We’ve all been there. Unable to overtake that snail-paced tractor that’s holding up the traffic on some long country road. But have you ever wondered, why is it that tractors trudge along at such a sluggish speed?
Firstly, let’s look at the main purpose of a tractor. To pull heavy loads. They spend their days cruising around fields hauling trailers, hay bales, and other hefty implements. The word “tractor” actually comes from the Latin word “trahere” meaning drawing (pulling). Heavy goods are attached to the back or front of the tractor to be towed or pushed along slowly and efficiently from A to B.
Now, they aren’t exactly small pieces of machinery. Just one tire can weigh between 400-600 pounds! Plus they have huge diesel engines, so they should be able to pick up the pace a little bit, right? Wrong. It may be a powerful engine but it’s not used for speed, it’s used for power.
How do tractors work?
In a nutshell torque. This is a turning force that causes rotation. The gear box converts the high revs of the engine into the lower revs of the wheels. This increases the pulling force, meaning it can tow heavy loads slowly but surely!
Although the front of the tractor produces all the power, it’s the back where it’s used. The gear box churns out maximum torque and delivers it to the rear wheels. Compare the size of your car tires to those on a tractor. Tractor tires are heaps bigger, right? They are huge, chunky, and spread out the weight to help prevent squashing the soil. So, they require much more torque than normal vehicles.
Why can’t a tractor go faster?
In theory, they could go faster. However, they wouldn’t be able to achieve their key purpose which is to push and pull large goods in agricultural work. If a tractor was to be made to perform at a reasonable speed, it would need an extra large set of gears to do so. But, when you compare how much time tractors actually spend on roads with how long they spend on fields, it would be pointless. Why? Adding a new set of gears would be expensive!
So it comes down to a choice. Should a tractor be able to drive fast with the inability to pull anything? (Yes, you wouldn’t get stuck behind it in traffic but that is hardly their sole purpose). Or should a tractor move slow, and be able to do its job? With the main purpose of the tractor being to pull stuff I think we know which one wins.
What is the average speed of a tractor?
Usually, the top speed of a farm tractor is around 40 kph. That being said, there is new Guinness World Record set for the fastest tractor in the world. In Finland, one reached a top speed of 130 kph! But trust me, you won’t be seeing one of those in the fields anytime soon.
Why do they look like they do?
Farmers spend a lot of time in their tractors, so they have to be comfortable. There are many farming manufacturing companies out there creating new and improved tractors every day. Some are equipped with air conditioning and have sound proof cabs. They can even have satellite receivers for picking up GPS signals for steering and guidance. Now it might not be the new AUDI R8, but for ploughing, planting, and fertilising in 35 degree heat it’s not the worst place to be!
So next time you’re stuck behind a tractor beeping your horn and muttering under your breath, remember there is a reason you’re being held up!