We’ve been at this a long time

Mike Weaver, a member of the Facebook Group 9+ MPG Club, had an interesting post the other day. It was a picture of a truck from 1986 called The Phantom, an aerodynamic concept vehicle.

Seeing the photo got me to wondering how long the trucking industry has been working on improving the aerodynamics of over-the-road trucks. Mike pointed me to some background information that I found interesting.

It seems that Donald Herpel, one of the original engineering members of Ford’s Aerodynamic Group, was a big believer in the important of aerodynamics. So much so that he quit his job in 1976 to start a company that would help him “realize his dream of revolutionizing truck aerodynamics with durable life-time components.”

Who knows, maybe work on aero trucks started even before that. But as we discovered in our Confidence Report on Tractor Aerodynamics, we’ve gotten to the point where the flagship tractor models from the OEMs have been extensively optimized for aerodynamic performance at the complete vehicle level to provide the best performance.

In addition, a lot of work has been done on trailer aerodynamics with fleets adding things like nose cones, skirts, under body devices, tails, etc.  In fact in our recent Fleet Fuel Study, the majority of fleets have skirts on nearly 100% of their trailers. This is one aerodynamic technology that has shown rapid acceptance in the past five years.

The most interesting thing out of all of this for me is that it shows the commitment of the trucking industry to improving fuel efficiency. For at least the past 40 years (possibly longer) we’ve been working on improving the aerodynamic efficiency of tractors and trailers.

Something tells me that 40 years from now we will still be tweaking things to try to get that extra one-tenth, one-hundredth or one-thousandth of a mile more out of whatever fuel is powering the nation’s fleet.

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