Propane Tank Trailer Handles Tough Hauling Jobs

Lyle Carpenter offers cleanup services to folks around Walhalla, N. Dak., and he needed a trailer to haul rocks, stumps, trees and scrap metal. When he and his son, Leeroy, couldn't find any commercial trailers rugged enough, they decided to build their own out of a propane semi tanker.Carpenter contacted propane companies to find an old tank trailer that no longer passed certification.

"It has to be an over-the-road propane tank, not the bulk propane tanks you see in back yards," Carpenter emphasizes. The bulk tanks are mild steel but the semi tankers are 3/8-in. high-tensile steel.

"When we dump 5-ft. dia. rocks we don't have a scratch anywhere," he says.

Before they used a cutting torch to cut the tank in two, the Carpenters removed the tank's cap, opened the vents and blew air from a fan through the tanker for three days. If it had held anhydrous, they would have run vinegar through it to neutralize it. The Carpenters cut the 7-ft. dia. trailer in half leaving one rounded end on each half tank so they got two 32-ft. long boxes "big enough to hold 22 yards of gravel.

The Carpenters made the frame just as tough, using 80,000-lb. tensile strength steel for the beams to meet DOT specifications; 4-in. high tensile, square tubing; three axles and five-leaf springs.

"Having five main leaves in the spring is very important," Carpenter emphasizes. "You have to stiffen the springs up." He's seen too many three-leaf spring dump trailers out of commission.

They welded the trailer together with 7018 welding rods, sandblasted, primed and painted it and built a side swinging gate for the back out of 2-in. square tubing and 1/8-in. AR steel sheeting to be light yet tough.

The tires are 8 1/2 ft. apart so the tank fits down in the frame, which adds to the trailer's stability when it's dumped. A large hydraulic cylinder raises the bed up to a 48-degree angle and the tank's curved shape helps everything slide out easily.

"We've hauled a 45-ft. tree on a stump and even an old milk delivery truck in it," Carpenter says. "This trailer is heavy duty for the rugged jobs."

The Carpenters have been using the trailer for nearly 15 years. They sold the trailer they made out of the other half of the tank to a man who hauled huge chunks of concrete from an air base when missile silos were dismantled.

Though the trailer is heavy, it pulls easily behind a Peterbilt semi, and it continues to perform well.

"We did our homework," Carpenter says. "I just wish we'd had it 30 years ago."

"I didn't want to spend money for the real thing, so I thought I would try single sickle blades instead," he says.

Originally, Carpenter had the blades spread out between the flights. But prior to last fall's harvest, he concentrated them in the center to feed crop material more aggressively.

Carpenter cut out the fingers originally found at the auger center. He welded about a dozen blades at roughly the same spacing as the old fingers.