Most of the time when I am writing in this space I talk about innovations and technology for tractors. Or I’ll focus on things like what the driver can do to drive in a more fuel efficient manner or the importance of all of us working together to make vehicles more fuel efficient.
From time to time I do talk about trailers because they play a huge role in the overall efficiency of a fleet. We know that pairing an aerodynamic tractor with a non-aerodynamic trailer results in a serious dip in MPG. And at least one of our Run on Less drivers saw the negative impact of this when he had to switch to a non-aero trailer for part of the three-week run as a result of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma that occurred during the Run.
For too long trailers have not gotten the same amount of attention as the tractors, but lately, trailer manufacturers have moved from technology being an add-on to the trailer to making it an integral part of the trailer. Fortunately, trailer manufacturers are researching ways to make trailers more aerodynamic so they can pair better with today’s aero trucks.
Connectivity is a big trend in the industry today and increasingly trailer manufacturers are taking advantage of that trend. Tire pressure monitoring on trailer tires has been an option for a long time, but we are beginning to see other sensors that can monitor what is going on with brakes, lights, etc. Added sensors will give fleets more data about the health of the trailer, which should lead to developing problems being caught and corrected early.
Trailer manufacturers are hard at work looking at ways to make trailers lighter. They are exploring the use of new materials that while lighter in weight will still be durable and tough enough to stand up to the rigors trailers face every day especially given the condition of the roads and bridges. At this point some of the newer materials come with too high a price tag to make them practical, but manufacturers are continuing to explore them for use in the future.
As we all know the Greenhouse Gas Phase 2 regulations for trailers have been challenged and are currently under review. What happens with those regulations could have additional ramifications for trailer manufacturers, but for now they are continuing to explore improvements to their products in response to changing market conditions and future developments like vehicle autonomy.
Better trailers will lead to improved freight efficiency for the tractor-trailer combination and that’s good for all of us.