. "But there’s only 11,000 lb. on the front axle."
Total investment, including tools, was $200,000. Clark figures the truck will catch the eye of potential custom harvest clients, even when it’s parked.
Designed for Safe Operation
Kevin Clark built his service truck to handle the rigors of the custom harvest circuit—all while keeping safety top of mind.
"When the PTO is running, the truck cannot be put in gear," says Clark, who had help building the rolling shop from his sons and employees. "That enhances safety and prevents damage to components." Along with other controls, the switches for the PTO, strobe lights and emergency flashers are located on a dashboard panel, easily accessible for the driver.
To make sure other motorists see the vehicle, "we have two yellow beacons on top and flashers under the headlights," Clark says. "We put our brake lights and taillights down low, where they can be seen, rather than up high as they are on many service trucks." The brake lights and taillights are mounted in recesses, so they are less likely to get broken.
Safety is enhanced when backing up and hitching to implements thanks to two cameras that cover the area behind the truck, the fifth-wheel hitch, the air lines and the workbench area. If the truck is towing two trailers, the operator can place an additional camera behind the first trailer.
Other safety features include a custom-bent heat shield behind the cab and double-braided hydraulic hoses.