Hardware Report: Trailer aerodynamics

May 6, 2016
Skirts, tails and even flaps are changing the aerodynamic profile of trailers

A variety of devices, including side skirts and rear-, nose- and front-mounted solutions, that smooth airflow on trailers are widely adopted for their proven fuel savings. “Generally, the aerodynamic devices that are adopted the most are those that are the most durable and least intrusive to the daily operations of a fleet,” says Brian Fanelli, director of sales at Wabash Composites, a business unit of Wabash National.

For their ability to reduce drag and cut fuel consumption, aerodynamic mud flaps are also gaining in popularity.  Eco Flaps explains that the design of its splash guard employs molded, aerodynamic channels to reduce wind resistance, moving air and water through the flap surface with minimal drag while reducing road spray.

According to the manufacturer, in an SAE J1321 test, the flaps cut fuel consumption by 1.75%. Last October, Eco Flaps adds, a coast-down test demonstrated that adding two Eco Flaps to a skirted trailer improved mpg of the tractor-trailer by another 2%.

Fleet Engineers offers a line of Aero­Flap mud flaps in versions for dual and wide-base single tire configurations. The devices are said to decrease drag by letting air flow through the flap and by reducing the vacuum behind the flap to cut spray and vent heat away from brakes. Other Fleet Engineers trailer aerodynamic products include AeroSaver fiberglass reinforced poly and aluminum trailer side skirts, the AeroPan trailer belly panel, and AeroSlipper Quarter Fenders.

Wabash National’s DuraPlate AeroSkirt is constructed in three sections for streamlined installation and repair. The DuraPlate AeroSkirt CX  mounts to the trailer using a proprietary spring-bracket system. The manufacturer notes that the system provides damage resistance by allowing the skirt to flex inward and outward.

The company’s Ventix DRS (drag reduction system) utilizes a segmented system design to manage airflow across the underbody of the trailer. The AeroFin XL tail device, which reduces drag behind the trailer, deploys and retracts with swing door operation. It doesn’t require interaction from the driver and doesn’t interfere with loading and unloading.

Also available from Wabash is its aerodynamic nose fairing. Based on the newly revised SAE J1252 Wind Tunnel Test protocol, the company says its nose fairing provides up to a 1.5% fuel economy improvement in tandem trailer applications. Constructed in three sections to simplify installation and repair, the nose fairing can also be used to reduce aerodynamic drag between the cab and trailer.

Other trailer aerodynamic devices on the market today include Stemco’s TrailerTail. It is said to streamline airflow at the back of the trailer to reduce the low-pressure vacuum that creates rear drag and decreases fuel efficiency without hindering trailer cargo capacity, loading or unloading.

Aerofficent offers multiple trailer side fairing models for use on dry vans and refrigerated trailers, including hinged two-panel designs.  Ridge Corp.,  which purchased Freight Wing in 2013, offers Green Wing aerodynamic trailer side skirts. Utility Trailer provides its USS-120A-4 aerodynamic side skirt.

Backed by data from manufacturers  as well as from EPA, fleets can choose from a range of trailer aerodynamic devices that offer proven fuel savings.

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