Swift Transportation plans to begin equipping FlowBelow Aero Inc.’s Tractor AeroKit tandem axle aerodynamics package on its company trucks, with the initial deployment of the kits through 2017 expected to account for approximately 40% of the TL carrier’s company trucks.
“Over the years we have refined the specs of our trucks and trailers to optimize the air flowing around the vehicle and reduce drag as much as possible,” noted Bert Kinsel, Swift’s vice president of heavy equipment procurement, in a statement.
Swift maintains a fleet of more than 18,000 trucks and 60,000 trailers – operated by 16,000 company drivers and 5,000 owner-operators – along with a network of more than 40 full-service terminals across the continental U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
“Many aerodynamic products for trailers exist today, and we certainly utilize those that work well for us,” he said. “But because we operate over three trailers for every one truck in the fleet, meaning that our trailers are utilized approximately one-third as much as the tractors, the return on an investment for a trailer-mounted technology can take a lot longer than a comparable technology installed on one of our trucks.”
Kinsel emphasized that because FlowBelow’s system only needs to be installed on tractors, “it makes an impact on every mile we drive.”
Swift first began testing FlowBelow’s Tractor AeroKit in 2014 and after completing initial SAE fuel efficiency tests against a control vehicle, it deployed 100 of those kits into its fleet for nine more months of testing before deciding to install them fleet wide.
Citing multiple third party tests, FlowBelow claims the Tractor AeroKit is verified to provide up to a 2.23% fuel savings.
Josh Butler, FlowBelow’s CEO, told Fleet Owner that when motor carriers the size of Swift begin installing such aerodynamic devices fleet-wide, “it’s a big deal because it represents big change in the industry.”
He added that, “it’s a sign of a bigger shift. They are a very sophisticated operator that conducted significant control tests – 100 trucks for nearly a year. Not many fleets can invest in that kind of testing.”
And while Swift isn’t the first fleet to adopt FlowBelow’s AeroKit, their sheer size “helps set the direction to where the industry goes” in terms of installing tractor aerodynamic devices, Butler noted.
“Fleets are still going to test our product – they want to make sure the [fuel] savings are there,” he added. “But this [Swift’s adoption] is a big milestone for us.”