Scaling Cleaner Freight Movement

Aerodynamic Devices Improve Trailer Airflow

Adding aerodynamic devices such as nose cones, skirts, under body devices, tails, etc. to the generally boxy trailers can improve fuel efficiency.

The higher the speed the more effective these devices become. An obstacle to their adoption is that most fleets have multiple trailers for each tractor limiting the miles driven per year and increasing the payback time.

There is significant data showing fuel savings for the various trailer aerodynamic devices. The priority for device adoption by fleets is skirts, tails, front, and then other devices. Devices have matured and will continue to improve. Skirts have become lighter, less expensive, and more robust improving their payback. Other devices are maturing but need continued development to improve their total cost of ownership.

There are some unique challenges with trailer aerodynamics. These include the trailer-to-tractor ratio, the fact that the purchaser of the aerodynamic device is not the one buying fuel, and the fact that some devices need driver intervention.

Trailer Aerodynamics

What Fleets Are Saying

The overall perception of the savings offered by trailer aerodynamics is positive. “They are really effective devices now,” one fleet owner said.

Fleets stated that aerodynamic device construction, design, and materials have all vastly improved in the past five to seven years. They have become lighter and more robust.

Some fleets feel that drivers have become more accustomed to having aerodynamic devices on trailers and when combined with fuel economy incentive programs, actually appreciate having them.

Fleets were uniform in stating that the devices should “require no driver intervention.” One fleet owner said, “Any statement that starts with ‘All the driver has to do is…’ should be questioned.”

Fleets have been investing in trailer skirts as their first choice for aerodynamic improvements. However, now having done that they are looking at the next steps and are debating the merits of tails versus other options.

What People Are Saying

Data shows that trailer aerodynamic devices help fleets save fuel. The priority for device adoption is side skirts, rear devices and then gap.

– Rob Ulsh, vice president, dealer and international sales, Great Dane Trailers

Decision-Making Tools

NACFE has developed several tools to help fleets make their decision about trailer aerodynamic devices. The Confidence Matrix, informs fleets of NACFE’s confidence in the technology being studied vs. the payback the fleet should expect to receive from the technology.


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