The day Ron Schmit got caught in the rain with a semi load of uncovered hay wasn't his best. Yet it led him to design and develop an innovative semi tarp covering system that can easily be rolled down or up by one person standing on the ground.

“I was delivering a load of beautiful third-cutting hay,” says the former dairyman from Fairmount, ND. “Just 10 miles from my delivery point, I saw some terrible clouds right on top of us. It rained 3" in 40 minutes.

“Climbing on top of a load with two heavy tarps has got to be one of the worst jobs there is. It's slippery and windy. ‘There's got to be a better way,’ ” he remembers telling his wife.

So he set out to find one.

The result: a tarp system that can vertically be rolled down to a trailer's sides from a scroll-like position at the middle top of a frame built on a straight or drop-deck trailer. The frame hydraulically raises 3' for bale loading and lowers to secure the load. The tarp's roll mechanism, using a gear reduction system, cranks the roll vertically using just one person standing at the trailer's rear end.

Bale straps are intertwined into the tarps as another time- and muscle-saving feature. Strap ends snap to the tarp ends and wind up into the tarp as it's lifted. When the tarp lowers, the bale straps are within easy reach to hold hay in place.

Schmit had a prototype built, but it left the trailer's front and back exposed. That created a ballooning effect, with wind whipping through the tarp. So he altered his design and an enclosed front will be standard; back enclosure will be optional.

As he was working on the design, Schmit's invention was accepted as a senior project by North Dakota State University's engineering department. Students conducted research and stress tests on it, which helped cut Schmit's development costs.

Now patented and ready for manufacture, his Bale Transport System is already garnering interest from truckers for various reasons. Some want an easier, safer way to protect the hay they transport; others want the flexibility of being able to enclose trailers to safely transport backhauls.

“One guy interested in this hauls hay from North Dakota to Wisconsin.” He backhauls insulation and other lightweight items for a hardware chain and thinks the tarp will help keep such loads in place, Schmit says.

Schmit has shown a video of the system at several hay-related trade shows and has a list of people waiting for the final product.

“I think once a few get on the road and people see how they work, that will help (market the system),” he adds. “It's really amazing. Every time I roll that tarp, it puts a smile on my face.”

For more on the Bale Transport System, fax 701-474-5712, call early mornings or evenings at 701-474-5796 or write Dry-er Hay Co., 9340 Co. Rd. 7, Fairmount, ND 58030.