NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A recent Confidence Report issued by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) concluded that trailer aerodynamic devices do work, providing fuel savings ranging from 1-10%.
The study looked at three areas of the trailer that present opportunities to reduce fuel consumption: the trailer gap; the underbody; and the rear of the trailer.
“It’s not a case of whether fleets should be aerodynamic devices, it’s more about when is the right time and which ones they’ll add,” said Mike Roeth of NACFE, during a press conference to discuss the results at the Technology & Maintenance Council’s spring meetings.
He also acknowledged the value equation changes as fuel becomes less expensive. Roeth noted that in 2014, fuel represented an expense of about 58 cents a mile in the US. Then, fleets were paying about $70,000 per year on diesel for every truck. Today, diesel represents an expense of about $36,000 a year per truck, Roeth pointed out.
“You need to think about, when you buy equipment, what do you believe fuel prices are going to be in 2020 or 2026?” Roeth said.
In addition to improving fuel economy, NACFE’s study on trailer aerodynamic devices also found these products improve stability, reduce the risk of rollovers, reduce splash and spray and even reduce driver fatigue since the truck often handles better. NACFE also found the reliability and durability of trailer devices has improved.
Challenges related to trailer aero devices include: added weight, complicated testing requirements, variance among product performance, high trailer to tractor ratios, and questions of reliability and durability.
Roeth said trailer side skirts and trailer tails provide an effective combination.
“Almost always, the rear device incrementally adds to the fuel savings from the skirts,” Roeth said.
Trailer aero devices have matured and will continue to do so, the report found. NACFE expects government regulations will scale these technologies, resulting in lower purchase prices.
“Every trailer will benefit from improvements in aerodynamics, but there are no one-size-fits-all solutions,” said Rick Mihelic, program manager with NACFE. “This report reduces the confusion and explains the combinations that make sense for fleets.”
James Menzies is editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies