Let’s face it. Fuel prices probably aren't going to decrease anytime soon, so we might as well try to figure out every way possible to save on fuel costs. Besides having an efficient engine, reducing aerodynamic drag is another way to significantly reduce fuel costs - which could mean the difference between a profitable run and the break even point.
Aerodynamic drag is the wind resistance that pulls energy from your truck and uses that energy to consume fuel. With proper truck aerodynamics you can reduce drag and save as much as 15%- 20% on fuel costs.  If you drive 130,000 miles per year and pay $4 per gallon fuel you could be saving upwards of $13,000. That's a lot of hard earned cash to keep in your pocket.
So how do you become more aerodynamic? It’s all about creating more efficient air flow (which decreases the amount of fuel required.)
Here are our tips to save on fuel by becoming more aerodynamic.

  1. Reduce your speed (over 55 mph aerodynamic drag is the top consumer of energy) 
  2. Move the trailer as close to the cab as possible—less than 48” is optimum3 Arrange the load on a flatbed trailer to make air flow smoother
  3. Spec aerodynamic mirrors
  4. Spec roof fairings and chassis fairings
  5. Match your sleeper package to the application (ex: a flatbed or tank should use a flattop sleeper)
  6. Spec air cleaners under the hood
  7. Use low rolling resistance tires—spec SmartWay certified tires
  8. Keep your gross vehicle weight as light as possible (even if you make up those savings with heavy loads, you’ll greatly improve your fuel economy per pound of cargo)

If you follow these tips to becoming more aerodynamic, you’ll be thinking less on the cost of fuel, and thinking more about the ways you can spend your extra hard earned cash.

Comments (20)

Bill McClusky

I have been in the trucking and construction equipment service industry for 23 years as a service technician, component rebuild specialist (engine, transmission, and axle), service department manager, instructor and consultant. I was a class 8 truck driver for 3 years pulling wet and dry tanks. I have been with American Truck Business Services for 4 years serving as a Business Consultant, Maintenance Consultant, and Instructor.

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I have a 2008 Volvo VNL670, I see a lot of these trucks have rubber "gap reducers" (sorry, I don't know the actual term for this part) at the back of the tractor. The trailer is pulled in pretty close to the cab, but I think the "gap reducers" would help with aerodynamics even further.

May 28, 2015 21:32:29 PM

does anyone use wheel covers?

May 28, 2015 21:22:36 PM

Anyone trying to save fuel may also consider flow-through mud flaps for both tractor and trailer. Using these all around can give you a 2.5% gain in MPG. Some other things you should try to minimize on in a quest for better fuel economy are minimizing throttle-play in between gears as well as learning to judge the top of the grade, as to allow yourself to coast under your own momentum over the top.

November 18, 2012 20:32:21 PM

I currently pull a grain trailer (we call them hopper bottoms or belly dumps around here) and I have a 57" gap between the back of the sleeper and the nose of the trailer when hooked to one of these. The gap is only 36" when I'm hooked to a dry van, due to placement of the kingpin on the trailer.

I also have a stationary 5th wheel, which cannot be moved up any further due to weight distribution requirements and the State's bridge law. Short of frame shrinking, is there any way I can bring the trailer closer, or better yet, could I use AirTabs to minimize the turbulence caused by this gap?

October 13, 2012 19:24:56 PM

I also fitted my truck (2002 Columbia) with "skirt" lugnuts, I do not know if these things made a fuel saving difference, but it sure got rid of wheel vibration

September 27, 2012 0:05:17 AM

I purchased Airtab for my tractor at the end of April, 2008. I installed them on May 1.
I have noticed that in the windy conditions of California, where the wind comes from the front at an angle, the truck is more stable than before. The vision is better in the sense that the rain is deflected away from the trailer, allowing for better mirror visibility. The 'tabs' on the lower fairing actually keep the wheels cleaner as well. Oh yes, I almost forgot, these results where achieved running Oregon, Washington and California, where the speed of the vehicle is substantially lower than in other states, AND the trailers that we pull are not the standard 13' 6' trailer but the 14 foot high trailers.
These figures are based on the numbers as collected by Market Transport. For the 3 months before fitting Airtab:
Dispatched miles: 32,268 fuel: 5,338.2 gal MPG: 6.04
For 3 months with Airtab: Dispatched miles: 30,809 fuel: 4,802 MPG: 6.41

For ALL those disbelievers out there: these are reports that were extracted from the company computer, and is NOT just wishfull numbers 'manipulated' by an owner operator.

September 27, 2012 0:03:29 AM

Trying to be aerodynamic pulling a flatbed has always been challenging. I just try to make the best out of z sometimes bad situation. When running the midwest, I'll choose a low profile load, even if it weighs more than the taller loads. Low profile loads seem to be better. But when running west threw the mountains, the weight of the load effects my fuel mpg more. In a perfect world, I'd be pulling a light, low profile load everyday

September 23, 2012 19:39:38 PM

Jim- That is correct. It keeps you from "winding it up" every time you run through a gear. If you are someone who goes to high RPMs before shifting, this will take some getting used to. Stick with it. Don't give up. You get used to it after a while. The toughest time with it is when you are taking off up hill with a heavy load but even that can be overcome. Good luck.

September 11, 2012 20:55:14 PM

I didn't know you could turn on progressive shifting in your computer. How does that work? Limit your RPMs in each gear?

September 11, 2012 16:56:06 PM

For the DD15, Detriot Diesel engineers reccommend a rear axle ratio of 2.47 or 2.53 for optimum fuel economy. And always spec a horizontal exhaust vs a vertical exhaust, this will save you approx. 115 lbs

September 11, 2012 9:07:20 AM

Understanding the amount of money that fuel costs all of us, is a good reason to start looking at aerodynamics and our tires,gear choice, and transmission. When our costs of transportation have risen at a rate that exceeds our yearly profits, it's time to reconcider the vehicle used to deliver the product. I have found that by slowing down your truck's top speed by 4 mph will save you 4 tenths of a mile per gallon.I set my trucks to 68 mph from 72 mph and saw some incredible fuel mileage increases. My drivers do complain about " passibility " with the governed speed at 68 and I do understand that. I want to program my new Freightliners to utilize the "Pass Smart" feature, which allows the driver to have a higher top speed for a limited time per trip. What a great feature.

August 25, 2012 19:21:05 PM

I have slowed to 57mph, kept my trailer 18 inches from rear of sleeper, turned on progressive shifting in my trucks' computer, turned down the trucks' horsepower setting (among other things) to achieve a mpg average of over 8 mpg out of a 1999 Freightliner Classic. Soon I will be converting my exhaust system to a single stack behind the sleeper from the OEM dual stacks in front of the sleeper. After that the next step will be to convert outside air filters to under the hood. The hunt for 9 mpg is on!

August 21, 2012 7:41:32 AM

I have done everything possible short of purchasing the tank fairing for my truck. I've got the Series 60 14 liter Detroit and was wondering if the savings would be worth the cost. The Fairing will cost over 4 grand installed and color matched. And i'm told will only give me a 1percent gain in fuel mileage. If that's all i'll see it will take about 5 years to pay for the fairings, and this wouldn't be worth it. Does anyone know for sure?

August 20, 2012 8:47:20 AM

I will not do anything lower than the 65 I'm already doing.
I'm already upset with my carrier about being a "rolling roadblock", I have no desire to be doing 55 while cars are doing 70+... No thanks!

August 18, 2012 17:13:32 PM

I wanted to add, my tractor has no "skirt" fairings, 750,569 miles. I keep my truck- trailer gap as close as possible. I was hoping to see 6.8/6.9, but... Baby steps, a tenth here, a tenth there. Thanks for the pointers, Henry

August 06, 2012 19:01:11 PM

Following a suggestion Henry gave to me at the Expedite Expo, I reduced my speed from 65 to 62, on this trip from Columbus, Ohio to Dallas, Tx. I normally average (per telemetry on the Qualcomm box) from 5.9- 6.3 MPG, adjusting my speed took me to 6.7 MPG. Three miles an hour made a noticeable difference.
I am a company driver, my tractor is a 2007 FL Columbia, 435 c-15 Cat, 10 speed manual, 445/50r22.5 wide based singles ( thanks Henry!) with 3.36 rear ratio.
I'd figure 3.36 would be a little better at the pump. But as Henry talked about, there are quite a few more factors to it.
As long as it doesn't drive me bananas, I may try 62 another trip or 2.

August 06, 2012 18:56:27 PM

Tire alignment is huge for savings. Trailer skirts seem to help also. Wondering if skirts on tractor would help, like the ones on the new cascadias i have a century.

August 03, 2012 21:04:12 PM

This makes a huge difference and I have gone as far as moving the trailer license plate to improve my "aero" package. More on this later on my blog at this site.

July 27, 2012 18:00:05 PM

Great information. A great way to understand the energy required to move a class 8 truck through the air at 60 mph is to try and hold up a 4'by 8' sheet of plywood vertically in a 20 mph wind and then multiply that by 6. Takes a lot of energy.

July 26, 2012 14:27:06 PM

A few other things to consider might be edge rounding, tire alignment, skirts, or air dams. Great advice!

July 26, 2012 12:01:49 PM