A Little Idle Time

Farmer Iron

An analysis of more than 1,000 tractors turns up an interesting fact. We idle a lot.

Published on: June 25, 2010

This week John Deere announced its strategy for meeting emissions for the 2011 interim Tier 4 (IT4 for Deere) standard - the company will use a combination of a diesel oxidation catalyst, particulate filter and cooled exhaust gas recirculation to hit the target. And for the final Tier 4 standard, company management says its keeping its options open for now. We'll talk more about that in a future blog.

However, an interesting fact came out of the media conference too. Farmers idle a lot. You see, John Deere machines have an electronic control unit on board and dealers using Service ADVISOR technology can pull pertinent data off any given tractor to help improve service, and fine-tune the machine for operation in specific situations.

But electronic data also allows for deeper analysis. Rachelle Thibert, emissions technology manager, explains: "We've gone to the field and pulled ECU data from 1,000 ag machines at work in various conditions. When we examined the data we found that 30% of tractor time was sitting at idle. And according to our dealers, it was a surprise to customers."

Machine electronics never lie and sitting at 900 rpm is pretty obvious when you look at a data set. Thibert went on to show a graph of the optimum engine operation mode for a John Deere tractor and of course all that idling is in the least desirable "red zone" - see graphic below.


In this graphic the major curve in the background shows red for lowest efficiency all the way to green to highest efficiency in a John Deere machine. The overlay shows actual tractor data. Note the "pool" of operating time in the lower left - a lot of that is idle time.

You'll question this idea, but Thibert says dealers will be working with customers to improve tractor operation. And for those of you without ECU-equipped machines? Think about that idle time and if you can shut down, or get right back to work, you'll be making the best use of the machine and maximizing equipment time. Electronic controls in newer machines are starting to teach us plenty about how everyone works.

Follow me on twitter at Twitter.com/Willie1701A.