Josh Butler, president of aerodynamic device maker FlowBelow Aero Inc., believes trailer axles represent the next big opportunity for his company’s AeroKit units – largely due to the imposition of the Phase 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) rules and their specific fuel economy mandates for trailers.
“We’re not looking to replace [aerodynamic] trail products like side skirts or undertray systems; our device will complement them,” he told Fleet Owner during an interview at the American Trucking Associations (ATA) annual conference in Las Vegas this week. “Our ‘bread and butter’ is managing the airflow around the wheels.”
Butler said the “number one thing” driving interest in FlowBelow’s AeroKits in the trailer market is the GHG rules. “Trailer manufacturers are desperate for solutions [and] it is also the natural direction for us to go,” he noted.
Over the past two years, Butler noted that FlowBelow completely realigned its supply chain in order to meet and exceed the demands of both truck and trailer OEMs as a Tier 1 supplier – adding that the company’s package is featured on the current Freightliner Cascadia Evolution tractor as well as the new 2018 Cascadia model, unveiled last month, and is now also a dealer-installed option for Kenworth’s T680 Advantage specification package.
“Well over” 20,000 trucks are currently equipped with FlwoBelow’s AeroKit package, Butler pointed out, and he’s projecting 50,000 units will be equipped with them by the end of 2017.
Currently, the kit installation “mix” is split 50/50 between factory/dealer new truck installations vs. retrofits. Butler also projects the OEM installation share of that “mix” will jump to 90% over next five years, though “it still makes very good business sense to retrofit trucks,” he stressed.
Bulter also emphasized that the “economies of scale” FlowBelow has developed to provide tandem tractor devices to truck OEMs on a just-in-time basis will make the addition of the trailer market easier to handle, Butler pointed out.
“We’re also already selling a lot of our wheel covers to trailer OEMs,” he stressed. “We know we have the economy of scale and parts supply chain in place to support them.”
FlowBelow also announced a strategic partnership with a Mexican distributor Andromeda Business Solutions S.A. de C.V to distribute its tractor AeroKit package to Mexican fleets at the show, and is expanding its partnership with Quebec-based fleet Groupe Trans-West – originally forged back in May this year – which tested the AeroKit package through Canada’s PIT Group.
Butler noted that, based on the test results garnered from PIT’s research, Trans-West is now implementing a fleet-wide adoption program FlowBelow has now also established partnerships with distributors and dealers in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario to meet demand.
-Kevin Jones contributed to this story