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Making trailers more efficient

Feb. 23, 2012

One recent trend that only amplifies in intensity year after year is the drive to make trailers – especially dry van models – more efficient pieces of equipment, especially when it comes to improving their aerodynamic profile.

Indeed, boosting the fuel savings potential of dry van and refrigerated trailers is a law in California, and while the federal government so far isn’t including trailers within the borders of its soon-to-go-into-effect fuel efficiency rules for heavy and medium duty trucks, we might not have to wait very long if a variety of different groups get their way.

Aside from the debate over whether imposing fuel efficiency mandates on trailers is a good or bad thing, one inescapable fact remains: making trailers more efficient in terms of aerodynamics can save fleets a lot of money, if they run enough miles at highway speeds. And to that end, a variety of companies are providing different ways to attain those savings.

ATDynamics, for example, recently unveiled a new product at the 2012 Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) annual meeting to help fleets using trailers equipped with roll-up rear doors an opportunity to boost the fuel efficiency profile of such units.

It’s also worthy to note that the companies providing devices and systems designed to boost the fuel savings potential of trailers aren’t standing still in terms of product improvements, either. Laydon Composites Ltd. (LCL), for one, is using a new composite formulation for its new Hybrid 248 trailer side skirts, one that boosts the material’s strength by about 40% compared to what it previously used for its products.

Another angle several aerodynamic system companies are exploring is not just how to redirect the air flowing in and around the trailer to reduce drag and thus fuel but also how to focus the cooling effect of such air to potentially help extend the life of trailer tires and braking components.

In the end, such “air cooling” might not result in much where trailer tires and axles are concerned; then again, it’s not something that’s been studied long term, thus significant potential benefits may indeed exist.

Of course, making trailers more efficient isn’t all about improving their fuel economy profile, for there are many maintenance and repair issues that need to be addressed continually as well. That’s where a new product developed by Phillips Industries and unveiled at TMC could provide some help.

It all goes to show that every piece of equipment in trucking’s arsenal is getting an efficiency review these days, especially since the cost of diesel fuel only seems to keep trending upward. Indeed, no penny can afford to be wasted in the freight business these days.

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