Being that I am now not only pulling for a new carrier, but also pulling a different form of equipment, I am learning new things along the journey. As exciting and nerve-wrecking as a change to a new carrier can be, finding out new surprises along the way prove my theory that you never really know everything. In case you are wondering, I am now pulling 53’ containers out of the local Southern California rail yard for J.B. Hunt Intermodal as an independent contractor. I am now beginning to realize the subtle differences between containers and dry vans.
When I first alerted my fellow pros that I was going to change carriers, one of the questions brought up was the lack of aerodynamics that containers seemingly present. Of course, as we are all mpg-junkies, this was a great concern of mine. The carrier I was pulling for before had nearly all of their dry vans skirted and were even in the process of installing ATDynamics TrailerTail technology on some of their fleet for testing. Even though the containers I pull are in great shape, you can’t help but to think of their lacking skirts and tails of any kind because of what they have to go through being constantly loaded and unloaded from train buckets. So far this lack of aerodynamics has not posed a great decrease in any of my fuel efficiency numbers.
Part of the equation here is that I am now closing “the gap” when pulling containers. Not having moved my fifth wheel at all from where I was pulling dry vans at, it seems that the gap between the sleeper fairings and the nose of the trailer/chassis is closer due to how the container sits when hooked up. This gap being shorted allows for less resistance and swirling in between that gap, resulting in measurable amount of fuel savings. A lot of my dry van friends that see me with the containers hooked up now ask how I can get it so close. I remind them that the extended fairings on the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution create an optical illusion of sorts, and that there is still an adequate amount of room behind there for swing during turning/backing maneuvers. This led me to want to research this topic a little further, where I was able to find this video from JOST International demonstrating the new Smart Gap System they are developing. This system addresses the problem of gap in real-time by sensing the time it is safe for a gap to close, then space back out at lower speeds when room is needed for maneuvering. Not sure if there are any plans for the U.S., but this looks like one cool trucking innovation!