How important is fuel mileage in the trucking industry? According to TruckingInfo.net class 8 trucks hauling cargo in America drove 433 billion (That’s billion with a B) miles in 2006. A 10 % saving in fuel mileage equals a savings of 4.3 billion miles. Class 8 trucks average 6.5 MPG. A 10% reduction would save over 6 million gallons of fuel, and that’s a lot of zeroes when you convert it to dollars.
TKO Graphix has shared several posts on improving carrier fuel economy for example, The Tractor-Trailer of the Future, and 7 Ways to Save Fuel Like a Mother Trucker. Continuing research is steadily delivering new fuel savings options for the trucking industry including improved aerodynamics.
Cutting the Drag
Trailer Skirts – By directing air flow, to eliminate undercarriage drag, skirts not only save fuel but reduce strain on the drive train—it doesn’t have to work as hard. Trailer Skirts Pay for Themselves
Roof Deflector – Adding a roof fairing or deflector improves aerodynamics and drivability. A deflector is an adjustable angled plate while a fairing is three sided. In this post from PART they tell us, “Roof fairings are more effective in crosswind conditions than roof deflectors, which is why deflectors are not used much nowadays; the majority of manufacturers opt to fit fairings. A properly adjusted roof fairing/deflector yields a fuel saving of 5.9% for a rigid vehicle; a saving of 4% can be achieved for an articulated vehicle; and a drawbar vehicle uses 2.8% less fuel with a roof fairing or deflector.”
Trailer Gap – The gap between a trailer and the tractor can make a huge impact on aerodynamics. It may account for as much as 25% of the total drag produced. CCJ gets to the heart of the matter—tractor trailer gap creates a vortex, which causes friction reducing fuel economy. The challenge is designing an aerodynamic solution that can articulate or move with the tractor and trailer. Several solutions are in the works.
TrailerTail – Trailer tails save fuel by reducing the trailers rear drag. In this CNET post, TrailerTail Reduces Drag Saves Fuel and Looks Funny they explain, “The TrailerTail may look like a giant piece of unfinished origami, but there is a lot of thought behind the design. The panels are made from reinforced thermoplastic and the system can be deployed in just 4 seconds. It delivers on fuel economy by reducing the trailer’s rear drag. That also translates to lower emissions, always a nice bonus.”
Mud Flaps – Aerodynamically designed mud flaps reduce drag by directing air flow through slotted vents.
The trucking industry will need to continue to improve fuel mileage; As fuel supplies become more expensive and eventually dwindle, alternate fuels, driving habits, and aerodynamics will take an even bigger role in the industry. If you’re a truck owner we’d like to hear what you’ve done to improve aerodynamics and how it’s affected your fuel mileage. If you’d like to read further on this topic check out this post from Overdrive. Don’t let poor aerodynamics drag you down.