Hello! Have been away from beesource for a few years! And have to say, I sure missed this great forum, greetings to all you great folks!
Anyways, I came back to beekeeping this year, and got up to about ~65 hives and a dozen nucs in California. I am wondering if anyone has taken their bees for pollination on a small truck with a flatbed. I read about payloads/etc, but I would like to know from someones first hand experience if its possible, because, sure trucks like rangers/tacomas are small and low powered when compared to what people generally use in the industry, and have only around a half ton payload, but there is a plethora of photos online of people hauling tons of weapons/and people in the back of such trucks. I have found a few dually flatbed rangers/tacomas locally for sale. Anyone know if its possible to haul about 20 hives in those. looking forward to reading all your great advice! Please understand that getting a real flatbed rig might be a bit overkill for me and finishing out someones load might be funky due to hives being spread out in residential areas (6 yards of about 10 hives each), as being in California I can not purchase an old diesel for commercial purposes, and newer ones cost an arm and a leg. Happy to hear all suggestions.
It should be simple math to figure out how many hives it will hold. Do you have your hives on pallets? Are you going to stack hives on top of each other? How are you planning on getting the hives on/off the truck? Lifting by hand? I don't think weight will be the issue but available space.
Do not use a Ford Ranger. The transmissions are totally inadequate. They blow up on schedule. About 65,000 miles with the 4.0 liter engine, either side of 90, 000 miles with the 3.0 liter, and usually before 120,000 with the smaller engines.
Being that you are currently at sideline business level, go with a 3/4-ton or a one-ton pickup with a 12-foot flatbed and a trailer until you are ready to grow bigger. That should take you up to about 400 colonies, more or less depending on your average run to your drops, loads, hills in your terrain, traffic, etc.
The economy comes in having the correct final drive ratio and the correct torque curve in your engine for hauling your heaviest load (not your average load - you'll probably be increasing your apiary). I find that a one-ton dually usually runs nicely with a 1: 3.73 rear end differential and the right size wheels for your rig (seems all rigs weigh different gross weights loaded). If you tend toward heavier loads, you may find a 1: 4.10 rear end diffy is the right choice.
The guys at the local truck scale can be good friends to have.
Do consider a diesel. Talk to lots of diesel owners. Write down notes on good years / makes / engine / transmission / differential combinations.
If your drops are in the nastiest parts of orchards, you may consider on-demand 4-wheel drive, at which point you should make a bee-line to the truck modifying shops in your area. Many of them make a living on racing truck mods (not too useful to us), a few actually know all the math formulas for off-road load requirements, fuel economy, how to install air ride bags, you-name-it. They can be very helpful.
I have found a few dually flatbed rangers/tacomas locally for sale. Anyone know if its possible to haul about 20 hives in those.
2000 tundra with over 300K km on it. Deck fits 16 bottom boards, I haul 16 double deeps when we are moving bees to/from the fireweed patch. I could manage 2 high if we were doing singles. Our fireweed yards live on old abandoned side spurs off the main logging roads, so it's about 60km on the pavement then 10 to 20 on the backroads, and the last couple of km will require 4 low to get in when loaded.
I have a friend that has used an old Toyota with a aftermarket flatbed. It had a 12 foot bed and he overloaded that little truck and worked the snot out of it. We used to load that thing full and 2 hives deep. So probably 32 double deep hives. I really wouldn't suggest working a truck that hard.
Most of us use a 3/4 ton or a one ton dually flatbed. The 12 foot flatbed is what makes a truck worth having for a beekeeper. The full, double cab is what you'll want, not the cab and a half, cab and 3/4, the full double.
The advantage to the one ton is the ability to haul a heavy trailer. Toyota does make a nice one-ton.
You really, really do not want to get stuck somewhere unfriendly with a broken frame, tranny, crankshaft, etc. with load of pistoff bees.