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Fuel saving trailers

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When a fleet joins the SmartWay Transport Partnership, it makes a commitment to work toward improved environmental and fuel efficient operations. The results generally include a decrease in exhaust emissions, an improvement in shipping opportunities from SmartWay Shipper Partners and a substantial operational cost savings due to a decrease in fuel consumption.

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The first steps most fleets take in fulfilling their new Partnership obligations are changes in the way they want their trucks operated—stepped up driver training aimed at fuel economy improvements, new policies lowering maximum highway speeds and decreasing unnecessary engine idling, or maybe more frequent tire pressure checks—all good and definitely effective changes.

The next move often made is to include SmartWay specs, possibly even the purchase of SmartWay certified tractors, when the next vehicle purchase is scheduled. Some fleets also include green specs for their company service vehicles. If you happen to be in or beyond this phase of your fuel saving activities, don’t forget your trailers.

Trailer aerodynamic technologies used on long haul trucks in highway operations can minimize aerodynamic drag and maintain smooth air flow over the entire tractor-trailer combination. Such devices include gap fairings that reduce the effective distance between the tractor and the trailer to cut turbulence, side skirts that minimize wind under the trailer and rear fairings that reduce turbulence and pressure drop at the rear of the trailer. Studies have determined that the use of such trailer mounted aerodynamic devices, along with an aerodynamic tractor, has the potential to provide an estimated 5% or greater reduction in fuel use relative to the truck’s baseline. This reduces NOx emissions, saves over 800 gallons of fuel annually and eliminates over nine metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Actual fuel savings will depend upon the aerodynamic effectiveness demonstrated by each individual product and how the truck is driven. In-service equipment, of course, can be retrofitted with aerodynamic trailer technologies.

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Proactive trailer design has also been initiated in an effort to save fuel. When Wal-Mart, a SmartWay Partner in both Shipper and Carrier categories, decided to double its fuel efficiency, the company decided to partner with Great Dane for a green trailer solution. The trailer builder submitted four designs to the retailer for consideration. Wal-Mart chose an aggressive drop-frame 12-ft. 6-in. high, 53-ft. long trailer with standard tires, a rounded nose and underskirts that dropped down automatically when the vehicle exceeded 35 mph. The rear section, including sides and top, was tapered inwards and the roll-up rear door was recessed inside the trailer about two feet, resulting in an aerodynamic boat-tail effect without any added length. Comprised of lightweight components, the trailer’s 16-inch drop frame compensated for any loss of cube volume.

Road tests yielded promising results—a 20% reduction in drag and double-digit fuel savings. After some fine tuning of the design, the result is a 13-ft. 6-in. tall 53-ft. trailer featuring a full-length fixed skirt and wide-based single tires. It generates fuel savings equal to the original design. Some of these options, which have already been showcased by Great Dane on experimental trailers for customers like Wal-Mart, are currently undergoing evaluation by the company.

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A number of leading trailer builders offer SmartWay certified trailers through their dealer organizations:

• Great Dane Trailers
• Hyundai Translead
• Manac Inc.
• Stoughton Trailers LLC
• Strick Trailers, LLC
• Trailmobile Canada Ltd.
• Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co.
• Vanguard National Trailer Corp.
• Wabash National Corp.

In addition, many trailer dealers will equip and sell upgraded trailers that incorporate certified SmartWay approved aerodynamic technologies. If you’re interested in decreasing both fuel consumption and emissions, consider a move to SmartWay aerodynamic trailer technologies.

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