I remember starting work in a new golf club as head greenkeeper.
The maintenance budget was tight so there was little money available to buy new equipment. There was an old disused trailing five-gang mower, at least 40 years old, lying weathered outside the maintenance facility. I decided to get it done up as it would be useful around some areas of the course. To my pleasant surprise my local dealer was still able to get spare parts from the manufacturer at reasonable costs. I got the bits and pieces needed and soon the old mower was back up running again, earning its keep.
Technology in sportsturf equipment has moved on a long way since the days of trailing gang mowers. Machines are now fitted with diagnostic units, safety sensors and the devil knows what. I often wonder should such equipment fail how easy would it be to repair them?
The ‘right to repair’ movement is gaining a lot of momentum around Europe and America. It is mainly aimed at electronic and domestic appliances. However, farmers in the US are making noises that farm equipment manufacturers should make spare parts available to repair machines.
Last July President Joe Biden signed an executive order asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to draw up rules on the repair of farming equipment. According to the president’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, it would give farmers “the right to repair their own equipment how they like”. The order is also expected to benefit farmers, who face expensive repair costs from tractor manufacturers who use proprietary repair tools, software, and diagnostics to prevent third-parties from working on the equipment.
Some of the tractor manufacturers are against the idea of repairs being done by third parties to their equipment, especially to the more specialised parts such as diagnostic kits. They argue that allowing access to source codes would risk allowing a user to override safety features required as part of modern farm equipment, as well as altering emission standards, making the machine illegal and unsafe.
So how will this affect dealers, particularly those that have workshop facilities? Manufacturers and dealers do support the right to repair equipment but not the right to modify. This is a very important point as it would be illegal to modify or tamper with settings that would make the equipment unsafe and break regulations. It is a case of balance. I do believe that if a diagnostic kit or sensor becomes faulty it should be replaced.
In the US, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and the Equipment Dealers Association (EDA) have agreed to make a series of diagnostic and repair tools available to owners of tractors. In their Statement of Principles, farm equipment manufacturers and dealers have provided the following tools:
- Manuals (Operator, Parts, Service)
- Product Guides
- Product Service Demonstrations, Training, Seminars, or Clinics
- On-Board Diagnostics via diagnostics port or wireless interface
- Fleet Management Information
- Electronic Field Diagnostic Service Tools, and training on how to use them
- Other publications with information on service, parts, operation, and safety
This debate will run for some time yet but I hope that manufacturers will make it easy for most machinery repairs to be carried out, either on the farm, sports facility or in the workshop of the local dealer.