Stick to the road with Hennie

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Preventing cracks on load bins

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

“Don’t stand on the corner of the sidewalls. It is not designed for your weight,” warned Gert as I climbed onto the Hilux to keep my drone in sight over the lemon trees.

I was flying the drone to check on the orchard’s health, but my pilot training interfered when flying the small machine. I want to see where my aircraft is at all times, while my much younger sons already fly the drone by just watching the phone’s screen. Turns out hours of playing first-person shooter games do have a use after all.

A weighty issue

“What do you mean ‘not designed for my weight’? The payload on the Extra Cab is over 800kg. I’m at least 740kg underweight.”

Unmoved, Gert, the farm mechanic, moved the stalk of Smutsfinger he was chewing to the other side of his mouth before answering. “The load bin can carry 825kg. The sidewalls not so much. Their thin metal sheets can handle a lot of lateral pressure, but don’t like stretching downwards. That is how you start a crack.”

I took a while to answer while I focussed on getting the drone close to the lemon blossoms. They were thickly clustered on each branch, for which I thanked the sheep that had been adding nitrogen and fertiliser to the roots every time they emptied their bladders and stomachs.

“I thought that was another bakkie brand’s problem. And didn’t they fix it with some brackets on the front corners?”

“They did, but cracking load bins is not limited to them. All modern bakkies have the same complaint,” said Gert as I brought the drone in to land on the Hilux’s bonnet. It was time to change the battery with the charged one Gert had brought from the workshop.

As she always did, Mabalel, the old ewe that led the flock, trotted up for a head scratch, which I delivered promptly. Mabalel was prone to butt groins if she did not get her way.

The tough old ewe had been rescued from a near drowning as a lamb and has since acted more like a dog than a sheep, despite giving me seven sets of twin lambs over the years. She was still full of surprises, the latest of which was her newfound love for lemons.

She would butt a tree until a few lemons dropped, which she then gummed in her almost toothless mouth – her eyes closed either in ecstasy or from the sourness, I could never decide.

What should be changed?

“So, what’s changed? We never had cracking problems on our old bakkies,” I said.

“Some blame the engineers for making modern bakkies as light as possible. Others say it is to meet the deforming requirements of Euro crash specs. Whatever the cause, one manufacturer found it a recurring problem on their model that came out in 2012. They soon made special J-brackets to mount anything on the bakkie’s bin, or void their warranty,” Gert said.

“We never had to fit brackets to our Hiluxes, did we?” I asked as I slotted the fresh battery into the drone.

“We did. The bars came with their own corner brackets, and I added a bit of my own reinforcement as well,” Gert said.

“So are all load bins made for city slickers these days?”

“City slickers do buy more bakkies than actual farmers,” said Gert as he took his turn to scratch Mabalel. “When are we eating you then?” he crooned to her.

Despite her age, Gert is convinced Mabalel would make very tender and tasty chops – because of her lemon diet.

“The Australians have the second-best solution,” said Gert. “They order their bakkies without bins and then bolt a drop-side directly onto the ladder frame.”

“What is the best solution?” I asked.

“Supports that bolt to the frame and allow the sides to flex.”

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