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January 2012
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Tractor Trailer Aerodynamics

By Karina | January 2, 2012

I drove to Ohio and back again this weekend with my partner and the little dudes to ring in the New Year at Aunt Kate with my partner’s aunts and uncles – and on the way, cruising on Rt 80, there were a few tractor trailers with lots of modifications. I’ve seen many of them before – the gap closures and the trailer skirts – but for the first time we saw a trailer with an added back that narrowed down – to smooth the air as it goes around the trailer and to reduce drag.

All of this got me interested in how, exactly, people were improving the efficiency of these tractor trailers.

Apparently, there are four major places where air drag can slow down these vehicles and waste fuel:

So it makes sense to evaluate some simple fixes to improve the drag. And apparently it’s also a USEPA initiative called SmartWay, which is a program to implement, measure, and track the effectiveness of these options, offer grants, and help to sift through the techologies available.

For example, to reduce tractor trailer drag, there are the following options:

Some of these fuel efficiencies don’t look like much, but when you consider that over the course of the year, you can save thousands of dollars on fuel costs using these retrofits, it looks a lot better. For the owner-operator of a truck, that might represent profit or needed repair funds where there was little before as they tried to keep up with escalating gas prices. For the fleet owner, that might make the difference between expansion or contraction of their fleet. One manufacturer estimates that the advanced trailer end faring would be paid back in fuel savings in six to twenty-four months.

And you know, even if the environment isn’t the first thing on the minds of the long haul trucker (or fleet owner), moving goods is a necessary in this culture we’ve got, and I’m so excited that these retrofits are available to make this kind of transportation a little greener.

What kind of crazy aerodynamic mods have you seen out there on the road?

Topics: Transportation | 2 Comments »

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Comment by Condo Blues
2012-01-03 15:40:47

My parents had a travel trailer. My dad rigged a removable DIY version of the fin/roof gizmo for our van when we traveled with the camper for better gas mileage. It looked a little strange but apparently it worked.

2012-01-04 12:22:58

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