NASHVILLE. The new patented “T-Dolly” from Silver Eagle Manufacturing that will be on display here at the 2015 Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) annual meeting features an automated “telescoping” that will automatically deploy at highway speeds of 45 mph and higher to close gaps between combination trailers for improved fuel economy.
Gary Gaussoin, Silver Eagle’s president, explained that the “only reason” to have a large gap between combination trailers is to make sharp turns at low speeds.
“Just think of how little you turn the steering wheel at highway speeds to change a lane; there is a very small steering angle in those situations,” he said.
Closing the gap between combination trailers at highway speeds helps reduce aerodynamic drag, providing a fuel efficiency boost of 2.5% to 3.5%, according to TMC Type IV modified fuel tests as well as field trials Silver Eagle conducted with United Parcel Service (UPS), Gaussoin (at right) noted.
The dolly’s connection to the vehicle’s ABS system allows it to calculate road speed, he added, closing the gap automatically at 45 mph and above while opening it back up at 40 mph and below; totally shutting off the dolly’s telescoping system at 5 mph and below.
Silver Eagle first began working on the T‐Dolly concept back in 2007, with UPS field testing several iterations in regular “feeder service” between Portland, OR, and Everett, WA.
The final version of the product provides several benefits in addition to fuel savings, Gaussoin stressed – acting as a “shock absorber” to help “stabilize” trailers better at both low and high speeds along with “wiggle‐free tracking” to reduce trailer “whip” during highway operation.
Right now, the T-Dolly costs about $4,500 more than Silver Eagle’s non-telescoping dollies – meaning its price tag hovers around $14,000 compared to a standard dolly.
Company engineers noted, however, that the fuel savings potential of the T-Dolly should help fleets achieve a return on investment (ROI) within 3.5 years of operation.
And Gaussoin stressed, too, that his company’s long-term goal is to reduce that price difference down to $3,000.
“We really thing being able to automatically close and open that combination trailer gap makes solid business sense,” he said. “We believe it’s an open and shut case.”