The vehicle OEMs have been working hard to make the tractor-trailer rigs as aerodynamic as possible. But, the drivers, especially owner-operators, continue to want a couple of other things in their rigs.
In places where there remains a distinct possibility of hitting an animal, owners want their tractors protected from the damage caused by a direct hit to a deer or moose. Google “moose guard for tractors” and you will see a wide spectrum of images of tractors that might have been aerodynamic when they came off the production line, but are not anymore. The cost of a hit to the front of the vehicle is only going higher, as the OEMs develop custom grills with actuators for closing them, aerodynamic headlamps with actuators for redirecting light to avoid blinding oncoming drivers, cameras for replacing mirrors, and radar systems for collision warning. OEMs would do well to add some research dollars to making the front of the vehicle more forgiving in a frontal accident as well as the money they spend to avoid accidents. Detecting an animal coming from the side of the road is a very difficult proposition.
The second thing that is needed is a way of “dressing up” the vehicle. Fleets around the world, large and small, want their vehicle to loudly say something. We have contests for the best looking vehicle, which often involves adding additional lamps that are not aerodynamic, chromed pieces that add weight and disrupt the air stream, and fancy paint schemes or vehicle wraps. In addition to, or possibly instead of, the PKY Truck Beauty Championship at MidAmerica we should have a show that combines both looks and aerodynamic performance. We could start with an additional category for show trucks that rewards both great looks and aerodynamic, fuel saving design. Reward what we want as an industry because you get what you reward.
Instead of rewarding aerodynam-no, let’s reward aerodynamics and fuel savings.