The worst thing for your fuel economy is to pull a big rectangular box down the highway.  While this may be the best shape for hauling goods, it is the worst for aerodynamics.  In fact, 65% of the energy used to pull a trailer is used to overcome the effects of aerodynamic drag.  While the trucking industry has been relatively slow to adopt aerodynamics as a whole, the most competitive fleets are reaping the benefits of improved trailer aerodynamics with savings of over 15%. This equates to thousands of dollars per day for larger fleets, and a quick ROI for smaller fleets and owner-operators. 
 

Source: ATDynamics.com

Choosing which aerodynamic technology to implement can be confusing and complicated as there are now dozens of emerging companies offering very similar products.  Customers should be sure to do their homework to make sure the product is:

  1. Proven
  2. Durable
  3. Smartway Verified
  4. SAE Tested 

Here are some key questions to ask when evaluating fuel-saving aerodynamic technologies:

  • How long has product been on the market?
  • How many have been sold to date?
  • Which fleets have already tested and implemented the product? i.e.: Ask to speak directly to current ‘Aero Customers’ and hear feedback
  • What are your SAE-tested, fuel-saving results i.e.: Ask for SAE J1321 verified third-party test results
  • How durable is the aerodynamic equipment?
  • What is the product’s ROI?
Team Run Smart Pro Henry Albert's trailer with the Trailer Tail technology installed. 

Ideally, you’ll find a durable product with a quick ROI that has been SAE tested and installed by top trucking fleets. While skirts are now a popular option to improve fuel efficiency by 4-5%, you should consider installing both a skirt and rear-drag aerodynamic technology for maximum trailer efficiency. It is important to think about the lifespan of the product and the warranty offered. For example, the Transtex MFS (maximum flex) side skirts offer the industry’s longest skirt warranty of seven years.  ATDynamics leads the market in rear-drag aerodynamics with TrailerTail®, which is proven to improve fuel efficiency by over 6% at highway speeds.  When combined with skirts, TrailerTail® will improve fuel efficiency by over 10-12%. This equates to an ROI ranging from 6 to 18 months depending on annual mileage or about 6 cents per mile in savings.  With aerodynamics, the largest variable to consider is mileage and speed. Since fuel efficiency best practice is to reduce speeds, the more miles you travel at highway speeds, the more you will benefit from aerodynamic improvements.  Most aerodynamic technologies will pay off relatively quickly so it’s really a matter of evaluating the technology based on durability, performance and costs to maintain the system.

Finally, ask the aerodynamics supplier you are considering if they will offer a risk-free trial with a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the product’s performance.  With fuel prices expected to continue to rise in the future, you should consider the benefits of aerodynamics now before your competitors do.

Comments (10)

Steven Rodger

MBA in Entrepreneurship and B.S. Environmental Science; Over a decade experience of consulting and advising in the clean energy sector throughout the US and internationally. Recently was awarded GEELA award (Highest environmental award by EPA / California) and advises the North American Council for freight efficiency (NACFE).

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Mark-the biggest "catch" on trailers are the cross members. I know of at least one operation that uses the under tray system and eliminated the cross member problem by filling in between the cross members and have been very successful with that system. Most of us are showing about a 6% difference between a skirted and non skirted trailer-I pull company trailers. I have never used an under tray system.

November 30, 2013 8:50:54 AM

I've run with side skirts on my trailer for years ( its a company requirement as well ) I'm not totally conviencedthatthey do any good. Somehow the logic doesn't make sense. I believe in the undertray system, but thats just my opinion

November 30, 2013 8:31:29 AM

Around 2,300 for a trailer tail from ATD Dynamics and about 1,200 for side skirt like mine from Fleet Engineers

September 26, 2013 22:16:01 PM

Could someone give a ballpark price of things such as trailer tail and skirts? thanks

September 26, 2013 20:06:05 PM

I am using the Smart Truck UT-6 Plus on my trailer, very pleased with it.

August 27, 2013 23:00:36 PM

I have seen close to one MPG improvement since adding side skirts from Fleet Engineers , Nose Cone , Real Wheels aero wheel covers , plated cross members from the side skirts back, custom fit mud flaps for wide base single tires, moved trailer licence plate out of air flow, plated over the rain gutter on the top of the trailer. Now I am anxious to see how much the trailer tail from ATD dynamics further improves my fuel mileage.

August 06, 2013 6:15:17 AM

Jackie your numbers are great! They are well documented and well thought out. Keep up the good work and we will be watching to see how Henry does with his setup.

July 29, 2013 16:14:31 PM

I love my TrailerTail. After it was added to my trailer I saw a 4/10th MPG increase. I run a dedicated run so I am on the same roads, same weights, and same fuel stops. It's easy for me to see fuel mileage gains.

July 29, 2013 11:35:18 AM

I understand that the rivets that hold the shin on the trailer are becoming more airplane like? This also will significantly reduce drag, but this is a manufacturing issue rather than an add-on, of course. Any comments?

July 25, 2013 13:37:43 PM

The trailer matters. Just recently I hauled 2 similar wieght loads from GA and AL back to WI. Both loads weighed just about 45,600 lbs. The one that I carried on the skirted trailer was slightly heavier. I pulled 7.71 MPG on the old trailer and 8.375 on the new trailer.

July 25, 2013 6:52:11 AM