Narrow track tractors report: on the wrong track
A technical study conducted by the firm TRL for the European Commission is challenged by Italian manufacturers for the method applies as well as for the merit of the findings. The anti-pollution devices prescribed for Phase IV engines are not compatible with the bodywork of the machines and, especially, staying in step with the norm would require design changes every three years
The issue of narrow track and high clearance tractors is far from a settlement which would be acceptable for the manufacturing industries. The prospect of equipping T2 tractors for vineyard and orchard operations with the devices required for Phase IV has become more than ever controversial following the release last December 18 of a technical study by the British firm Transport Research Laboratory, TRL, commissioned by the the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry.
In substance, the report came out in favor of substantial compatibility of future Phase IV tractors and requirements for operating in vineyards and fruit orchards, though recognizing a degree of “penalization” of the performance of these tractors, to create the premise for the Commission to reject the requests of manufacturers to extend the terms for the application of the norm.
The judgment of Italian tractor manufacturers represented by Assotrattori, an association in the Italian Federation of Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers, FederUnacoma, is that the TRL report contains errors of method and incorrect assessments as regards merit and carries the risk of putting the European Commission on the wrong track – issues taken on 23 February at a press conference in Paris in a salon at the SIMA Agricultural Business Show.
The manufacturers, in the first place, maintain that the TRL technical findings are based on a type of non-agricultural engine which can therefore not be compared to the characteristics of engines for tractors, especially as regards technological solutions for anti-pollution devices and thus differ from the devices of technological pollution emission solutions.
In second place, the manufacturers do not share the expectations, as expressed in the TRL report, that the engine industry can complete work on specific engines for narrow track tractors to make it possible to apply the new norms for the prescribed deadline.
The Assotrattori manufacturers are convinced that this idea is not realistic in light of the fact that the number of narrow track tractors, some 20,000 units compared to millions in the automotive sector, is too small for the engine industry to gear up for ad hoc technological solutions.
And finally, the document suggests that an increase in the profile of the machine as a consequence of compliance with Phase IV can be partially offset by changing present farming methods of crop layout.
These modifications would damage farming enterprises and run counter to the European Union policy guideline set in recent years with incentives for shrinking planting layouts for specialized crops and driving manufacturers to turn out more compact and agile machinery.
FederUnacoma President Massimo Goldoni said, “The Federation, and especially the Assotrattori Association with President Manlio Martilli, will soon return to European quarters with their valid reasons for requesting a more accurate technical assessment as well as to challenge a general principle, that is, on the basis of which the manufacturers are required to frantically follow norms incompatible with economic logic and industrial planning.”
Goldoni went on to explain, “We are working to modify machines for Phase IIIB which must be brought in by the end of 2016 and we already have to worry about further transformations that will be necessary by 2019 for Phase IV and, by the end of 2022 for Phase V.”
The FederUnacoma president also observed, “The serious risk is that the Commission is evaluating the manufacturers’ interests with scant attention because they refer to a relatively limited number of vehicles, without considering the extremely heavy consequences in terms of production and employment which would fall on this sector of mechanics without economies of scale, a sector which would lose important market share were manufacturers required to give up the characteristics of the agility of compact machines required by farmers.”
Goldoni concluded by affirming, “The arrival on the market of new specialized tractors, meaning a change of the tractor inventory, would lead paradoxically to a permanent inventory of obsolete machines on farms with a negative impact on the environment to nullify the very purposes for which the engine norms have been launched.”