DRIVE WHEEL FAIRINGS

The aerodynamics associated with rotating tires and wheels are complicated by many factors. Drive wheel fairings mounted between and behind the drive wheels of the tractor streamline the airflow around the rotating tires and direct airflow as it leaves the tractor. They provide a net benefit to the fuel economy of the vehicle, and are often used in combination with wheel covers on the tractor for a higher net benefit. Fuel savings for these devices are estimated to be about 2%.

It is also believed that these devices improve appearance and help reduce water spray.

Benefits

Due to lower drag

If designed as one integrated system can improve vehicle appearance

Challenges

Historically, add-on aerodynamic features for tractors incurred a higher initial cost. This is still the case for some of the optional devices

Need to be maintained and can impact ability to maintain other components

Add a measurable amount of weight

  • Can make it difficult to install snow chains
  • Add extra steps when trying to access other chassis components

Can interfere with air flow

Tractor Aerodynamics

What Fleets Are Saying

“We continue to update our fleet with more fuel efficient post-2014 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission compliant engines, install aerodynamic devices on our tractors, and equip our trailers with trailer blades, which all lead to meaningful improvement in fuel efficiency.” — Knight Transportation

“Appearance and detail of our equipment means a lot to our drivers. Drive wheel fairings don’t just save us money, but our drivers like them too.” — Brad Pinchuk, Hirschbach

“Sleeper tractor aerodynamics have been finely tuned by all OEMs. Eliminating various features can add 10% to a fleet’s fuel expense,” — Chief engineer at a major truck builder.

Decision-Making Tools

The Confidence Matrix has been issued to help fleets make decisions about tractor aerodynamic devices.

Conclusions

  • Fleets should use the standard, optimized aerodynamic packages developed by tractor manufacturers and should not remove aerodynamic options that are included in the base model. Depending on the features removed, fleets will see as much as a 10% decrease in fuel efficiency.
  • Tractor and trailer heights should be matched for as many miles driven as possible as the fuel economy reduction from mismatched heights is in excess of 10%.
  • Fleets operating day cab tractors should pursue greater adoption of tractor aerodynamics than is common today, as many day cabs operate at highway speeds during nearly all of their duty cycle, where aerodynamics can offer as much as 13% gain fuel efficiency. Even day cabs operating in start-stop city driving will see savings from certain aerodynamic technologies.
  • Tractor manufacturers should design and make available aerodynamic features for day cab tractors as the industry migration to shorter hauls will likely result in more day cabs seeing significant highway and interstate miles.
  • Aerodynamics have not been fully developed for all day cab configurations, including natural gas, and the tractor manufacturers should develop and release these components.
  • Alternative fueled vehicles including battery electric and hybrid electric are subjected to the same aerodynamic forces as diesel-powered vehicles. Manufacturers need to keep that in mind as they design these alternative fueled vehicles so they are optimized for aerodynamics. In addition, manufacturers of add-on aerodynamic devices need to begin work on adapting their products so they can be used with alternative-fueled tractor.
  • Future EPA and NHTSA Greenhouse Gas regulations will challenge tractor builders to continue to improve the aerodynamic drag of these vehicles in excess of what has been demonstrated in the Department of Energy SuperTruck I and II programs. OEMs should start planning for this today, as the lead time required to design new models is significant and can be costly.

Manufacturers

FlowBelow