When Peter Easterby built his first trailer in 1974 he knew nothing of the market he was going to sell into, all he knew was that he had completed his apprenticeship as a welder and fabricator and wanted to make things in addition to the farm gates he had started off with at his father Geoff’s Ewecote Farm in Farndale.
Forty-two years later he’s not only still making grain and bale trailers, he now has a team of around a dozen at Cottam Grange near Driffield and Easterby Trailers is one of the top names in UK grain trailer manufacturing.
In common with everything cereal growing related Peter has found that his trailers have had to be made bigger, just as tractors and combines have increased in power and size.
“Increased tonnage capacity of combine harvesters and bigger horsepower has led the way. Our most popular grain trailers are currently the 14-18-tonne monocoque models and they vary from 12 to 20 tonnes. My first trailer was 3.5 tonnes. Everything has got bigger and longer and to be fair that’s what has kept us going.
“The majority of the 100-plus trailers we now build each year is 14 tonnes upwards. They all have air brakes and from 12 tonnes I recommend all farmers to have commercial and parabolic suspension. Braking is absolutely essential when you’re talking about the weight of what you’re hauling as are LED lights.
“One of the other areas that has also improved for our farm machinery is paint that lasts. We now use Two Pack paint that provides a longer life and offer a shotblasting and repainting service in our new paint shop. Another important area is the use of big tyres. The bigger the tyre, the easier the trailer pulls.”
One of the fears for most manufacturers is that there will not be enough new purchasers to keep the business on the right footing. Many such as Peter pride themselves on the quality of their products and Easterby Trailers’ catchphrase is ‘Built to Perfection, Built to Last’.
“I remember thinking each year thank God I’ve survived as surely the market will be flooded at some point but the move towards bigger trailers has helped as has greater usage.”
Grain trailers were at one time used simply for grain but as fertiliser has become expensive more farms are now using trailers for leading muck.
“Farmers have always used their trailers for potatoes and sugar beet but with the emphasis now moving towards leading muck most are finding they are using them throughout the year.
“We’ve often said that if a grain trailer is bought simply for grain it will last forever. Recently we bought back a trailer we’d sold to a farmer near Spurn Point about 20 years ago. It looked brand new and I gave him £1,000 more than I’d sold it for. We put it up for sale and it went out straight away.”
Peter recalls how he was once told that if he had his name on a trailer it wouldn’t sell.
“When I built that first trailer I went to see John Russell. It was when he was manufacturing bale elevator equipment in quite a big way. He came out with his product manager, took a look and said I should put it in his yard with his name on because I wouldn’t sell it under my own. He wasn’t being disrespectful. Within four days it sold and the plan was every time one sold I supplied another. This went on for about 20 trailers. That’s when I decided to widen my net and started supplying other machinery businesses.”
The Easterby Trailers Open Day became an annual or bi-annual event in the 1990s up until last year and although it is not taking place again this year it is likely to reappear in 2017.
“The open days have done fabulous business for us. We’ve just been too busy to organise one this year, which is a good thing. We will definitely be at YAMS (Yorkshire Agricultural Machinery Show) on February 8.”
It’s all a far cry from the days when Peter started at Farndale before shifting to Burton Agnes and then Cottam Grange.
“We moved here in 1995. It gave us over three and a half times more factory space by converting the grain and potato sheds. I still do a bit of welding because I enjoy it.”
Peter is a keen racehorse breeder. Trainers Mick and Tim are his cousins. This year his latest sprinter Bosham has already won six races and will be racing again on Monday at Chelmsford. Peter is married to Liz who is Easterby Trailers company secretary. They have two sons - Dean who works alongside Peter and is also a director and Harry who is studying music at college in Hull.