Then & Now, Ag Hauling part 3

Sunrise grain line in a ethanol plant

A typical day for a grain hauler usually begins very early in the morning. The grain company I work for most always has the trucks loaded for the following work day. This is to take full advantage of the receiver’s hours of operations. A grain hauler generally works a 12 to 14 hour day on average. I can remember when the work day was longer.

Modern technology has made a difference in wait times. The only down side is human interaction is far less than before. Most operations have a similar computer process being utilized. Information is either entered in a kiosk mounted scale side or communicated through a speaker or phone style headset. CB radios are even used in some cases.

Example of a windshield sensor tag
Check in kiosk at ADM, Decatur. Information is typed in on the keyboard

Every system is similar. Some companies distribute a plastic tag that is hung in the windshield so a scanner can read and identify the truck. Other companies use a small plastic card about the size of a credit card. The card is swiped at a kiosk at some point during in processing and out processing. Sometimes the card can be read at several stations as the truck moves through the facility.

Early morning inbound at ADM St Louis, MO. The inbound and outbound scales.

During in process, the truck gets weighed. This is generally when the computer tag is identified. The load will get probed and graded at some point before unloading. Contact is made with the scale operator and any other additional load information is taken.

Inbound ADM. this is actually the second of three times the card is scanned in the St Louis elevator. I had already scanned in at the probing station

Out process is another scale. The tag is again read and a grain recieved ticket is printed. You may not have much contact with a company representative, but rest assured you have been carefully monitored via camera.

Final scan on the outbound ADM scale. My grain recieved ticket will be printed at this station

The computer systems are very efficient and speed up time spent in the facility. The plastic tags however aren’t all universal to several facilities. In fact the same company will differ. ADM Decatur uses a hanging tag, and the St Louis, MO / Sauget, IL river terminals use cards. Most grain haulers have a large collection of different tags and cards. The trick is to make sure incompatible tags do not interfere with the system currently in use.

A small number of the cards that identify BAB truck 19.

Rock quarries even use a computer system. The major difference is there isn’t inbound weight taken every single time being loaded.

End loaders, at quarries, are much more accurate when estimating amounts now. In past times a operator just got good simply by repetitive loading. Modern machinery is now equipped with a scale in the loader bucket.

Mark Enslow demonstrates how grain was sampled before the mechanical probe came in use

I can remember before mechanical grain probes were used. Most scales had a walk way for a person to take samples of the incoming truck. The mechanical probe now uses electrical, hydraulic, and vacuum to retrieve the sample. Depending on the facility, there are even cameras monitoring where the probe is being placed

BAB Grain inbound scale, the mechanical probe is controlled inside the office and monitored via camera

Where I’m employed, has become very modern. There is inbound and outbound scales to help process quickly. The inbound scale has a mechanical probe and the whole elevator is monitored via camera. Communication is maintained with the truck traffic using the CB.

Matt Dambacher draws a grain sample off an inbound truck

Outbound grain loading has greatly improved at BAB. The elevator employee no longer has to stand on a perch above the truck to load, enduring hazards such as weather, falling, breathing dust, and noise.

Loading perch. BAB Grain still has them but they don’t see much use now
The little white building in the right center ground is termed the “load shack”

There is now a central located building where the load is monitored via camera and controlled by electric doors. This is safer since the loader and driver can communicate using radio rather than shouting to be heard.

Inside the “Load Shack” Mark Enslow is about to load a truck.

There are other grain operations even more state of the art than we are at BAB Grain. I have actually loaded on a scale. This method insures a perfect legal weight placement.

Grain handling has come into the 21st century using modern technology. I don’t consider myself that old, but I vaguely remember before cellphones, and the coming age of computers. Modern life hardly happens without using personal devices, to the point we take it for granted.

This will conclude my series on ag hauling. I hope you enjoyed the small peek into my work day. I know some of my following “know the drill”and relate. For everyone else, this may have been behind the scenes learning.

I want to thank my employer, Greg Boesdorfer, and fellow coworkers for making this article possible. A majority of the trucks pictured, in the article, are the BAB fleet. It was easier, sharing a behind the scene view, using some pictures of the BAB Grain facility.

Special thanks to Mark Enslow for helping stage some of the pictures. Mark has been with BAB for thirty plus years and witnessed many of the facility changes that have made grain handling, safer and more efficient.

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