Bevy of aerodynamic products for trailers unveiled at TMC

TAMPA, FL. To help fleets meet strict trailer fuel efficiency mandates established by California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) at minimal cost, a variety of aerodynamic device providers revealed a range of new and enhanced products for the trucking market here at the 2012 Technology & Maintenance Council’s annual meeting.

ATDynamics introduced a new variation of its TrailerTail aerodynamic rear fairing device called “RollTail,” designed specifically for those fleets using dry van trailers equipped with roll up doors. The company said over half of the top 10 for-hire and private fleets use dry van trailers equipped with roll-up doors and that total trailers with said doors number around 500,000 in the U.S. currently.

At a press conference here to introduce the RollTail, Andrew Smith, ATDynamics’ founder & CEO, said the device weighs 160 lbs. and that its 16-in. panels automatically retract when a trailer backs into a dock bay – only differing from the TrailerTail in that the RollTail device has no bottom.

He added that the RollTail’s panels are made of clear polycarbonate with UV treatment to remain clear, keeping top clearance marker lamps visible and legal, yet stay flexible enough to be pulled out of the way in the event of an accident or failure so access to the trailer’s cargo isn’t inhibited. Smith noted the device can be added to straight trucks as well that are equipped with dry van cargo bodies using roll-up doors.

The RollTail lists at $1,599 and ATDynamics is now taking orders for summer delivery, largely as retrofits. Smith noted that ATDynamics is in talks with OEMs about factory-installed options. However, the device only helps roll-up trailers improve fuel economy by 4 to 5% at 62 mph as determined by SAE Type II J1321 testing and CARB rules require 5% and above fuel efficiency gains to be in compliance with its standards for trailers.

Solus Solutions & Technologies noted at its press event that within its menagerie of trailer aerodynamic devices are seven versions of a “split skirt” configuration that offers fuel savings exceeding 5%, yet allow for easy access to the undercarriage of the trailer.

The split skirts include 8 in. of static ground clearance, while its flexible skirt panels offer 20 in. of total ground clearance and weigh less than 200 lbs.

Solus has also created a wheel cavity cover using NASA’s deep cavity flow control technology. The cover allows unlimited access to the lug nut and axle oil lube level without removing the device while providing 1.3% in fuel savings, the company said.

Andy Acott, sales manager for Laydon Composites Ltd. (LCL), which makes tractor roof fairings and trailer side skirts, stressed during his meeting with the press that fleets operating 53-ft. dry van and refrigerated trailers in California are searching for a “cheap and cheerful” product that meets CARB’s regulations while minimizing cost.

To that end, LCL has developed two inexpensive side and undercarriage fairing options for fleets: the Hybrid 248 for intermodal trailers and “The Curve,” which is a 129 lb. “wishbone” underside fairing that starts as a single fairing underneath the trailer then splits in two to “flare out” and cover the rear axle assembly.

The key feature of the Hybrid 248 fairings is that they are set 8 in. inboard from the trailer side rail, so the tongs of intermodal cranes don’t damage them when loading and unloading said trailers from rail cars. They attain 5% fuel economy savings, Acott noted, and cost about $800 to $895 per set, although he cautioned that the prices vary based on volumes, dealer stocking charges, and do not include installation costs.

“The Curve” also attains 5% fuel economy savings, he said, and typically costs about $700 to $795, though again pricing is subject to a variety of market conditions and does not include installation.

“We see the biggest market for trailer aerodynamic devices in the next few years being driven by the retrofit needs in California,” he explained. “We’re really going after the retrofit market with the ‘Curve’ product.”

Finally, SmartTruck unveiled a new UT-1 low-cost device that it’s adding to its “Under Tray” line of aerodynamic systems for trailers. The UT-1 is about $400 cheaper than its popular UT-6 system as it is comprised of fewer components and only affects the underside of the trailer, noted Mitch Greenberg, SmartTruck’s president, during a press conference.

“The key with our UT-1 system is that it’s ‘scaleable’ for a fleet,” he explained, meaning that if fleets want, they can add the roof and sidewall fairings to build it up to a UT-6, which can improve trailer fuel efficiency up to 10% versus the UT-1’s 5.5% savings.

The UT-1 is a two-component design that can be installed by one person in less than one hour, while not only improving fuel efficiency but improving airflow and cooling for temperature sensitive tires and brakes. Additionally, the UT-1 System provides significant ground clearance to avoid everyday road and loading facility obstacles and challenges, Greenberg said.

“The new system uses the same aerodynamic design approach as our UT-6 system – by using the airflow around the trailer to reduce the high-drag, low-pressure wake behind the trailer,” he noted, pointing out that the “sweet spot” for reducing drag is to align the rear end of the UT-1 device approximately 21-ft. away from the trailer’s axles.

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