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Suspicious Tractor Fires Provoke Lawsuits
"I came across my first tractor fire involving a Ford-New Holland-Versatile bi-directional tractor in 1996. Soon after that we got another one and then another," says Larry D. Mills, manager of Dakota Claims Service of Pierre, S. Dak.
Mills says there are currently four burned-up bi-directional tractors involved in lawsuits in South Dakota alone. The insurance companies and farmers are trying to recoup their losses from New Holland, claiming defects in manufacturing.
Mills has looked into the problem for the past two years. His investigators deter-mined that most fires originate in wiring that runs through grommets in the cab and engine compartments. The grommets work loose, leaving the wiring up against bare metal. If the insulation gets rubbed off, an electrical arc is set up and burns through fuel or ether lines, starting a blaze.
"If you look at a bi-directional tractor that has been out in the field for a few years, you'll often notice that the grommets are loose or are working their way loose," says Mills, who often stops at farms with bi-directional tractors and checks the wiring. "In some cases, I'll notice that the wiring has been patched up with electrician's tape."
Mills says it's impossible to know how many of the tractors have burned up in fires, but he has received calls from adjusters all over the country looking for information on similar cases. He is working with the insurance companies suing New Holland and says the lawsuits could benefit farmers in several ways.
"First, the farmers involved may be compensated if they had uninsured losses. Second, if the insurance companies can be reimbursed by the manufacturer for the tractor fires, they won't have to pass those losses onto farmers, which should help keep rates down. And third, the publicity involved in these lawsuis should help get in-formation out to the public. This is a potentially life-threatening situation and farmers who own these tractors need to look them over carefully to avoid having a tractor fire in the future."
New Holland just released the first all-new redesign of the popular bi-directional tractor since 1977 (see story on page 20). Mills says he has heard that the tractor are supposed to have a new-style grommet on the wiring harness that can't break loose.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dakota Claims Service, Box 400, Pierre, S.Dak. 57501 (ph 605 224-6155; fax 605 224-4735).

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1998 - Volume #22, Issue #2