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Veteran Advisor

Tandem axle truck

Thinking about getting a 10 wheel tandem axle truck.  I bought a super-cheap 6 wheeler last winter, and I still couldn't keep up hauling what I wanted to, in the time I had to get it done in.  I figured if I put the $1000-$3000 I will probably wind up paying a semi each year to haul towards a bigger truck, I could not only get it all done myself, but also get the harvest in quicker.

However, I don't know much at all about them.

Here's a quick run down of my uses:
Hauling from field to home, maximum distance is 5 miles, maybe 500 miles a year, tops, probably less than that, because I have 2 gravity wagons, for the short runs.

Hauling from the bin, to neighborhood feedlots, this runs from 3 to 10 miles, maybe another 500 miles a year.

Hauling from the bin, to the elevator in town, 1,000 miles or less per year.

All in all, if I had a 550 bushel truck, I would probably put 2000 miles or less on it a year.  My biggest issue, is not distance, but the time it takes to get it hauled in.  I figure for another 5-10 minutes a load, I could be hauling 500+ bushels a load, instead of 325, and that would be enough to get it all myself.  If you ever hired a semi to haul, you know that the shorter the distance, the more it works out per mile.

I would be hauling from the field home, this involves driving along the field edge.  I smoothen the trail, so it isn't too rough, but I can only pack it by driving a tractor back & forth over it a few times, so it can be a little soft, so a good low gear would be nice.  Otherwise, there are no load limits on the roads home, or to the local feedlots, only on the blacktop going into town.

My general questions are:

Twin-screw, or tag?
Gas or diesel?

How big of an engine?  There are only two big hills from here to town, and neighbors are getting by good with a 366 GM, on a 400-450 bu truck.  How much more would I need, to haul another 100 Bu?

Air or hydraulic brakes (I'm definately leaning air as of right now).

Cabover or conventional (cabovers are cheaper, but I'm thinking there may be a reason for that)

Steel or wood box?  Or steel with wood floor?

Most of my hauling occurs in the 'warmer' months, meaning not in the dead of winter.  Usually in the fall, at harvest if it won't all fit in the bin, and then again in late Feb thru April, and then again July-Aug.  I think an easier starting diesel would fire up, but am not sure if I would drive enough miles, to justify the extra expense ($2500 - $3000 or so it seems).

What transmissions are good, what to avoid.  I test drove an older IH with a 5X4, and liked it had low gears, but is that a durable setup? 

What kind of hoist is better, the twin-cylinder scissor hoist, or the telescoping cylinder type?


Lastly, I'm not looking to spend a lot of money, and looks aren't that important, I'll probably wind up with an older (cheaper) but solid truck.

 

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15 Replies
Senior Contributor

Re: Tandem axle truck

 I have similar haul distances. I have two old "Binders" 1972 International 1800's. One twin screw with a 5-speed and 4-speed aux. trans, the other is an air tag (not a lift) with a 5-speed and 2-speed axle. Both have 392ci. engines. The tag axle truck is far prettier but hauling out of the field it is no contest, the twin screw is definately better. The tag axle truck will get stuck if you take a leak under in front of the drives. Both trucks have air brakes and I don't think I would ever buy one with hydraulic brakes. The air brakes work so much better and are easier and cheaper to maintain and repair. As far as diesel vs. gas with the miles I put on these trucks and what it would cost to upgrade to diesels (not to mention a diesel would be heavier) I don't believe it would pay.  Patrick

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Advisor

Re: Tandem axle truck

I run 2 tandems plus wagons. One of the trucks is '76 Chevy tag. 366 and a 5&2 other is an L9000 ford semi stretched to handle a box and hoist. It has a cummins and a 13 speed. I like them both ok, but if the dot catches me with that ford, they'll slap the cuffs on me. But...with that 13 speed and twins screw and low gear , when you drop the clutch in the field it will go forward. I still like driving my old chev. It is so maneuverable and handy to be around and still hauls 530-550 bu. It still looks good , too. I realize you don't want to spend the money, but i wish i had one with an automatic so it was easier for others to drive. Also, very minor issue to look out for. No one wants to work on those old split rims. Either find one with dayton or one piece rims or retrofit them. Oh and my chev had 9.00x20's on the back axles. they are getting more difficult to find. come over and I'll sell you the chev.!

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Tandem axle truck

Thanks for the replies.

Ida, the Chevys like you listed, are very easy to find locally, but thanks for the offer.  However, I don't know if I want to drive a 10 wheeled truck home from that far away.   An automatic is not a concern, as everyone around here still knows how to drive a stick.  I also have heard stories about the autos not getting a load moving as well as a standard shift, and low gearing.

 

Pat, thankso for the info.  The two main choices of transmissions I have found, in the trucks in my price range, are the 5X4, or the 5 speed, with 2 speed axle.  My impressions, from driving the 5X4 (empty) is that it has both a lower 'low' gear, to better pull out of the field, while also having a taller 'high' gear, which to me would save a little fuel when running empty.  Is that true?  Is it a durable setup?  I think that is the way I am leaning, as the only 13 speed that is in my price range I have found, is an older IH Cabover, and all else being equal Cabovers are notably cheaper, which makes me think they are less desirable for some reason.

 

I even test drove an old twin screw 'Binder' a week or two back, at a dealership, that started good, and ran OK, but when I got to the corner, there were no brakes, none at all,  I was able to double-clutch it to a lower gear, and yank the emergency brake all the way back, and stop, just as the nose poked out into the highway about a foot or two.  Fortunately, no one was behind me, so I could back up to the nearest driveway, turn around, and limp back to the dealership.  Needless to say, I did not buy that truck, and that little episode convinced me, that I should pay the extra for air brakes.  At least with them, if a line fails, the brakes engage, rather than disappear.

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Senior Advisor

Re: Tandem axle truck

Neb, sounds like you are running the same ideas around in your head that I am.  Currently I've got 3 400 bushel single axle trucks and am looking to do some type of updating but not exactly sure what I want to do.  I have been considering a good used semi tractor but not sure if I can justify the expense of that type of truck.  My miles and situation are very similar to yours.  Current trucks are big enough that they can hold a large load from the combine, but it only makes them around 3/4 capacity.  With the price of fuel, I hate to send them to town only 3/4 full, but leaving them in the field to wait for a full load takes more time and eventually (with a good crop) the combine will be waiting for trucks to return.  In this business, time is definitely money.  Hope you let us know which way you decide to go.

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Tandem axle truck

My problem, is I have a single axle truck, rated to carry 400 bu, but I can only legally take 340 or so to town, legally.  I don't have to make a hurry up decision, the tires and such on the truck I run will last me to get my bins empty, so as long as there is no breakdown, I have 6+ months to shop.  I am just trying to figure out, what would be most desirable, and shop around a bit, so if I come across what I am looking for, I will know if the price is right, right away.

 

One other question:
Is it better to have a tall box, not as long, or a longer box, not as tall.  I figure an 18 or 20 footer, if tall enough, should have more than enough capacity to get to legal weight limits, but a 22 footer, that wasn't as tall, would catch less wind, be less top-heavy,  and would be easier to load.   I have a short vertical auger on one bin, and a tall truck might cause me to have to dump into a gravity wagon, then auger up into the truck.  However, if the taller box had a definate advantage, I could take off the vertical part, and just discharge into my auger.  However, I just got done double-flighting it, adding a bigger motor I got at a sale, and rebuilding the transition, to where I can open the bin sump all the way, and it now takes it up without plugging.  It would probably go another 10+ years as-is and I sure like the convenience of being able to just pull up to the bin, hit a button, pull the sump door open, and fill the truck.  I also like I wouldn't have to start a diesel tractor in the winter, just to run it 20-30 minutes every 2 hours.

Advisor

Re: Tandem axle truck

Are you looking for a truck that is already assembled? Or are you going to put one together yourself? Any tandem you buy should drive with both axles..preferably with an inter-axle differential lock (Makes sure both are driving when things start to get slippery.)

 

Diesel engine is the norm for the last 20 years...because gas engines in mid size trucks have to run so hot to meet emission requirements. You very rarely see a gas engine in a new fire truck any more...because the pump tests they run to see if they're reliable just burn them up.

 

For farm use...if you can find an old mechanical injection DTA466, you have enough horsepower for a 550-600 bushel load (Look for the 240HP version) You also have a very simple engine without all the electronics that will cause all sorts of fits in some instances.

 

So if you're looking for that engine..you're either looking at a 4900 S-series International truck..or even the 7100 series that they built for a while.

 

Measure the frame on a tandem from the middle of the front axle to a point right behind the cab where a bed would come and still have clearance to be raised. Then find someone who has a tandem and measure the distance from the middle of the tandem to that point. This is to determine how far back you want the tandem in relation to the front axle. Find someone with a truck of similar dimensions and ask them if they can get the load they want on the front without overloading it...

 

A IH truck with the 6+1 transmission will probably be all you need for farm use. An overdrive is a moot point in a truck that only runs 5 miles or so, it won't save you as much diesel as it costs you in load capacity for the additional gears. 5 and 3's, 5 and 4's were great for loading sugar beets or tomatoes in the field (you had to set a post to see them move)...but you seldom shift the auxiliary once you hit the road. Another transmission you might look for is a 8LL, used quite a bit in dump trucks. Will get you moving in anything, and very good on the road. Virtually all your main transmissions will have a 1-1 ratio in high gear....you only have to look for low gears if you're afraid of not being able to pull out of a field.

 

A 20' foot 52" high bed (bed width makes a lot of difference) will hold 530 bushels of soybeans ( I just dumped mine this morning) A lot of these beds have too much of a frame underneath them...They went with 8" channels a long time ago...and I know I have an old Omaha Standard bed with 7" channels that has hauled more loads than the average farm truck in about 10 lifetimes. It hauled sugar beets from the pile to the factory for at least 5 years without ever cracking a weld or frame piece. The secret is boxing the hydrauic cylinder area with about 5-6 foot of flat plate when welding it fast to the bed. Spacing on cross members is an issue too. I think they spaced them 24" on most beds...and they would double them on others (12"). For grain...if I could get cross members spaced every 18" I'd take it and run. You can also use smaller cross members if they're spaced closer...which would help with the truck heighth too. Lots of people say the scissors hoists are more stable...I have 3 trucks with cylinder hoists...and the only issue is when you load them unevenly. With proper mounting (see above) you can't see a difference.

 

 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Tandem axle truck

 The 5 and 4 definately has a lower low gear, but i don't think there is really any difference in high gear vs. the 5 and 2. As far as air brakes my truck with the tag axle does not have the spring cans for parking brake (just the hand brake on the rear of the transmission), that is at the top of my list to update. I like the idea of if there's no air it doesn't move.  Patrick

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Tandem axle truck

I asm looking for cheap, LOL.  I am not a typical 'grain farmer' like most here, I have cattle, and some corn (under 250 acres).  I can't justify a lot into a truck, but if I had a bigger one, I could do my own hauling, and save from $1000-$3000 a year hring a semi.  My girls are getting old enough, that they are both in school now, so I'm sure I could do the hauling myself, if I could do it in less trips.

 

I actually stumbled across one, a guy I know, knows a guy selling one.  It is already put together, with a steel box, heavy-duty hoist, ready to go.  He hauled a little for the guy at harvest, and said that they had just over 650 bushels on it, last harvest, got stopped by the scale guys, and let through (here you can get a temporary overload permit for harvest, I think it is 10% or 15% over) and just at 575 bushels are scalable without the overload.

It has a DT466 IH engine, the older all-mechanical one, he said it started last winter at 15 degrees, with the usual white smoke, but it started.  Twin screw, with spring suspension, working axle lock, and all new radial tires less than 1,000 miles ago.  He got all new tires last harvest, planning to keep the truck, and they wound up using  a similar truck with an Allison in it for a day or two, and his daughter or daughter in law got to drive it, and said that if they want her to haul next year, it is going to be in a truck with an auto, so they bought the one they rented, and are selling this one.  (The guy laughed, and said he thinks the truck place took an extra day messing with the tires, just to get him to take the one on the lot with the auto home, and let her drive it). 

Anyway, back to subject, when it was new, it was ordered with the 5X4 tranny, to get extra low gearing, and a tall geared rear end (he couldn't remember the ratio) and he said it will cruise down the interstate at 75MPH all day.  If nothing else, I could run home empty, just puttering along, and save a little fuel.  Besides, who knows, with the ethanol plant 22 miles away starting to bid up basis, I might haul some corn there.

Doesn't burn oil, everything works, and ready to roll on new tires for $9000.

The only thing, it doesn't have air brakes, he said it was old enough, it came with hydraulic brakes, but they work well, and the parking brake holds good.

The next comparable truck I found, similarly setup, but with air brakes, is $13,500, and it didn't have new tires.  This guy is selling it private, and is asking what the truck place was giving him in trade.  When I asked him if air brakes wouldn't be better, he said he'd guarantee the brakes to be good.  If I took it home, and they didn't seem right, get them checked out, and he'd pay for anything the mechanic found wrong with them.

 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Tandem axle truck

A few years back several on here told me I couldn't justify a truck like you are talking about. That may have been the only time i have had to call B. S. on advice I've got from here. The convenience factor of a bigger truck is worth a lot. I'm real happy with a GMC brigadier w/ L10 Cummins (240hp) and 7 speed Spicer. A lower gear would be nice. A lower reverse would be even nicer.
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