For Class 8 tractor-trailers traveling at highways speeds, an estimated 53% of the energy their engines create goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag, according to the Department of Energy. The resistance is mostly generated by pressure differences in the gap between the cabin and trailer and under the vehicle, as well as the trailer wake.
This phenomenon worsens in the winter, as the Canadian government found their nefariously low temperatures can increase drag by 20%.
To combat these issues, Mesilla Valley Transportation (MVT) is factory installing Michelin’s Energy Guard aerodynamic solution to its 53-foot trailers. The New Mexico-based carrier, which ranks No. 83 on the 2019 Fleet Owner 500 list of the largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada, has saved 10 gallons per 1,000 miles, or nearly $4,000 annually per trailer, with Energy Guard.
"The company buys over 1.5 million gallons of fuel every month, so fuel savings have a major impact to our bottom line,” said MVT CEO Royal Jones. “Saving 10 gallons of fuel every 1,000 miles is strategically important when you have a fleet of 1,500 trucks and 5,000 trailers.”
The kit requires zero driver-interaction and was designed to be ultra-durable to reduce maintenance.
“Trailer skirts are susceptible to damage, particularly when maneuvering in trailer yards and approaching loading docks,” Jones said. “Obstacles and debris can cut and tear them to the point that they need to be removed. The Energy Guard solution addresses this reality with a clever bracket design that can flex both inward and outward.”
MVT had previously tested the drag-dropping add-ons earlier this year, yielding 8.7% fuel savings (at 65 mph), bettering Michelin’s previously touted 7.4% saving.
“The Michelin Energy Guard aerodynamic kit has the potential to be a game-changing solution for fleets,” Daryl Bear, lead engineer and chief operating officer of MVT Solutions.
The SmartWay-verified kit comprises five components attached to the side and back of the trailer:
- Trailer Skirt: Hanging from the sides of the trailer, these impact-resistant panels made from fiberglass-reinforced polymer control airflow and will bend over objects and snap back to form.
- Sliding Brackets: These flexible fasteners hold the skirt panels in place.
- Trailer End Fairings: Located on the sides and top flush with the end of the trailer, the three fairings combine with the skirt to direct airflow around the trailer to reduce drag.
- Wake Reducer: The rear-facing spoiler, two slim pieces that attach to the doors, increases pressure on the back of the trailer to reduce the recirculation zone behind the trailer
- Aerodynamic Mud Flaps: The hexagon-patterned louvers direct road spray and debris downward, as opposed to kicking through the openings. This doubles as a safety feature, as it also improves visibility for other motorists driving by on a wet road.