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Tucker Sno-Cat Corp. develops tracked vehicles for variety of applications

Emmitt Tucker, Sr. spent a half century inventing, improving and building snow vehicles. Today, the company he founded and one of the world's oldest manufacturers of dedicated snow vehicles, the Tucker Sno-Cat Corp., continues that tradition from its Medford, Oregon, headquarters. While Tucker Sno-Cats are most often seen grooming ski slopes, they are also used widely in more serious jobs like search & rescue, emergency medical transportation, avalanche control, oil & gas exploration, mining, agriculture, carrying utility personnel to remote locations and airport runway snow removal.

Tucker, born in a log cabin in 1892 near Grants Pass, Oregon, began conceiving ideas for different devices for transportation as he walked through deep, soft snow to and from school. By the late 1930s, he had developed the first SnoCat that used a steel track rotating around a rear-mounted pontoon and three skis for balance. Starting in 1942, he sold about 70 machines produced in Grass valley, Calif.

After WWII, the company introduced a new Sno-Cat design featuring a pair of pontoons in the rear and a pair of skis in front that was produced in sizeable numbers. Tucker also invented the four-track design that has been the company's trademark since it was introduced in 1951. The four-track design features an independent suspension system and articulated steering.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, Emmitt Tucker Jr. perfected a design with rubber tracks fitted with steel cleats, a design that is still used on Tucker Sno-Cats.

Today, the Tucker Sno-Cat Corp. is operated by Emmett Tucker Sr.'s descendents. Grandson Jim Tucker is the company's president and general manager and granddaughter Maralee Tucker Sullivan is the chairman and CEO.

The company produces 60 to 70 Sno-Cats annually and among the more recent developments has been a line of Tucker-Terra machines. Unlike the typical snow vehicle that use tracks consisting of multiple nylon/rubber belts with steel alloy traction cleats mounted across them, the Tucker-Terra features all--rubber tracks that allow it to travel over snow, mud, rock, tundra, sand, brush, asphalt pavement and even water up to 4 ft. deep. More importantly, it does so with extremely low ground pressure. The Tucker-Terra machine has received unrestricted certification for use on Alaska's tundra. This means it can be used by oil companies for pipeline inspection and maintenance as well as for surveying and exploration year round, and not just under snowy or permafrost conditions.

The four Terra-Tracks spin on a series of idler wheels with a drive gear mounted to the axle ends. Each axle is mounted with leaf springs much like the fifth wheel assembly on a tractor trailer, The rear pivoting table also pitches side to side to further help keep all tracks on the ground when operating on uneven terrain. Steering is done by rotating both of the pivoting axle assemblies in opposite directions with hydraulic cylinders. Not only does this result in a tight turning radius (15 to 22 ft. depending on the model), but also avoids over-stressing the tracks and reduces the disturbance to the ground, which is important in protected wildernesses, environmentally sensitive areas or over wetlands.

Finally, the four-track design coupled with the articulated steering results in a much smoother ride and is easier to drive.

The Tucker-Terra can also be fitted with implements such as brush cutters, flail mowers and snowblowers and can travel at speeds of up to 30 mph, making it ideal for a personnel or cargo carrier for utilities as well as search and rescue, fire fighting, beach cleanup and patrol, or agricultural applications.

Depending on the model, Tucker-Terras are powered by a four-cylinder Cummins 4BTA diesel engine rated 130 hp or a six-cylinder Cummins 6BT diesel rated 152 hp. A six-cylinder, 174 hp Cummins 6BTA diesel is optional. The engines drive one of two transmission models, either a Chrysler A-727 three-speed automatic or an Allison AT545 four-speed automatic.

Like other Tucker Sno-Cat products, the Tucker-Terra uses mostly standard automotive components. This results in low cost maintenance and local availability of parts, the company said.

One interesting application of the Tucker-Terra is the Medicat Sno-Ambulance developed jointly by Tucker Sno-Cat and American Coleman of Telluride, Colo. The Medicat Sno-Ambulance is being marketed to major ski resorts. The ambulance features wide all-rubber tracks for low ground pressure in deep snow, but can also operate on other surfaces, including pavement. This means it can travel right to the hospital without the need to transfer the patient to a regular ambulance, saving precious minutes in an emergency.

The Medicat Sno-Ambulance is offered in various chassis and body configurations up to a cabin that can carry up to four injured people. Besides offering a warm cabin to prevent hypothermia, the snow ambulance can carry special medical equipment like a portable defibrillator.

Another more recent innovation in the Tucker-Terra vehicle line is the series 1643 wide cab people mover. Capable of carrying 15 passengers, it is powered by a six-cylinder Cummins 6BT diesel rated 152 hp, which drives an Allison AT-545 four-speed automatic transmission.

Bill Siuru, PhD, PE, is an independent technical journalist based in San Diego, Calif.
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Title Annotation:Tucker Sno-Cat Corp.
Author:Siuru, Bill
Publication:Diesel Progress North American Edition
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001

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