Truck News


Turning attention to the trailer

In the quest for improved fuel economy, it's always best to pick the lowest hanging fruit. But in many cases it seems the trailer is last to receive attention. This despite the fact the two arguably m...

In the quest for improved fuel economy, it’s always best to pick the lowest hanging fruit. But in many cases it seems the trailer is last to receive attention. This despite the fact the two arguably most proven and effective fuel-saving technologies -low rolling resistance tires and side fairings -can both be applied to the trailer quite easily.

When the US announced its much anticipated fuel economy targets for medium-and heavy-duty trucks last month (see story, pg. 40), trailers, curiously, were not included.

Spec’ing aerodynamic trailers, or retrofitting existing trailers to become aerodynamic, seems like an obvious way to improve mpg. And it’s also a great way to proactively help with owner/operator retention when the widely feared driver shortage again rears its head in the not-too-distant future.

In conversation this month with Sean Graham, president of Freight Wing, I asked him if owner/operator-driven fleets are investing in fairings to help improve the profitability of their O/Os. He said some progressive fleet are, in fact, using aerodynamic fairings as a driver retention tool for owner/ops.

“I have worked with some owner/ operator fleets that have been pretty progressive and have come to us wanting to implement aerodynamic trailers simply as a driver benefit,” Graham says (see story, pg. 34).

Greg Decker is a rare breed of owner/operator who can see the value in technological investments with a proven track record of saving fuel. He shelled out nearly $5,000 for a set of trailer fairings but is on pace to recover that investment in only a year. Trailer fairings represent a great -yet often overlooked -opportunity to lower operating cost s if you’re an owner/operator with your own trailer.

Most fleets already know this -you see evidence of it every day along Canadian highways. And now there’s more good news when it comes to trailer aerodynamics. Just the other day I received a package from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation stating the recently passed Bill 68, the Open for Business Act will include amendments to the Highway Traffic Act to adjust the province’s vehicle dimensions to allow for boat tails. These rear fairings will be permitted to extend up to 61 cm from the rear of the trailer and will not count as part of a vehicle’s overall length, according to the MTO. One manufacturer of these devices says they can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 6%.

Finally, something comes out of Queen’s Park that’s worthy of applause.

Also on the subject of aerodynamic trailers, you may want to check out a new company that you may not have heard of. SmartTruck has an interesting looking trailer under-tray system that can be used as an alternative to side fairings. This may be useful if you’re still having problems with damage or snow and ice accumulation with traditional skirts.

The under-tray system can save fuel by as much as 10% according to SmartTruck. The system is EPA SmartWay-certified and has received rave reviews from companies including Con-way Truckload and PepsiCo. For more info, visit www.

The lowly van trailer seems to have shed its image as just a box on wheels and is now being seen as a lucrative opportunity to reduce fuel consumption and lower operating costs. If you’re not looking at how your trailers can be made more efficient, what are you waiting for?

-James Menzies can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6896 or by e-mail at

You can also follow him on Twitter at

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