TractorsSave on diesel 6 tips and a contractor’s view

A vehicle that’s well main­tained and the right size for every task is a good start when it comes to regu­lating fuel consump­tion. “Telemetry allows us to further our good prac­tices,” reveals Jean-Noël Bois­sières, contractor in Cantal, France, and our primary inter­viewee for this article.

Jean-Noël Bois­sières is a contractor in Siran, in the west of Cantal, close to Lot and Corrèze, France. At an alti­tude of 500-1000m, the area is domi­nated by grass­land, although grain and maize crops are gaining ground. Public works with four diggers also contribute between 30 and 40% of turnover.

1. Elim­i­nate excess weight

Adding too much weight for jobs requiring little grip or for trans­port increases fuel usage. Moving 600kg with a 150-horse­power tractor means an esti­mated 1.5 litres/hr of excess consump­tion.

Unser Experte zum Thema Kraft­stof­fver­brauch ist der Lohnun­ternehmer Jean-Noël Bois­sières aus Frankreich.

All our trac­tors are equipped with front hitches, so removing those extra pounds isn’t compli­cated. I am not a fan of wheel weights for large trac­tors. For the six-metre trailed seed drill, which we tow with our 7R 310, I prefer a remov­able rear weight. When this tractor is coupled to the front/rear mower, I obvi­ously strive for the lowest possible weight.

Jean-Noël Bois­sières

2. Engine oil: Not to be forgotten

Engine oil degrades over time, resulting in higher fric­tion which causes both greater wear and increased fuel usage. As the French machinery maga­zine Entraid recently mentioned, a specific oil is used for engines equipped with a diesel partic­u­late filter. It is low SAPS, ie low in sulphated ash, phos­phorus and sulphur. Using the wrong oil shortens regen­er­a­tion cycles and increases fuel usage. It can also greatly damage your diesel partic­u­late filter.

Regarding this, for the past 12 years I have had 100% confi­dence in my dealer, Défi-Mat, from whom I buy all my parts. I meet with the tech­nical manager at least once a year and we review the hard­ware in order to plan main­te­nance.

Jean-Noël Bois­sières

3. Give it clean air

A dirty air filter will increase fuel consump­tion. Be aware that during one hour of silage-making, the filter will see several hundred thou­sand litres of air pass through it! Cleaning an air filter using compressed air is tricky: Air volume must be priori­tised over pres­sure, other­wise the filter paper may be damaged. The older the filter gets, the less perme­able it will become. Regular replace­ment increases engine effi­ciency and reduces fuel consump­tion.

Every 18 months, or after 2000 hours, we change the air filters. As I said before, this is following agree­ment with my dealer. And everyone is happy because this collab­o­ra­tion elim­i­nates unpleasant surprises when we discuss the value of a trade-in.

Jean-Noël Bois­sières


Convoy road config­u­ra­tion: MF 77I8S tractor, 540/65R28 tyres in front (pres­sure 1 bar) and 650/65R38 at the rear (pres­sure 2 bar), towing a two-axle trailer weighing 21.3 t (weight and grain)

Tractor mixed config­u­ra­tion: Field/road mixed pres­sure (1 bar at front and 1.6 bar at rear).

Between the two tested road config­u­ra­tions, the differ­ence is 11 litres per 100 km, or over 18 %.

Speed in km/hr

Consump­tion in litres/100 km

18% differ­ence in consump­tion between “road” pres­sure (2 bar for rear tyres) compared to “mixed” pres­sure (1.6 bar for the rear), this is the result of a recent test carried out in the south-west of France with the support of the CUMA network in Occi­tanie.

Source: Entraid’

4. Tyres, an impor­tant topic

An impor­tant topic and a headache! It is diffi­cult to move away from a compro­mise between road and field: Under-inflated tyres on the road will increase the rolling resis­tance, dete­ri­o­rate the envelopes and consume more fuel. Tyres being overly inflated in the field means you lose out on the advan­tage from the side­wall defor­ma­tion and once again skate close to over­con­sump­tion. Is there another option than following the manufacturer’s recom­men­da­tion and getting a good pres­sure gauge?

My work requires me to do a lot of driving and I have to adapt the pres­sure to this constraint. For trac­tion in the field, with a 300-horse­power tractor consid­er­able ballast is essen­tial and the weight of the unit is crucial. But I think we’ve reached a plateau and remote infla­tion will become neces­sary on trac­tors with 200 horse­power and above.

I would add that it is not only diesel costs that are going up, but also the price of tyres. Making them last becomes even more impor­tant and this is calcu­lated in the global cost of owning a self-propelled unit. It’s likely we will need to think about what level of trac­tion we really require.

Jean-Noël Bois­sières

Wide drills, not very common in the region, bring new levels of satis­fac­tion to Bois­sières ETA customers, with new options like “rapid” sowing of grain crops in the autumn or replanting meadows with direct seeding.


5. What about turning the engine off?

Several studies by the CUMA asso­ci­a­tions (agri­cul­tural machinery co-oper­a­tives) show that trac­tors spend 30% of their time at low idle, whether in the coupling/uncoupling stages, during adjust­ments, when waiting… This is more than 200 hours for a tractor doing 700 hours/year. And for a 150-horse­power tractor, the average consump­tion when idling is about 3.5 litres/hour!

I regu­larly make our drivers aware of this phenom­enon. Seven of our trac­tors and two of our forage harvesters are equipped with JDLink telemetry, which gives us a trans­parent report on engine activity. I found that one of our drivers was using the manual mode for trans­port rather than the auto­matic trans­mis­sion ratio selec­tion.

Is telemetry poisoning the work atmos­phere? I don’t think so; we work as a team and with trans­parency, espe­cially in the face of modern chal­lenges of rapid oper­ating cost increases.

Jean-Noël Bois­sières

The JDLink gives me highly accu­rate infor­ma­tion about the cost of my services.

    Telemetry on the two ETA Bois­sières forage harvesters which are equipped with it revealed that their consump­tion is 44 litres/ha in maize, including travel. “I was also able to detail my costs for bale wrap­ping,” continues the Auvergne contractor. “For example, I already knew that the plastic is €3.30 (£2.74) per bale and the net around 50 cents (42p). This year, we have already had an increase of about one euro (84p) on the plastic, and 20 cents (17p) on the net. But the telemetry let me to see that I was consuming one litre of diesel per bale produced, including travel. I didn’t have such precise infor­ma­tion before. It has become essen­tial for managing the company. I would like to thank my dealer who helps me get the most from the telemetry reports.”

6. Width is an asset

Julien Hérault is a machinery consul­tant and inde­pen­dent trainer at Conseils Agroéquipements consul­tancy. He notes that due to the lack of suffi­ciently large imple­ments, the consump­tion per hectare is too high. In the same vein, Mr Hérault often advo­cates switching from a mounted imple­ment to a semi-mounted imple­ment based on the following: With a three-metre mounted disk stubble plough, a 120-140 horse­power tractor is usually required to lift the imple­ment at the head­land. But when then working in the field, an 80-100 horse­power tractor is entirely capable of doing the same job providing the stubble plough has an axle. Of course, the extra cost of said axle must also be factored in, but with 40 horse­power less when purchasing the tractor, there is some finan­cial leeway.

Person­ally, it took me two years of delib­er­ating before I decided to part with one of our two three-metre combi drill combines and invest in a six-metre rapid trailed disc drill. This imple­ment really enhances our primary tractor, a John Deere 7R 310. It is fast and versa­tile, so satis­fies a wide range of customers.

We are replanting grass­land with grain and maize to scatter vole colonies. And the yields are good, without irri­ga­tion. The drill allows the fields to be replen­ished with direct seeding without tillage, which is very posi­tive for live­stock farmers looking to produce their own feed. By securing my customers’ incomes I can protect myself from the risk of non-payments, which is a concern these days!

Jean-Noël Bois­sières


BOISSIÈRES Rural Contracting Company, an overview

  • 10 full-time employees
  • 10 trac­tors including 9 John Deere, from 100 to 310 horse­power
  • 3 self-propelled forage harvesters including 2 John Deere 8400 i
  • 4 combines including 2 John Deere (W and CTS ranges)
  • 2 John Deere C 441 R wrap­ping balers
  • 1 John Deere 864 premium round baler
  • 1 L 1534 cubic baler
  • 1 9-metre mower
  • 4 diggers
  • 1 6-metre multi-purpose seed drill
  • 1 John Deere Max Emerge planter, 8-row exten­sion