A Quarter-Ton Pickup for the Third World

Mr. Earl Miner

Mr. Earl Miner, inventor of the TRAG, on the standard model.

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The midwest farm family could scarcely imagine itself without the versatile half-ton pick-up truck. The 'pick-up' hauls grain, fertilizer, livestock, supplies, and the farm family itself. It is used for money-making and recreational activities. But around the world in most agricultural areas of what has come to be called the 'Third World', transportation is limited to the feet of the farm family. Even the picturesque and efficient ox-cart is not as common as our postcards would have us believe. Water, wood, fruit, grain, lumber, etc. are all carried great distances on the heads of women and the backs of men. Children start at a very early age to carry awesome loads, often at the expense of schooling.

A simple machine, being produced by The United Methodist Church in Missouri, can change all of this, according to its designer, Mr. Earl Miner. A couple of years ago Mr. Miner heard a native pastor from Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) speak at a church meeting. The pastor, Mr. Arthur Kononuhwa, spoke of the great need for simple transportation in his native land. It so happened that Mr. Miner, a United Methodist layman and a professional inventor/ product designer, had already built and tested a simple machine he felt would meet that need. In consultation with Mr. Kononuhwa and with Bishop Dodge, from Africa, Mr. Miner built a machine and sent it to Africa for the Kononuhwas to test. By this time the project was an official project of the Office of Creative Ministries of the United Methodist Churches of Missouri.

The TRAG (TRansportation-AGriculture) is a three-wheeled vehicle powered by an industrial 8 HP Briggs/Stratton engine, with a built-in six to one speed reduction. Kerosene and diesel engines have also been used. Power is transferred to the front driving wheel by simple 'V'-belt mechanism. By the use of a quick change (by hand) drive chain, a total of six speeds are available.

The front drive unit disconnects from the two-wheeled trailer by simply pulling a pin, thus allowing for a great variety of pulled appliances. One unit has been sent to Egypt, where a small fertilizer spreader will be attached. The speed of the unit ranges from a slow crawl to 30 mph. The unit has no shock absorbers or springs. A relatively smooth ride is obtained by using a low-pressure in the tires (6 to 8 lbs.). The unit has a friction brake on the drive unit and simple 'scrub' brakes on the rear wheels.

Every effort has been made to keep the unit simple, realizing the lack of mechanical sophistication in many areas. The electric and recoil starter possibilities have been discarded in favor of the simple rope start. Lights run off the generator, so no battery is necessary. The air-cooled engine is 'up front' where maintenance is easy, and where dirt will not collect.

The program of the United Methodist Church is simple:

(1) Send a unit to missionaries or similar in the Third World who send a request and will make a responsible use and test of the vehicle.

(2) Follow up with evaluations and reports.

(3) If the vehicle meets a genuine need and local manufacture is possible, the TRAG project will help the area set up its own local manufacture.

Thus far, all of 1980, units have been sent to Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Egypt, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti, and several places in the U.S.A. Production has begun in Zimbabwe, and plans are in process in Costa Rica.

The Rev. Mel West, Director of the Office of Creative Ministries, reports, 'The growth of this project has been amazing. In any developing country transportation is a major problem, and the TRAG has proven itself to be capable of helping solve that problem. We want to keep production within the area of need, so that the TRAG is a 'hand-up' and not a 'hand-out.'

Persons interested in the project should write: TRAG, Box 733, Columbia, Missouri 65205.