If you work with cattle, it’s a given you’re soon going to be spending time working in sloppy, freezing and uncomfortable winter weather. If some of that work includes being in the cab of a tractor or skid-steer, however, the opportunity to be safer and a lot more comfortable is growing — particularly the next time you buy equipment.
“Machinery manufacturers have spent millions of dollars in research and development over the past five to 10 years to boost the productivity of operators using ag equipment in all kinds of weather,” says Greg Lucey, marketing manager for Farmall Tractors. “In fact, we’ve seen customers demanding their farm equipment come up to the creature-comfort standards of today’s pickup truck interiors.
“Everyone wants a comfortable operating environment, and OEMs are diligently working to provide those amenities,” he says. “If you compare the interiors of pickup trucks 20 years ago to those of today, the difference is unbelievable. Twenty years ago, pickup interiors were nowhere near the quality of auto interiors, but manufacturers had to incorporate those features to their light trucks because of customer demand.
“Now, the same thing is happening with farm and ranch equipment. It’s a natural progression that started with the auto industry,” he explains.
Paul Wade, CNH Industrial’s marketing manager for construction equipment, agrees, saying he sees more automotive engineering in construction and ag equipment each year.
“Some of the main improvements in tractor and loader cabs over the last decade have been in air-handling ability of air-conditioning and heater and defroster systems,” Wade notes. “Operator comfort is a key to productivity regardless of what business you’re in, and OEMs are all selling productivity in all facets of their product marketing.”
“Everyone wants a comfortable operating environment,” Lucey says. “That has pushed the agriculture equipment makers to create tighter cabs for better climate control and reduced dust and noise infiltration. But real strides have come over the past 10 years in overall operator-station comfort and functionality.”
The men say these upgrades are particularly handy for operators who use their equipment regardless of winter weather conditions. They also contributed to this check list for buyers looking at new machines to use in frigid conditions:
Look for a strong heater tied to a well-designed defroster system that can keep front, side and rear windows clear regardless of temperature and humidity levels. Are air-handling vents easy to access from the operator’s station? Ask for references of buyers who are using similar equipment.
- Do you want or need a heated seat?
- Ask about heated-glass options, as well as on-board engine-block heaters and timers for cold morning startups.
- Look for modern LED lighting systems that provide ample front and rear light for operations, as well as strong side lights to illuminate the work area while loading or filling feed bunks.
- Sit in the cab and close the door to get a feel for how “tight” the doors and windows seal. Get in and out several times, and consider you’ll probably be dressed in bulky clothes during winter operations. Is it easy to enter and exit?
- Consider the fact you probably will be wearing gloves much of the time you’re in and out of the cab, so controls should be large and simple to operate.
- Is there ample storage, and is it easy to reach? If something falls out of storage compartments, will it land where it’s easily retrievable? You do not want to be reaching behind yourself or beyond the floor deck.
- Consider the restraint system and how it affects you entering and exiting the cab.
The ergonomics of modern farm equipment cabs has improved drastically over the past 15 years, but buyers need to pay attention to fit and finish as well as the placement of operator controls and heat and air vents.
Most manufacturers have enlisted the help of automotive engineers to help in operator-station design and most are producing enhanced all-weather cabs, but this checklist will help you sort through many of the winter-related factors of selecting a machine that will provide you a safe and more productive workplace in sub-freezing temperatures.