A 10 percent decrease in weight can result in a 6.6 percent increase in fuel efficiency, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Even a slight reduction in weight can translate into thousands of dollars in fuel savings or allow a fleet to increase trailer payload.
For those reasons, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc, a Fortune 500 fleet headquartered in Allentown, Penn., commissioned a study from Lehigh University to look at ways they could save fuel. For the study, Air Products sent a tractor-trailer to the university, which then built a scale model and tested it in a wind tunnel. During the test, one of the engineering students asked why the trailer had air scoops on it. Typically, tank trailers come from the manufacturer with big, long fenders on the front, which allow the trailer to hook up to any tractor and still protect itself from road debris.
Air Products was curious about what would happen if they removed those fenders, so the fenders were removed, and the model trailer was put back into the wind tunnel.
A major reduction in aerodynamic drag. So Air Products decided to remove trailer fenders and instead put fenders on the rear drive axle of the tractor in order to reduce aerodynamic drag but still protect the tank trailer from road debris.
“If you are always mating your own tractors and trailers [as Air Products does], you can eliminate the trailer fenders, which act like big wind catchers and diminish fuel economy,” retired Air Products maintenance specialist Ron Szapacs said. “In a fleet our size, if we can increase the fuel economy by one-tenth of a mile per gallon, we can save well over $1 million a year.”
Changing the fender configuration allowed Air Products to take approximately 140 lbs. of dead weight off the trailer because they had been using aluminum fenders and brackets. They were also able to reduce maintenance costs because they no longer had to tighten the clamps and weld the fenders throughout their life.
Air Products opted to use Minimizer’s fenders made of proprietary composite material with a lifetime guarantee.
While increased fuel economy and the ability to carry more payload were the most significant advantages of removing trailer fenders and installing fenders on the rear of the tractor, vehicle safety and appearance improved as well.
This article was sponsored by Minimizer. For more information, please visit our website at www.minimizer.com.