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University of Nebraska Tractor Test

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The University of Nebraska Tractor Tests were designed to ensure a level of quality among tractor manufacturers. In 1919, Nebraska passed a bill requiring all tractors to pass a series of tests before they could be sold in the state. The tests were developed after numerous complaints that tractors failed to perform to the level the manufacturer claimed. In a few years, the entire U.S. adopted the Nebraska tests as the gold standard. Unscrupulous businessmen could no longer take advantage of unsuspecting farmers. Ultimately, “the Nebraska Tractor Tests saved the American farmer.”[1]

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Wilmot Crozier's Story

While there were certainly a number of farmers who purchased tractors that did not live up to the standards the manufacturer claimed, one farmer above all others was essential for the development of the University of Nebraska Tractor Tests: Wilmot Crozier.

During the 1910s, farmers across the U.S. were struggling with the decision to purchase a tractor and begin eliminating their use of horses for farm work. However, at this time, tractors were still in early stages of development, so many farmers were reluctant. By 1917, the U.S. had entered World War I and, untrusting of tractor technology, brought thousands of horses with them. This forced many hesitant farmers into purchasing a tractor.

In 1918, Wilmot Crozier finally made the decision to purchase a tractor. Unaware of what to expect, he decided to go with a name he thought he could trust: Ford. Two years earlier Henry Ford had released his Model T truck to considerable acclaim. After witnessing its reliability, Crozier felt secure in purchasing a tractor from the Ford Tractor Co. However, this Ford was not Henry Ford.

Instead, "taking advantage of this farmer psychology, a group of promoters in Minneapolis, Minnesota hired a young man by the name of Ford and organized the Ford Tractor Co.”[2]

In fact, after being pre-empted by the Minneapolis company Henry Ford was forced to name his first tractor the “Fordson," which was considered both reliable and affordable.

Crozier’s new tractor was incapable of plowing his field as the Ford Tractor Co. had claimed. He went back to Ford and demanded a replacement; it also failed to work as promised. So, Crozier decided to purchase a model from a different manufacturer. He purchased a second-hand “bull” tractor. The “bull” failed to perform any better than either model produced by Ford Tractor Co.

Reluctantly, Crozier decided to take one last chance and purchased a three-plow Rumley Oil-Pull. He was extremely pleased. The Oil-Pull exceeded his expectations, capable of pulling five plows instead of three.

This caused Crozier to ask the question: “If one manufacturer can build a dependable tractor, why can not all other tractors produced be dependable?”[3]

Unfortunately Crozier’s tractor experience was not original. The book Farm Tractors: A Living History by Randy Leffingwell says, “Skullduggery was not uncommon in the first 20 years of gasoline tractor manufacturing. There were many . . . tractor makers organized solely for the purpose of making money, not tractors. One prototype would be produced, funds would be raised, and overnight the company was out of business, offices vacated, doors locked. The lone prototype had sold for cash to some unsuspecting victim.”[4]

[edit] Implementing the Tractor Test

In 1919, Crozier was elected into the Nebraska legislature. One of his first goals was to introduce a law that would eliminate useless tractors and irresponsible tractor companies. The bill provisioned no new tractor model could be sold in the state without a permit. In order to receive a permit, the new model had to be tested by the University of Nebraska Agricultural Engineering Department. Results would be compared to claims made by the manufacturer. If their claims were found to be unsubstantiated then no permit would be issued.

Crozier’s testing idea was not unique, but it was able to succeed where others had failed. (A National Tractor Testing Station had been fully realized in 1915, but the station was caught under a tangled web of U.S. government bureaucracy.)

So, with the help of fellow Nebraska state senator Charles Warner, who pushed for the bill, the Nebraska Tractor Test Bill passed through the Nebraska state senate.

Testing procedures became the responsibility of the Agricultural Engineering Department at the University of Nebraska. The head of the department was L.W. Chase. Chase encouraged Iowa State University instructor Claude Shedd to become the chief engineer for the development of the Nebraska Tractor Testing Program. Chadd was responsible for setting up the tests and designing some of the necessary equipment to carry them out.

On March 31, 1920, the first tractor test was carried out on a model N Waterloo Boy. By 2006, nearly 2,000 tractors had been tested.

[edit] Testing Procedures[5]

Tests are conducted in accordance to procedures laid out by the Agricultural Tractor Test Code, which is approved by The American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) and subcommittee of the SAE Tractor Technical Committee. An advisory group consists of farmers, implement dealers, and extension agents within Nebraska.

While the tests were originally designed to ensure Nebraska tractors were up to standard, all tractors within the U.S. are now tested. This has created a national standard of comparison.

Before testing begins, each tractor model is given a 12-hour break-in period where a manufacturer’s representative can make adjustments. Following this, the machine is subject to extensive testing, involving the power take-off and drawbar performance.

The vehicle is tested for maximum power, fuel consumption, and efficiency; varying power and fuel consumption; varying drawbar and fuel consumption; maximum power with and without the ballast; varying drawbar pull and travel speed with ballast; tractor sound level; tires, ballast, and weight.

[edit] References

  1. Vossler, Bill. Caveat Tractor: How the Nebraska Tractor Tests Saved the American Farmer. Grit, January/February, 2007. (accessed: 2008-09-30)
  2. Nebraska Tractor Test History. Antique Farming, 2008-09-30.
  3. The Nebraska Tractor Test. TractorMuseum.unl.edu, 2008-09-30.
  4. Vossler, Bill. Caveat Tractor: How the Nebraska Tractor Tests Saved the American Farmer. Grit, January/February, 2007. (accessed: 2008-09-30)
  5. Downs, H.W.; Hansen, R.W. Selecting Energy-Efficient Tractors. Extension, 2008-09-30.

[edit] External Links