The flatbed trailer is one of the simple workhorses of the farm. Hooked up to a tractor, they are used extensively as a simple transport solution for hay bales and all manner of produce. Flatbed trailers can also be used to transport heavy items such as plant and farmyard machinery. Buying a flatbed trailer should be relatively simple too, but there are a number of factors worth considering.
The most basic of these is size. The size of flatbed trailers varies widely, with some trailers reaching 12 metres in length. These are excellent for bulk work such as bale transportation. Load capacity is similarly varied, with flatbed trailers reaching gross weights of 26 tonnes and carrying capacities of more than 20 tonnes.
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Further considerations include the axle set-up, with many flatbed trailers offering multiple axles for better weight distribution. More sophisticated models can have turntable axles for great manoeuvrability. Larger trailers will have independent braking systems and heavy-duty suspension for more stable and safer transporting. Enclosure mechanisms are another area for consideration. These can include simple ‘ladders’ to the front and rear to contain loads such as bales. Other models may have extending side restraints, side rails strap boxes and rear hitches for additional capacity. One of the simplest retention mechanisms is simply to have hooks spaced along the sides of the flatbed. These allow loads to be retained by means of ropes or nets. Although simple, this can be an extremely flexible, safe and effective way of ensuring the safety of your loads. It is also one of the most economical.
Some of the larger agricultural manufacturers offer flatbed trailers, but there are also some excellent specialist firms such as Rolland in France and MAC trailers here in the UK. The specialists offer a wider range, with sizes and load capabilities to suit most situations. The manufacturers know that these flatbed trailers will have tough working lives, so they are built to last. Look for heavy-duty paint processes, which can include shot-blasting, electroplating, powder-coating and repeated oven-curing. Accessories include items such as high-security lockable tool boxes.
With such attention to detail in the paintwork process, corrosion may be unlikely but it is still one of the areas to pay attention to when buying a used flatbed trailer. Buyers should look underneath the trailer at these hard-to-reach places that may not get cleaned so easily. Also look around any hinges or areas of movement of load, where protective coatings may have been worn away. It is always a good idea to check the load bed itself for wear and also the areas around welds for any sign of fatigue. The axles are going to take a lot of strain when carrying heavy loads and they can be expensive to repair, so do check them for any signs of wear and ensure that they operate smoothly. Similarly, the suspension does a lot of work, so have a good look at those components, too. The hydraulic systems or any other brake control mechanisms should be sound, as should the brake units themselves. These flatbed trailers are sturdy workhorses, however, and reasonable care should see you get a model with plenty of years of service left in it.
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