Although there is a drive to new tankers fuelled by grant-aided support through the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS), some farmers are going down the route of refurbishing damaged or worn out tankers which are already on farm.
To find out more about this niche, we travelled to Clonmore in Co Tipperary to catch up with the Coonan family, who run S&M Trailers, one of the only companies in Ireland to focus on tanker refurbishment.
With over 40 years’ experience in engineering and fabricating, the Coonans were asked seven years ago to build a slurry tanker by a neighbouring farmer. Little by little, S&M began doing more and more with slurry equipment before seeing a niche in tanker refurbishment. Today, the company refurbishes 60 to 80 tankers a year while building a similar number of new units.
The refurbishments vary from small modifications to complete overhauls. Most of these projects are tankers which have been accident-damaged or have collapsed cylinders (sucked themselves in).
When repairing a tanker with a collapsed cylinder, the firm cuts off the damaged barrel and fits a new 6mm barrel. The barrel is then reinforced with an anti-splash central baffle and anti-collapse rings (4x2in). A typical 1,600 gallon tank will be fitted with two anti-collapse rings. Refurbished tankers from the chassis up are fully sandblasted, primed and painted with two-pack paint or can be sent for galvanising at an extra cost.
Dean explained: “From repairing hundreds of tankers of various brands down through the years, we have seen the faults and the common issues each manufacturer has faced.
“To avoid these common issues, we now fit anti-collapse rings, anti-splash baffles and seam-weld the tanks inside and out.”
When we visited S&M, one of several jobs they were working on was a three-week-old Redrock 2,500 gallon recessed tanker which had been turned over. The resulting damage was largely on the front barrel, rear mudguard and the trailing shoe. S&M cut off and welded a new front third of a barrel and a newly shaped mudguard. However, for tankers that have collapsed cylinders, the firm will generally cut off the existing barrel and fit a new one. With accident and repair jobs, it often comes down to how much the person is willing to spend.
The firm don’t just carry out refurbs but also modifications to existing tankers. We thought this was an interesting and useful service, especially for someone who wants to up-spec an older tanker. S&M can modify the running gear on tandem-axle tankers to include a steering axle. They can fit stone traps, ball and spoon couplings, rain guns and sludgigator pumps. They can also fit sight tubes to the front of tankers, ideal for keeping an eye on the slurry levels when using a low-emission slurry spreading systems (LESS) system such as a dribble bar.
For those looking to make life at slurry a cleaner and an easier task, S&M can fit a 6in auto-fill lazy arm for €2,900 plus VAT. However, the family noted that nowadays, retrofitting LESS (mainly dribble bars) is the most popular job tankers are brought in for. Prices for retro-fitting and supplying a new 7.5m dribble bar start from €10,900 plus VAT.
S&M regularly tackles full pump refurb jobs. When it comes to reconditioning a pump, it’s not just a case of putting in new vanes. The team at S&M explains that they machine the components, including spinning the housing on a lathe and fitting new seals, bearings and gaskets. A full pump refurbishment costs in the region of €670 plus VAT.
With nine full-time staff involved in the fabricating side of the business, S&M explained that refurbishment and modification jobs are currently working on a three- to four-month backlog.
Depending on the requirements of the farmer or contractor, every job will be priced somewhat differently. To give readers a flavour of the cost involved, S&M quoted us for three different tank size refurbs. All include a new barrel, the entire tank and chassis fully sandblasted, primed and painted with two-pack paint, new decals, new PTO covers, new LED lights and a full set of new hydraulic hoses. These prices also include collection and delivery back to the farmer’s/contractor’s yard.
A 1,000-1,600 gallon tank refurb will set you back in the region of €4,100 plus VAT. Moving up to a 2,000-2,600 gallon recessed tank, prices jump up to around €9,500 plus VAT. And finally, for a 3,000-3,500 gallon non-recessed tandem-axle tanker, prices start at €10,500 plus VAT.
For those looking to galvanise a refurbished tanker, Dean said you would be talking at an extra cost of approximately 90c/gallon plus VAT.
S&M initially began building trailers, and continue to do so today. However, the refurbishing and manufacturing of new slurry tankers has since become the bread and butter for the Tipperary business.
Dean explained: “The TAMS grant-aided support has meant sales of new tankers are very busy. Building new tankers isn’t about mass production nowadays – every tanker is custom ordered to a different spec. The typical new tanker we build is either a 2,500 or 2,750 gallon galvanised, single-axle machine with a 7.5m dribble bar or a trailing shoe. We have noticed a close to 50-50 split between dribble bars and trailing shoes, with a few more probably leaning towards dribble bars as they are that little bit simpler.”