Fuel guarantee programme pays off hansomely

16 December 2020 Ben Burgess News


RG Abrey Farms has scooped an impressive £15,684 from John Deere’s Fuel Guarantee Programme. The Norfolk arable farming company, which grows mainly root crops on 2500ha, has an extensive fleet of John Deere tractors including 23 new machines purchased from Ben Burgess in the past 18 months.

RG Abrey Farms’ decision to take part in the Fuel Guarantee Programme, which rewards customers financially for fuel efficient driving both on the road and in the field, enhanced the business’s ongoing campaign to improve operating performance.

Using the programme, participating customers and their supplying dealer record a tractor’s actual fuel consumption at the end of a one year operating period and compare this to the target fuel consumption. This value depends on the average engine load and varies from light to heavy loads, while every tractor model also has its own specific fuel target.

If the total fuel consumption has exceeded the John Deere target level, customers will be refunded by the company. If the tractor consumes less than the targeted amount, owners of more efficient machines will enjoy an enhanced reward, as they will be reimbursed twice the price per litre saved. The total value depends on the local fuel price.

“We were already encouraging drivers to look at their set up, for example cutting idle time by turning off engines when not in use, but the Fuel Guarantee Programme also gave us access to a tractor optimisation programme within the precision farming package to help further reduce fuel consumption,” explains Farm Manager Tom Forrest.

Ben Burgess Sales Director, David Fairman, adds: “Reducing idle time ultimately means cheaper running costs, and not only for fuel. Equally important is the reduction in service costs, as the tractors have fewer hours worked and so will achieve a higher residual value.”

The programme was applied to 21 6R Series tractors, of which 12 were 145hp 6145R models and three were 155hp 6155Rs used for a mixture of field and road work. “Field work for these tractors is mainly irrigation, vegetable harvesting and light cultivations, with no heavy tillage, and haulage is a mixture of short journeys and 40 mile round trips,” comments Mr Forrest. “In general the 6155Rs do more field work and the 6145Rs more road work.”

Drivers are mainly full time, with a quarter of the workforce being seasonal staff, and the proportion of experienced to younger drivers is 50/50.

After the first batch of tractors were delivered in January 2019, staff received training on fuel optimisation at Ben Burgess’s Newmarket branch, he explains.

“We’re on all narrow wheels for our operations, so tyre pressure is not a significant issue, but there was plenty of useful information about tractor set up. For example, the tractors are all equipped with weight blocks, but we were advised not to carry too much weight unless it was necessary.”

Reviewing actual fuel consumption compared to targets set within the programme also helped focus attention on tractor utilisation, Mr Forrest points out. “We were able to consider whether we were using the right tractor for the job. There’s the advantage that none of these tractors are used for heavy cultivations, but ensuring that the tractor has sufficient power for the task in hand reduces engine load and thus fuel consumption.”

Within the fleet there were some considerable variations in the fuel savings made on individual tractors. On haulage, one 6145R used 16.31l/hr compared to the target of 18l/hr, netting an impressive £734.67 bonus. And in the field, a 6155R made a 2.3l/hr saving on its 18l/hr target, for a staggering £2,355 bonus.

“While some of the savings could be attributed to driver efficiency, they were also related to the type of job. The 6145R in question is used mainly for haulage in winter, but also made some useful savings in the field on irrigation and destoning,” he says. The 6155R showed the relevance of the implement, he adds: “This tractor pulls a potato planter and a harvester, which don’t consume a lot of power. The harvester is a newer model with its own gearbox so is easier on the tractor. The latest harvesters also have 1000rpm gearboxes rather than 540rpm and can run at 800rpm so using less fuel.”

Maintenance of machinery is a significant factor in fuel efficiency, and Mr Forrest comments that the Ben Burgess Aftermarket Solutions package ensured that the tractors were kept in optimum condition.

“Through JD Link, Ben Burgess were able to keep on top of the service schedules for each tractor and issue a reminder as each service came up, so there was no risk of letting the maintenance programme drift or missing one. This also helps to preserve the value of the tractor and means that they will last longer.”

He says that the close partnership with Ben Burgess’s Precision Ag team and access to their expertise has been extremely helpful in improving the business’s use of technology. “We use a lot of fuel so even a 1% saving is significant and if we can use technology to achieve this we will be very keen to do so. We’re continuing to invest in John Deere’s product developments to save fuel such as by specifying the AutoPowr gearbox in the latest batch of 6R tractors, and the detailed information about fuel usage also helped with the decision to add another 6155R to the fleet to give more power for a specific job.”

The Fuel Guarantee Programme has been a highly valuable exercise for RG Abrey Farms, he concludes: “It wasn’t a lot of work on our part and it was very satisfying to receive the payment. But it has also helped us focus our minds in our continued drive for greater efficiency.”

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