SASKATOON, Saskatchewan — Extremely accurate axle pad weigh
systems, even for large B-Trains, help farmers account for every pound of
product and inputs.
With the size and volume of farms getting larger, often up
to 10,000 acres or more, even small errors in accuracy of weighing product and
inputs can make a major impact on the bottom line.
Yet many farmers are far from the nearest load scale or rely
on grain cart spindle scales or volumetric measurements whose accuracy often is
less than desired.
As an alternative, more farmers in the U.S. and Canada are
turning to axle pad scales, which allow them to quickly check weigh inputs in
the truck at seeding time or product right off the fields before it goes to
market or the grain bin, which can prevent costly overweight load fines.
The axle pad scales also enable farmers to check weigh input
costs on receipt to ensure accuracy, as well as benchmark and optimize
productivity by verifying the accuracy of farm equipment.
“Accurately weighing the load on a triple axle B-Train
semi-trailer before it goes to market can prevent an overweight ticket that
could pay for the axle pad scale,” said Rod Swystun, owner of a large grain farm
north of Blaine Lake in Saskatchewan, Canada.
“I use the Massload scale in my farmyard to verify the
weight load of semi-trailers going to market, the accuracy of my field yield
monitor and the capacity of my grain dryer and grain cleaner.”
Though built-in spindle scales are common in new grain carts
and air seeder carts, due to mechanical constraints in design they are not as
accurate as advertised for measuring weight. Also, volumetric measurement of
contents of grain storage bins is inexact and not of much help to those needing
to measure more accurately.
“Volumetric measuring is just ‘guesstimates’ because the
actual weight can be misrepresented when there’s chaff and foreign objects in a
load,” Swystun said.
For grain and crop farmers, it is easy to lose money on
weight estimates. Unless there is a check weigh at the fields before the crop
goes to market or to the storage bin, farmers may have no way to detect if key
measurements are off or even if the entire load safely makes it to market or
Volumetric measuring also cannot help farmers check weigh
their input costs for seed, fertilizer and other items against their invoice
receipt. With the value of crop farming doubling due to larger farms producing
greater volumes of product over the last six years, even a small error in
weighing can be costly.
“What we do at seeding time dictates our income for the
year,” said Gordon Spencer, who farms 3,500 acres of wheat, barley, peas,
lentils and canola in Saskatchewan, Canada. “But the manufacturer’s seed drill
output rates were inaccurate, so we had to recalibrate everything.”
“When fertilizer is $1,000 per ton and amounts to a few
hundred thousands of dollars during the planting season, you don’t want errors
on those rates,” he added. “Apply too much and it’s wasted, too little and your
income will be off on that field. Without our own scale to measure output, we
estimated weight because driving to town to use a scale or weighing out pails of
grain was too time consuming.”
A better option for many farmers is to use axle pad scales,
which allow easy dual-axle and tri-axle weighing of product in the truck before
it goes to market or the storage bin, as well as weighing of inputs in the truck
Spencer uses an above-ground axle pad scale in a farmyard
building to check seed drill rate settings each spring and to check that the
combine is recording accurate data.
“Once we get seed drills adjusted and set for the product,
it’s quite reliable,” he said. “I got payback on our Massload axle pad scale in
one spring planting season.
“During harvest, we use the scale almost every day to check
that the combine is recording accurate field yield data.”
While axle weighing systems are not legal-for-trade,
gathering weight data is quick and easy as the vehicle moves axle by axle over
dual weigh pads and a total is given. This not only provides a check weigh to
assure that all crop gets to market and a check weigh against grain cart scales,
but also a check weigh against input receipts, which can help benchmark input
costs to optimize productivity.
Use of axle pad scales at the farm also can help speed
product to market or storage by minimizing the time wasted at off-farm
“The accuracy of our Massload axle pad scale is improving
our cost of production,” Spencer said. “It’s helping us to get the best output
with the least input by applying the right amount of seed and fertilizer to
maximize our productivity.”
But not all axle pad scales are constructed alike. To
maximize use without premature troubleshooting or replacement, it is vital that
certain components be robustly constructed and made to last for prolonged use
and severe weather conditions.
The key components in axle pad scales are its load cells,
which are located in the weigh pad platform and convert mechanical energy to
electrical energy that is measured to determine weight.
Unfortunately, in some axle pad scales made offshore, the
load cells are sub-par and not individually tested. Often, these axle pad scales
contain load cells that do not extend the full width of the weigh pad platform,
which makes inaccurate measures more likely depending on truck axle weight
One offshore-built model, in fact, contains six small load
cells, one in each corner and two in the center, which makes accuracy dependent
on axle weight placement and multiplies the probability of one of the load cells
failing by six-fold.
One innovative manufacturer of axle pad scales, Massload, a
Saskatoon-based manufacturer of quality weighing systems, uses a 26-inch-long
load cell in its weigh pad that essentially is as wide as the platform. This
provides accurate dual or triple axle weighing regardless of truck axle weight
These weigh pads have a very large weighing surface and low
6-inch profile, making them an easy method of determining truck axle weight.
They can be used portably above ground at multiple locations or can be pit
installed for permanent use.
Since the company’s environmentally sealed double-ended
shearbeam load cell is fully electronic, there are no moving parts to wear out
or adjust. All gauges are individually tested and electronics done at its
headquarters, which manufactures the only load cells of this type at a North
American Verified Conformity Assessment Program certified facility.
This allows its axle pad scales to weigh accurately and
reliably to 0.25 percent in temperatures from minus 40 degrees Celsius to more
than 57 degrees Celsius.
Unlike offshore manufacturers which typically use thin cable
in their axle pad scales, the Canadian company also uses heavy-duty cable that
can withstand temperature extremes without breaking to ensure prolonged use even
in cold Canadian weather which can reach minus 40 degrees Celsius.
“The Massload axle pad scale works fine in minus 30 degrees
Celsius outdoor weather and is holding up to a high volume of use,” Swystun
For grain and crop farmers who want to account for every
pound of their product and inputs by the truckload, the good news is that these
axle pad scales come in several sizes that can handle even the large tri-axle,
B-Train Double truck rig sizes favored by Canadians.
For example, while Massload’s axle pad scales are all 30
inches wide and 6 inches high with an active weighing surface capacity of 30,000
to 40,000 pounds per pad, their 84-inch-long model weighs dual axles and their
144-inch-long model weighs tri-axles.
Of particular interest to Canadian farmers, the company is
the only one in the world that manufactures a 168-inch-long axle pad scale
capable of weighing the extra wide tri-axle B-Train rigs popular in Canada,
whose axle sections to be weighed can each be more than 12 feet long.
While crop farmers may have believed that built-in grain
cart spindle scales or volumetric measurements were sufficient, those who turn
to accurate truckload axle pad scale weighing systems will have the advantage.
By accounting for every pound of their product and inputs by
the truckload, these farmers will add to their bottom line much faster than the