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How to save fuel with improved truck and trailer aerodynamics

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When running a heavy-duty fleet, there’s no such thing as small savings. Even a seemingly small percentage of fuel economy saved can add up to thousands of dollars and be the difference between a profitable fleet and one that lags behind the competition. That’s why a large variety of aerodynamic products are available to help fleets save in small ways. A heavy-duty truck moving at highway speeds is bound to experience a great deal of wind resistance, and mitigating it in any small way can be very valuable. From side skirts and gap fairings to wheel covers and rear fairings, tractor and trailer aerodynamic products aim to reduce drag from wind resistance as a truck heads down the highway and, ultimately, improve the fuel economy of the fleet.

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Before investing in this technology, a fleet has to know whether it’s going to be worth it based on its application. Charles Fetz, vice president of design and development for Great Dane Trailers, explained what a customer’s thought process should be when thinking about aerodynamics: “If I was the customer, I would be thinking about two things. First: Do I have enough time at high speeds for this device? And second: Do I have a suitable application for return on investment without it needing to be repaired or maintained?

“For a lot of trucks running regional- to long-haul application, it’s pretty straightforward,” Fetz continues, “but food service trailers and short-haul vehicles are not buying aerodynamic solutions.”

“Long haul trucks running at 62 to 65 MPH for the majority of the time will see the most benefit,” agrees Andy Acott, sales manager for Laydon Composites. “Slow speed, short runs still see a benefit, but not as much.”

“Although there are a number of devices on the market today, trailer side skirts and low-rolling resistance tires have proven to be most effective, and as a result they are the most adopted by U.S. fleets,” says Brian Fanelli, director of sales for Wabash Composites.

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There are a wide variety of aerodynamic products available for use with tractors and trailers, all with different benefits and features. We asked the makers of each of these products to highlight their uses and benefits, particularly when it comes to fuel efficiency, as all these different products have different savings and benefits to offer.

Heavy Duty Truck Aerodynamics AirTabs

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FlowBelow manufactures the tractor-mounted AeroKit, which consists of quick-release wheel covers and a pair of tandem fairings that work together as a complete aerodynamic system to address the complex airflow around the exposed rear wheels of the tractor.

“In general, the efficiency benefits from aerodynamic devices are additive, so fleets can benefit from utilizing multiple technologies to gain maximum efficiency and savings,” advises FlowBelow President Josh Butler.

Aeroserve Technologies are the makers of the Airtabs, a small device that creates twin vortex trails that combine to reduce base pressure drag or the vacuum that exists at the rear facing surfaces of the vehicle.

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