A Big Opportunity with Trailers

Folks are optimistic about trailer sales this year. At least the folks at FTR, a company that provides transportation intelligence, are. They said we entered 2016 with the biggest trailer backlog ever and they expect trailer sales — especially van trailers and reefers  — to be quite good this year.

I think this gives those of us who are concerned about improving trucking efficiency a chance to get ahead of the upcoming Greenhouse Gas Phase 2 requirements that starting in model year 2018 will apply to trailers.

When you purchase a new trailer you have the opportunity to improve the overall fuel economy of the truck that pulls it. We all know that trailers contribute to carbon pollution emissions and to the truck’s overall fuel consumption.

Some items you can put on your new trailer are practically no-brainers. Think tire inflation systems. One of the first Confidence Reports we did was on tire inflation and monitoring systems. It’s no secret that a tire underinflated by just 10 psi results in a hit to fuel economy of .5% to 1%. Spec’ing your new trailer with ATIS seems pretty obvious to me.

And speaking of tires, low rolling resistance tires are another good option. One of the conclusions of our Confidence Report on low rolling resistance tires was that If tire rolling resistance accounts for about one-quarter to one-third of truck fuel consumption, a 5% rolling resistance improvement would produce a 1.3–1.7% improvement in fuel economy. As the name implies, low rolling resistance tires decrease rolling resistance and therefore increase fuel economy.

The next obvious place to look for efficiency improvements on trailers is with aerodynamic devices. I’ve been noticing that lots of fleets have made the investment in skirts for their trailers.

All of those things are great, but there are lots of other technologies that should at least be looked at and considered. We will provide information on many of them in our Confidence Report on trailer aerodynamics that we will publish at the end of February.

My point to all this that 2018 is not all that far away and that is when the EPA standards are expected to kick in, but as far as I am concerned it’s never too early to think about how trailers can get us to that 12 mpg goal we are working toward for heavy-duty trucks.

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