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The quest for fuel mileage

We bought our current truck in August 2007. When we picked this truck up we were told it should get 7-7.5 US mpg. I did not think that was practical so I planned on averaging 6.5 US mpg. We were very ...


AERO TRAILER: Greg Decker pulls a Utility trailer with Windyne Flex Fairing side skirts he retrofitted last year.
AERO TRAILER: Greg Decker pulls a Utility trailer with Windyne Flex Fairing side skirts he retrofitted last year.

We bought our current truck in August 2007. When we picked this truck up we were told it should get 7-7.5 US mpg. I did not think that was practical so I planned on averaging 6.5 US mpg. We were very disappointed by only getting a 5.76 average ($79,000 in fuel) after the first 118,000 miles. This prompted an immediate desire to improve the fuel mileage.

The first step was purchasing Air-Tabs and Eco-Flaps for the truck and trailer. I did not believe the claims from these manufacturers for big fuel economy gains but I did see the other benefits including reducing road spray and less snow accumulation in the trailer gap and on the doors. We also switched to synthetic oil in the engine with the knowledge that the side benefits of reduced engine wear would outweigh any potential fuel economy gains. We then switched the truck from Michelin XDN2 tires to Bandag Fuel Tech Retreads and the trailer to Michelin XT-1 Tires. These changes improved our fuel mileage average to 5.93 US mpg for the next 134,600 miles. I was still not satisfied, so I began researching trailer fairings.

I spent approximately nine months researching aerodynamics as I was convinced that fairings were nothing more than an aerodynamic device. When I started my research I knew basically nothing about aerodynamics except that the smoother something was, the better airflow you could expect, so our trucks have always had a full fairing package to cover the fuel tanks and batteries. I spent countless hours reading aerodynamic studies from organizations such as NASA and some other organizations. I do have to admit that reading aerodynamic studies is a perfect way to put yourself to sleep!

From this research I knew that the best possible outcome would come from covering as many of the airflow hindrances as possible (ie. landing gear, fuel tank, tool box and spare tire).

With this in mind, I reduced the list of fairing manufacturers down to two: Windyne Flex Fairings and Laydon Composites. I was in Toronto, so I went to Laydon Composites and examined their design and saw the benefits, but the drawbacks were that I would lose my tool box and have to reorient the tire carrier (to be oriented with the trailer length and not sideways as is common) to allow access with the wheels slid back and then have to climb under the trailer to get my spare tire out. This did not thrill me at all.

The bigger effect was going to be the financial impact that if I slid the wheels back, I was going to open up a gap between the fairings and the wheels, thereby negating a substantial portion of my potential fuel mileage improvement. Since we are SmartWay partners, I found Windyne on their Web site and contacted them. Windyne was conducting a “meet’n’greet” on the US Eastern Seaboard so I arranged to meet their truck and representative so I could examine their product. I was blown away. The fairings slid with the wheels, flipped up against the trailer allowing under-trailer access and in my opinion, the aesthetics were excellent.

We talked price with Windyne and the US$4,600 was definitely a sticker shock. But I have learned my lesson that you are better buying quality once instead of “cheap” multiple times. I was concerned that I would not get Windyne’s SAE Type II savings of 6.86% so I planned on getting a 5% improvement when we purchased the fairings.

The fairings soon proved that 6.86% was too low and I was experiencing an 8.94% improvement.

Since then, I have begun sharing my “real-world” experience with the industry and media.

Using my 8.94% savings, fairings reduced our fuel bill by $1,753 in the last three months (July 1-Sept. 30).

Since I saved $1,753 in my last quarter, the savings on an annual basis have risen to approximately $7,000 from $4,400 last fall. This has reduced the payback time to about nine months. This is at the current price of diesel and who actually expects it to stay at this level and not go higher?

Greg and Dannelle Decker Triple Decker Transport Ltd.


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