Steering systems are as essential as the tractor for today’s agricultural operations. They have moved from being a competitive advantage to an industry standard. The guidance provided by a steering system increases efficiency while decreasing costs, which adds up to significant savings multiplied across fields worked and hours spent.
The question remains, what should you look for in your steering system? This depends on the size and scope of the agricultural business, but there are also some general features and qualities that should be included in all systems. There are three things to consider in your steering system: how they work, the benefits, and the type that will maximize the return on investment for your farm.
What should I know before investing in a steering system?
First, it’s essential to understand what equipment a steering system requires to operate and how it integrates into the vehicle itself.
Steering systems may be placed on different areas of your equipment. Systems such as the Trimble EZ-Pilot®, EZ-Pilot® Pro, and Autopilot™ Motor Drive System are on the steering column while others mount to the outside of the steering wheel, like Trimble EZ-Steer. Other systems may be integrated via CAN systems or into the steering hydraulics, such as Trimble Autopilot™.
The display in the cab uses software to communicate with the GNSS receiver and control the steering system. The operator controls the display and monitors the steering system and implements while operating in the field.
Once in a tractor or vehicle, you use the display to select the profile of the tractor or vehicle being used. Autosteering turns on and off using the display, so you can turn it off and move to a different field or move the system into a different piece of equipment. Turning the steering wheel yourself also disengages the steering system. There are safety checks in place, including maximum speed.
What are the benefits of using a steering system?
Steering systems have numerous benefits:
Eliminate row overlap: Seeing overlap among the rows is a frustrating experience. Human error makes this unavoidable without autosteering — it’s impossible for us to maintain precise steering row upon row, hour after hour. Steering systems eliminate row overlap.
Fuel savings: Fuel is a significant expense, and this year the prices are driving costs up further. Steering systems save fuel by using the most efficient path across the field and decreasing equipment run time. Expect to save 10-15% on fuel using a steering system. The fuel savings alone may pay for the steering system this year.
Sharpen operator focus: Agriculture requires prolonged hours in the cab during the growing season, and operating heavy equipment causes fatigue. Long hours are still required, but the steering system eliminates one operator responsibility – manually moving the steering wheel, allowing extra focus on the implements and other tasks. Steering systems also eliminate errors caused by low-visibility conditions.
Labor and input savings: There are labor savings when the operator is spending less time in each field, which means they’re spending time on other aspects of the job, or on well-deserved time off with the family. Steering systems have less seed waste and chemical use, as application is precisely done. These numbers add up to significant annual savings.
All these benefits maximize the return on investment of adding steering systems onto your farm equipment.
What steering systems does Trimble Agriculture offer?
Trimble Agriculture has several steering systems available that meet the individual needs of farming operations of all sizes, no matter how many acres or hectares you farm. These three steering systems share similar features but also have different advantages.
AutoPilot: The Autopilot™ Automated Steering System offers the most accurate technology and capability. It operates the tractor and implement, provides row and implement guidance, and terrain compensation for roll and yaw. The Motor Drive system operates without the hydraulic components while AutoPilot uses the hydraulics or a CAN connection.
EZ-Steer: The EZ-Steer assisted steering system offers portable hands-free farming and is compatible with over 1,200 vehicle makes and models. The engine and friction wheel integrate directly with the steering wheel and works in both low and high-accuracy farming applications.
EZ-Pilot: The EZ-Pilot® Assisted Steering System incorporates all the benefits of EZ-Steer while adding in a feature to back the vehicle up to line up for the next swath. It also reduces the amount of hardware needed, making it easier to switch between vehicles.
EZ-Pilot Pro: The EZ-Pilot® Pro guidance system offers high-accuracy guidance across MFWD tractors, 4WDs, and combines. The biggest added benefit is that it enables vehicles to engage in reverse and line up for the next swath (max 15 seconds). Therefore, the operator begins to reap the benefits from the moment the implement engages with the soil.
Trimble Agriculture’s steering solutions are compatible with many vehicles makes and models, both old and new, and offer the highest levels of technology and adaptability at price points for any size operation. Their simple application and ease of use help farmers maximize their capabilities no matter where or what they farm.
Steering systems are an essential part of every agriculture operation. Connect with your local Trimble reseller to learn more and select the steering system that will maximize efficiency and profit on your operation today.