Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not your father's cab

New tractors feature tantalizing creature comforts

The future of farming was displayed in full grandeur at the 45th National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, KY this month. As in the years before, producers dispersed among rows of glistening machinery to catch of glimpse of what’s new. But it’s not just about being bigger or more powerful these days—it’s also about the operator experience.

Helping operators work more comfortably and productively has become an industry wide trend, and the results are visible especially in today’s tractors. Changes in cab design are much more than an extra cup holder or wider seat; every detail is designed to provide superior comfort, convenience and control throughout the workday and best suit the needs of modern producers.

“It’s always exciting to see what new features they come up with for tractors,” says Iowa farmer, Ray Hinkley. “When I first started driving tractor 30 some years ago you never thought about things like comfy seats or controls—it was all about the work, about horse power and pulling equipment.”

For those who have endured the past generations of tractor cabs like Hinkley, the improved designs are a welcome feature. “I remember what is was like to bounce around in a loud tractor cab all day, it would just wear your body down,” Hinkley says. “But with these new tractors and better cabs it’s quiet and comfortable-- some days it hardly feels like work at all.”

Climb into a John Deere 8RT Series tractor and try out the CommandView II Cab. It offers a roomy work environment, easy-to-use monitors and controls and better visibility. The seat is built using cut-and-sew cushion construction, adjustable backrest angle, and lumbar support controls for increased operator comfort. Many of the features and controls that were on the right-hand console have been integrated into the CommandARM. The controls and CommandCenter now follow the operator as the seat swivels for added comfort. The 7-in color display is divided into three regions and can be partially configured by the operator to monitor three tractor functions of their choice. Overall, the series offers 10% more cab volume, 7% more glass area and four times more storage area over the previous CommandView cab.

Relaxing into something red from the Case IH Magnum series is easy with the Surveyor cab. Take in the view with panoramic curved glass; comfortable, positive response seat; and ergonomic armrest controls. The right-hand controls in all Magnum models include: Speed, direction, hydraulics, hitch, PTO and end-of-row switch all within reach, integrated gear/throttle control handle, and an optional electronic joystick. With six power outlets, ample storage, and a large workstation to the left of the seat to holds papers, a laptop computer or other items it could be a functional mobile office.

For those who prefer the blue hue, New Holland’s T7000 tractor offers plenty of creature comforts. The ultra-quiet, high-visibility cab boasts 63 square feet of glass providing an unobstructed view in every direction. A high-visibility roof panel also provides an upward view for loader work. The new Sidewinder II armrest electronically slides forward or back to suit each operator and includes a standard multi-function controller, throttle and electronic draft controls that travel with the seat. Additional features for the cab include a new cool-box option for keeping beverages and snacks chilled and a standard enhanced keypad for tracking engine hours, distance traveled and more.

The AGCO DT Series tractors also stepped up to the plate with a totally new cab design. The 4-post cab has a 28% increase in cab space, giving it the largest cab in its size class. It features more room for the person in the instructor’s seat, a redesigned armrest-mounted console that puts all key functions where they are most convenient and one of the quietest interior sound ratings in the industry at just 71 decibels. With a larger field cooler and a field office that includes a cell phone holder and outlet this cab is ready for hours of work.

Regardless of the size, shape or color it’s obvious that tractor cabs have come a long way over the years. “If it wasn’t for the better equipment and new cabs, I couldn’t keep going like I am,” Hinkley says. “Farming is hard work but the new improvements make it much easier.”

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