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Aerodynamics present dynamic sales opportunity

Lucas Deal March 5, 2014

Maximizing fuel economy is a major goal for fleets in today’s trucking environment.

Diesel prices have more than doubled in the last decade, and even with a subtle slide in the latter half of 2013, today’s diesel prices are still nearly a dollar higher than they were before the recent recession.

With current prices approaching $4 per gallon, fleets have recognized diesel fuel is simply too valuable to waste. As a result, fleets nationwide are aggressively searching the marketplace for products and strategies to help improve fuel economy and save money.

One area where this can be seen is the rise in popularity of aerodynamic trailer products.

Aerodynamics has been a significant factor in tractor body designs for decades. But maximizing the aerodynamic properties of a combination rig takes more than just front end improvements.

The trailer matters, too.

“The most aerodynamic shape is the teardrop, with a wide front end that becomes slender in the back, but with today’s trucks pretty much everything is reversed,” says Natalie Melomed, senior business analyst at VorBlade. “A lot of work has been done on the tractor but not the trailer.”

Recently that has started to change.

Today’s marketplace now includes a multitude of products designed to improve freight efficiency and fuel economy by eliminating trailer drag. For the aftermarket distributor focused on providing comprehensive solutions, these products are becoming must-have items.

One of the earliest aerodynamic products to debut in the commercial truck market was the trailer side fairing. Commonly known as side skirts, these products are long flat panels that attach to the underside of a box or reefer trailer, minimizing air movement under a trailer on the move.

Paul Hegdahl, business development manager Ridge Corporation, maker of both the Freight Wing and Green Wing side skirts, says his company’s products reduce drag under the trailer by minimizing the amount of air hitting the trailer’s rear axle when in use.

Melomed says her company’s VorBlade works as a small scale vortex generator strategically placed on the roof of tractor and trailer. As the tractor drives down the road, air is pulled into the VorBlade and shifted to create a stable vortex of air contrails. Melomed says this stabilizes the trailer against head winds and cross winds and minimizes drag.

At ATDynamics, CEO Andrew Smith says his company has zeroed in on minimizing the low-pressure center created behind a box trailer to improve fuel economy with its Trailer Trail product. Smith says ATDynamics’ product is affixed to a trailer door or frame, and opens automatically when a vehicle reaches a certain speed, creating an artificial tail similar to the back end of a teardrop.

Mitchell Greenberg, chief commercial officer at SmartTruck Systems, says his company’s under tray systems also are engineered to combat the low-pressure center behind a truck. By pulling from under the trailer into the area behind the trailer doors — bypassing the rear axle in the process — SmartTruck is able to increase the energy found behind the truck and reduce trailer drag.

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