Load trucks by remote control

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian
Wally Newman, Peter Peterson and Ralph Caccamo.
Camera IconWally Newman, Peter Peterson and Ralph Caccamo. Credit: Supplied

Newdegate farmer Wally Newman had seen enough harvests to know there were many things that could be done more simply and safely.

So when a good mate and former employee came up with the idea for a remote loading system, allowing truck drivers to stay safely in their cabs while filling their trucks straight from a field bin, Mr Newman jumped at the idea.

The end result was a sophisticated software program that could be operated from any portable computer, which Mr Newman said had the truckies lining up to get to his farm this harvest.

"Sometimes it's hard to get trucking contractors during harvest, but this year they couldn't wait to get out here … in fact it was a competition to see who could get here first," he said.

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The Newmans had finished harvest this year, and Mr Newman firmly believed the remote loading system introduced efficiencies into his business they had never experienced before.

Still in the prototype stage, the remote loading system had been developed over several years, and allowed the truck driver to control the grain flow and position of the field bin auger over the truck bin.

The handheld computer used a video system with three controls so the truck driver never had to leave the comfort of their air-conditioned cab.

Mr Newman said the system was more precise than judging the auger position manually and was much safer than having several workers climbing field bins and moving between tractors and trucks.

"Now we have only one person involved in the loading process and there is no risk to employees moving between machinery," he said.

Mr Newman's Danish friend Peter Petersen, who had worked with other remote control systems, came up with the concept after believing there was a safer and more efficient way of moving grain from a field bin into a truck.

Mr Petersen said he had never seen a remote grain loading system like this anywhere in the world.

"The driver comes and picks up the hand-held computer and takes it back into his cab," he said.

"Using a video camera he can see the tip of the auger on the bin and then he can move this 1m to each side.

"There is an electric actuator that sits on the top of the nozzle of the auger that moves the grain from each side so that it always hits the centre of the bin and the driver can confidently fill the truck right up."

Mr Petersen said the hand-held computer would sound an alarm if it was moved more than 200m from the field bin tractor so a truck driver didn't inadvertently leave the paddock with the computer in his cab.

The computer system will only engage the PTO of the tractor at low RPMs.

"On the screen you have a flow chart like a barometer tube, and when the tractor revs are in the green, which is low revs, you can engage the PTO, but once the revs go into the red you can't engage the PTO, because you could destroy the drive mechanism," Mr Petersen said.

Mr Newman said the system was designed to accommodate old tractors that were used on field bins.

While the product is not yet for sale in Australia, Mr Newman said he hoped to work with Danish designer and electronics engineer Claus Christian Moose, and local distributers in coming months to make it available before next harvest.

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