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Roeth: No more skirting the trailer skirt issue

Aug. 16, 2023
Why aren't more fleets using trailer skirts? The aerodynamic devices can reduce a tractor-trailer's fuel costs by up to 5%, according to NACFE.

In some cases, the overwhelming presence of something makes you notice its absence. This happened to NACFE's Communication Director Denise Rondini on a recent trip to Ohio. When she returned, she mentioned that during the road trip, she noticed many van trailers had skirts, which got her wondering why all van trailers didn't have skirts. Good question.

In California, skirts on van trailers have long been required, and while some weren't happy about it at first, several things happened that made skirts an obvious choice.

Here's what happened. Manufacturers quickly produced skirts that were low-weight, low-cost, and durable. In addition, they were saving fleets money.

Skirts prevent wind from getting under the trailer and are most effective when they extend from the landing gear to the front face of the front trailer axle and are as low to the ground as possible. NACFE Confidence Report on Trailer Aerodynamics found that trailer skirts offer from 1% to more than 5% fuel savings over trailers with no skirts.

See also: Roeth: Don't delay dabbling in new technologies

The success of skirts is shown in NACFE's Annual Fleet Fuel Study, which had an 80% average fleet adoption percentage when it came to skirts. The 2022 study revealed that 15 fleets, operating 75,000 trucks, saved $540 million in 2021 compared to the average number of trucks on the road. This was from deploying various fuel efficiency technologies and practices, but trailer skirts were one of those technologies with a high adoption rate.

While trailer skirts may have been initially mandated in California and for a time were part of the EPA's Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas plan (the trailer rule was subsequently dropped), the technology has proven to be a real money saver for fleets investing in it.

With diesel prices once again on the rise, now seems to be the perfect time to consider van trailer skirts so you can take advantage of fuel savings that most fleets have already been enjoying. It's time to stop skirting the issue of trailer skirts and make the investment so you can start improving fuel economy.

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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