The Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center and Freight Wing are working with Interstate on the project.
"We've tested the side skirts for the past few years and have seen up to a 5 percent improvement in fuel economy depending upon the route and the speed we're traveling," said Lee Owens, senior vice president of maintenance and facilities for Interstate. "The higher the average speed, the better the performance. We also tested durability - a huge factor for us in deciding which side skirts to purchase. We chose the Freight Wing product because it was more resilient than others we tested."
The side skirts are constructed of durable plastic panels, combined with a flexible bracing system designed to absorb and deflect both ground and side impacts.
Without the EPA grant, Interstate Distributor would be seeing a return on investment of less than two years, Owens said, but the grant cuts that time by a third. "We think it's a great thing that the EPA is stepping up to help companies implement fuel and emission savings technology," he said.
The Aeroflex side skirts reduce aerodynamic drag by preventing wind from hitting the trailer's wheels and axles, said Sean Graham, president of Freight Wing. They have been SmartWay verified and tested to increase fuel economy by 7 percent in independent SAE/TMC J1321 track testing conducted by Energotest 2008.
According to PPRC, the Interstate project is expected to save 1.1 million gallons of diesel a year, over 16 million gallons over the lifespan of the skirts, while preventing 182,633 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Owens said Interstate will continue to outfit its remaining long-haul trailers with side skirts after this project is completed. "We see the future for aerodynamic technologies as a key ingredient for reduction of green house gases and reduction of carbon footprint," he said. "Our plan is to be 100 percent compliant with the CARB mandate as it is presented now."
Another EPA DERA opportunity is expected to be announced in October 2010. Fleets need to work with a non-profit organization, such as PPRC, to apply for funding.