Fuel Smarts

NACFE: Trailer Aero Products Work, 'Depending'

February 28, 2016

By Tom Berg

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Credit: Wabash
Credit: Wabash

NASHVILLE -- Trailer aerodynamic devices work, but how well depends on the products and users’ operating conditions, says the latest Confidence Report from the North American Council for Freight Efficiency.

The report says fuel economy benefits of trailer aerodynamic devices range from 1% to over 10%, with high ranges claimed by manufacturers and low numbers cited by fleets, said Mike Roeth, NACFE’s executive director, during a briefing Sunday, prior to the opening of the Technology & Maintenance Council’s annual meeting.

Most fleets are choosing a combination of technologies to deal with reducing aerodynamic drag in one or more key areas: the tractor-to-trailer gap, the underbody, and the rear. The report deals with box-type van and reefer trailers, not other types, Roeth said.

Trailer aerodynamic devices reduce drag so it takes less fuel to move a vehicle down the road, especially at higher speeds. And while many aerodynamic devices for trailers have been around for years, cheap fuel has reduced dollar savings and stretched payback periods to as much as 24 months.

But fleets will have to make the investments in aero products because of the upcoming Phase 2 greenhouse gas emission standards, and the current regulations in California, Roeth noted.

This Confidence Report details devices for improving the aerodynamics of the gap, underbody, and the rear, as well as more novel options, such as vortex generators, wheel covers, and mud flaps.

The report describes each device’s unique challenges such as durability, deployment, trailer to tractor ratios limiting miles, a split incentive due to buyers of the aerodynamic devices not always buying the fuel, the ability to measure the fuel savings, and others. The study team found that trailer aerodynamic technologies and strategies are constantly and rapidly evolving.

The options detailed in the report are all currently available on the market today, and most are mature with a good track record of functionality, though they may be more or less economical depending on the specifics of a fleet’s operations. An executive summary and the full report are available at www.truckingefficiency.org.


  1. 1. Jonn Johnson [ February 29, 2016 @ 05:08AM ]

    The trlr aero devices are great in theory. When talking with drivers, one common thread usually surfaces, that being the greater effects of the trlr to cross winds and gusts. Lateral stability with lightly loaded trls is reduced, and on slick surfaces can become treacherous without warning.

  2. 2. Paul Juhan [ February 29, 2016 @ 05:10AM ]

    Aerodynamics works what is a driver use too hard on the accelerator there goes all of your advancement it's not worth the money aggravation or time using this product

  3. 3. Carlton Biggs [ February 29, 2016 @ 05:45AM ]

    just more gimmicks to get politicians to mandate for them to make money

  4. 4. Dennis O Taylor [ February 29, 2016 @ 07:58AM ]

    The difficulty in measuring the benefit is a result of many variables that interact at the same time - such as the changes in payload, weather and seasonal effects, route changes and delays. SAE/ATA standard tests are still the best way to compare, but difficult to implement in an in-service environment.


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