Farmer invents trailer hitch improvement

John Thompson • Updated Sep 1, 2019 at 8:35 PM

ELIZABETHTON — American farms have historically been fertile ground for practical inventions. From the cotton gin to the mechanical reaper to balers, farms have often been the reason why the U.S. Patent Office has issued new patents.

Randy Colbaugh is a new part of that proud tradition. He is the inventor of the universal PTO hitch to make it easier and safer for farmers to transport equipment like mowers and balers over public roads from one farm to another.

Colbaugh certainly saw the need for his invention. He is a Carter County farmer with 60 dairy cows and a 100-head beef farm. To get the corn, hay and other resources for his herd, Colbaugh rents parcels of farm land in Carter, Washington and Sullivan counties. That means he almost daily has to transport farm equipment on public roads from one location to another.

Farmers usually transport their tractors and farm equipment by pickup truck, by means of a trailer hitch. Colbaugh said one problem is in securing the power takeoff shaft. He knows from personal experience. Like so many farmers, he used to secure his PTO shaft by means of baler twine or wire. He has experienced the frustration of arriving at a destination to find that the shaft has fallen out. That led to the motto he uses for his invention: “don’t put your faith in a piece of twine, with our new hitches you’ll arrive just fine.”

Colbaugh envisioned a hitch with a connection to secure the PTO. He described his solution to Bill Gentry, owner of General Machine and Tool Company in the Watauga Industrial Park. Colbuagh said Gentry quickly saw the value of his idea.

The difficulty in designing such a device was that the angles would have to adjust for such things as dips, bumps and railroad crossings. The invention would have to be flexible enough to negotiate these difficult angle changes without causing damage to the PTO.

“You have to get the lengths and the angles exactly right,” Colbaugh said. The process took three months.

The next step was to patent the device. Colbaugh said he enlisted the help of a patent attorney. He found out that no one had ever designed such a device for a pickup before. He now owns the patent to the hitch.

Colbaugh is proud of his accomplishment. He said he did not finish high school but now he is preparing to go into business selling his invention. Gentry is his partner and manufacturer of the product.

For more information, contact Colbaugh at 423-791-4610 or email universalptohitch@gmail.com.