When Grant Perry was looking for new grain trailers, he couldn’t find anything with the features he needed, so he built his own
When Grant Perry was looking for new grain trailers for his farm in Essex, he couldn’t find anything available with the features he needed, so he built his own. Seen in use by local farmers with similar needs, they attracted interest and Grant was asked to build trailers for them too. A successful business developed and now the company’s trailers are in use throughout the UK. David Williams reports.The Perry family has farmed at Herons Farm, Fyfield since 1980 cropping is 750ha (1,800 acres) of cereals. Acquired with the farm were some ageing buildings used as corn stores, and it was the low eaves height of these which meant modern large grain trailers couldn’t tip efficiently, so smaller trailers had to be used necessitating more tractor and trailer combinations to keep pace with the combine.”We needed trailers with shorter bodies, lower sides, and a forward tipping pivot point, which could tip in our buildings with their 13-14ft high beams but which still provided the capacity to cope with our modern combine,” explains Grant. “The buildings were a problem, but it seemed obvious to me that the solution was just a different design of trailer from what was regarded as the norm.”The first trailers were built in 2001 and were very successful and, as they were noticed carrying the farm’s crops around the area, there were enquiries from local farmers who also had problems tipping in the traditional low farm buildings. A small side-line business developed, producing trailers to order, and as demand increased a separate company; HM Trailers, was formed.This 24t grain trailer was supplied to a farmer in Yorkshire in time for the 2013 harvest. Demand is growing for higher capacities as well as maximum stability and extra safety during high speed road work.“We had the issue faced by many farmers that during peak demands for labour on the farm we had to take on temporary staff but then had to let them go when it was quieter. Some of the workers we took on were very good and as the trailer business grew it meant we could justify taking them on full-time, to work on the farm when needed and building trailers for the rest of the year,” explains Grant.
The first trailers built had a capacity of 18t and were designed to match the capacity of the combine’s 6t grain tank. Replacing 12t trailers meant there was 50 per cent more time available to travel back to the farm, unload and return to the field, and with the quicker tipping this meant two home-built trailers easily replaced three existing units. A further benefit of the forward tipping point was that grain was tipped well behind the chassis, keeping the wheels further forward of the heap and preventing grain from being deposited on the rear cross members and lights. “The operation is tidier,” says Grant. “There isn’t the traditional dribble of grain as the trailer leaves the shed and that saves time too as there is less brushing up after each load is tipped.”As well as its larger trailers, the company has added smaller capacity models to its range. Pictured in the assembly plant is the chassis for a 7t version.The wider body and low centre of gravity means the trailers are very stable and tow well at high speed on the road. “Users like them and I think it helps that we are farmers using them every day and that we know what features users like, and what annoys them. We are a small company and take feedback very seriously using it to help us improve the design gradually as we can,” Grant explains.
For a small business which started in the farm workshop achieving the sort of durable finish needed on farms was a challenge. “When I built my first trailers I was determined that not only would they perform well, but that they would look good too, and remain looking good. Painting the buck, especially the inside, is a challenge as each paint coat needs applying before the previous coat has completely hardened, and this means the sprayer cannot walk inside. When we started selling the trailers and built our main workshop we installed a spray bay and still regard the finish as important as the rest of the trailer. We blast everything prior to painting which helps ensure good paint adhesion, then apply two coats of zinc phosphate primer and then two polyurethane top coats. We hire as well as sell trailers, and when we have them back in, having had a year or two’s hard work, we are delighted that with a quick polish and tidy, they can look almost as good as new, and the paint stays on the bottom of the inside of the buck too,” he comments. “We are supplying a premium product and we want it to continue looking good for many years,” he adds.Low loaders for machinery transport and for moving pallets have been in demand in recent years.From the start the company has used folded panels wherever possible, the folding providing strength and preventing flexing while saving weight as it reduces the need for multiple cross braces and associated welding. While this works well for grain trailers, it can provide ridges for dirty root crops to stick so flat panels are favoured for these. The paint used is gloss, chosen for its ability to resist dirt and dust which tends to stick to matt finish paints.Even during the relatively short period the company has been supplying trailers specification requirements have increased. Apart from the first two trailers built, almost every trailer has been supplied on high-speed running gear, and general manager Peter Doyle says no reconditioned or used components are fitted. Awareness of safety on the road has grown, and every trailer has a brake performance test before dispatch. Where air brakes are specified a full Wabco system is used, and all trailers supplied with high speed axles on hydraulic brakes, have fittings in place for later conversion to air, as it is assumed that in time tractors on farms will be updated and replacements are likely to have air supply fitted. Without the need to weld extra fittings to the chassis, conversion to air brakes later takes just a few hours.Sales growth has meant that the company struggles to build for stock as demand has become less seasonal due to the wider range of farm types for which it now caters. Dealers have been appointed to look after sales and include RW Crawford in Essex and Kent, Thurlow Nunn Standen with its seven branches across Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, Louth Tractors in Lincs, KO Machines in Staffs and there is partial dealership coverage in Somerset too.”It has been interesting that when we supply a trailer for use in a new area of the country we often receive enquiries from neighbouring farms so sales spread within the area. We prefer to supply through dealers but in areas which currently have no representation we will then supply or hire direct,” says Grant.Pictured in front of one of the original low buildings at Herons Farm, which caused Grant to manufacture his first two trailers are; (l-r) designer and workshop manager Colin Sharp, Grant Perry and Peter Doyle, with a recently-built hook-lift trailer which can be fitted with various bodies.The hire fleet has proved popular, allowing customers to try out the trailers prior to purchase. “Most trailers hired through dealers will later be bought by the users and we have one trailer which was new in 2010 which has been out on hire to the same farm since new. Most hires are for harvest seasons; we offer a minimum six week hire for the cereals harvest and root crop transport tends to be 10 weeks. If the trailers come back to us we will either sell or re-hire them.”We receive excellent feedback,” says Peter. “It is only a trailer, but the enthusiasm with which users react to the design and the build quality as well as the ease of use has impressed me since I joined the company. Our standard warranty is one year, but we seldom have any problems. If there is a problem which occurs outside of warranty and it is a fault caused during construction then we will always look at it on an individual basis.”Grant says the reliability is the result of farmer design; “We can stress test everything now on the computer design system before we build it, but that is all very well for equipment used in a kind environment. Our trailers are transported at high speeds over bumpy ground and subjected to extreme shock loading, so we always build in a significant safety factor over and above what the design system tells us is needed.”The success of the trailer business has meant that up to 16 people are employed at peak times, and even during harvest some full time staff are building trailers to meet the demand. Grant says all the staff enjoy seeing trailers they have produced at work on the farm and having an opportunity to use them to see what they do. “They are motivated, they enjoy receiving feedback from users and they are proud of what we build here,” he says.
The range now includes tippers from just 6t, to 24t capacity as well as spray bowser tankers and low loaders. Some 60 per cent of sales are still grain trailers but demand was strong last year, says Grant, for low loaders for potato box transport. “We are in the top-tier for quality and design but we try to keep the prices as competitive as we can so users can specify exactly what they need for their situation, and in particular for features which will increase their safety, allowing them to do the right thing. We enjoy helping users select the exact specification needed and when someone has taken time and trouble identifying some feature which will help them during their time using it, when it arrives with those bespoke features they regard it as a great trailer.”We come across farmers who have bought the cheapest trailers they could just a year or so before, and who realise that they have made a mistake. Trailers are a major purchase now and far more thought goes into what is needed. Good trailers are one of the best investments on a farm as most 20 year old examples in use will still be worth at least what they cost when they were new,” he adds.