Claas: 25 years of the Terra Trac system

More than 90 per cent of Claas Lexion combines sold in Great Britain are now fitted with Terra Tracs
More than 90 per cent of Claas Lexion combines sold in Great Britain are now fitted with Terra Tracs.

The summer of 1997 not only marked a milestone in combine harvesting technology, but also for the broad market acceptance of soil-protecting tracks on self-propelled harvesters. Since then, the friction drive Terra Trac track units developed by Claas Industrietechnik (CIT) at Paderborn, Germany, have become the standard and benchmark in the industry.

Initially available for the Lexion, further development progressed rapidly. In 2004, driving comfort was significantly improved by the introduction of rubber shock absorbers on the axles of the running gear, which until then had been rigidly mounted. The development of hydro-pneumatic suspension marked a quantum leap, which distinguished the new Terra Trac generation in 2011 and still provides excellent comfort characteristics to this day. This enabled significantly improved ground tracking, and a driving speed of 40 km/hr on the road could be achieved for the first time.

“After initial scepticism, we were able to quickly convince more and more farmers and contractors of the advantages of Terra Trac technology,” CIT’s CEO, Dr Ulf Leinhäuser, said. “Whereas the number of machines fitted with Terra Trac drives was initially about 10 per cent of the total, today it’s more than 50 per cent for the Lexion alone.

“In North America, more than 70 per cent of the Lexion are delivered with our crawler tracks, while in Great Britain it’s more than 90 per cent.”

The Terra Trac drives continue to be further developed. In 2019, Claas expanded the range of high-performance combines available with Terra Trac technology with the introduction of the Lexion 5000 / 6000 / 7000 / 8000. In the same year, series production of the Axion Terra Trac, which was shown as a concept at Agritechnica in 2017, began with two models. The Axion is still the only full-suspension half-track tractor on the market.

Production of Claas's Axion Terra Trac models began in 2019
Production of Claas’s Axion Terra Trac models began in 2019.

At the end of 2018, Claas also added two Jaguar forage harvesters with integrated track drives to its product portfolio. These are fitted with drives that incorporate a patented headland protection system that allows the contact area of the drives to be reduced when turning at the headland, so bringing the benefits of Terra Trac to grassland and other sensitive areas.

The newest member of the Terra Trac family at Claas is the Trion. Launched in 2021, for the first time this includes the option of a medium-sized five-walker model with Terra Trac fitted ex-works from Paderborn.

The milestones of Terra Trac technology from Paderborn at a glance:

  • 1997: Introduction of Terra Trac for Claas Lexion combine harvesters
  • 2004: Introduction of rubber shock absorbers for increased driving comfort
  • 2006: 2nd generation Terra Trac with a reinforced frame cast in one piece for the new Lexion 600
  • 2011: Introduction of hydro pneumatic suspension and 40 km/h top speed
  • 2017: Axion Terra Trac as a concept at the Agritechnica
  • 2018: Introduction of two Jaguar Terra Trac models with a unique headland function
  • 2019: Start of series production of two Axion Terra Trac models
  • 2019: Presentation of the Lexion 5000 / 6000 / 7000 / 8000 with 10 Terra Trac models
  • 2021: Introduction of the Trion series with six Terra Trac model
  • 2022: In February, Jaguar Terra Trac number 100 rolled off the assembly line at Harsewinkel

Claas’ experience with soil-protecting tracks actually goes back a further 10 years to 1987. At that year’s Farm Progress Show, Claas showed a Dominator CS with two Caterpillar tracks.

“Because its overall width was more than 4.0m, the machines were mainly reserved for the North American market, so only a few were used in Europe – for example in Great Britain,” Claas’ senior manager for product strategy and advanced development, Robert Obermeier-Hartmann, said. “Looking back, the driving comfort was very poor due to the lack of suspension.

A 1994 Claas Mega with a prototype track system driven by pneumatic tyres
A 1994 Claas Mega with a prototype track system driven by pneumatic tyres.

“With our current Terra Trac drives, we’re moving to a completely different level. In the field and increasingly also when driving on the road, our bogies are superior to classic wheeled bogies in many respects and also when it comes to driving comfort.”

Technology and experience have also been valued by external customers for many years. Terra Trac crawler tracks from CIT can be found on self-propelled beet harvesters and vegetable harvesters, as well as on self-propelled and trailed potato harvesters.

Further fields of application are liquid manure spreading tanks with Terra Trac drives and Active Drive drive axle. Thanks to the additional ‘boost’, a lighter tractor with less traction is sufficient, the wheelslip of which can also be significantly reduced by the drive axle under the carriage. The interaction of less weight, less wheelslip and the large contact area protect the ground in a previously unknown way.

By mid-2022, Claas Industrietechnik at Paderborn had manufactured and marketed 17,500 pairs of Terra Tracs.