FlowBelow Aero Inc. says that Swift Transportation Co. will immediately begin deploying thousands of Tractor AeroKit systems in its fleet. They’ll go on existing equipment and new purchases.
“Here at Swift we are laser-focused on implementing new technologies that are economical and proven to improve safety, fuel efficiency, and driver comfort,” said Bert Kinsel, vice president of heavy equipment procurement. “Over the years we have refined the specs of our trucks and trailers to optimize the air flowing around the vehicle and reduce drag as much as possible.
“Many aerodynamic products for trailers exist today, and we certainly utilize those that work well for us," he continued. "But because we operate over three trailers for every one truck in the fleet, meaning that our trailers are utilized approximately one-third as much as the tractors, the return on an investment for a trailer-mounted technology can take a lot longer than a comparable technology installed on one of our trucks. FlowBelow’s system only needs to be installed on the tractor. The best thing about it is that it makes an impact on every mile we drive.”
FlowBelow kits improve fuel economy on Swift’s tractors by a “solid 1.5%,” Kinsel said. The payback comes in 24 to 26 months, which is why retrofits will be done on tractors that have at least 30 months of service remaining in the fleet. They’ll be bought on new tractors as well. Swift currently runs Freightliner, International, Kenworth, and Volvo tractors.
Swift first began testing Tractor AeroKits in 2014 and subjected them to an extensive evaluation process. After completing initial SAE fuel efficiency tests against a control vehicle, the fleet deployed 100 AeroKits for nine months to further test the product’s durability, ease of use, and real-world fleet average fuel efficiency performance. The AeroKits proved worthwhile, and the initial large-scale deployment through 2017 is expected to account for approximately 40% of Swift’s company trucks.
A Tractor AeroKit reduces aerodynamic turbulence and drag around the rotating wheels of the truck, FlowBelow says. The system includes four quick-release wheel covers for access to hubs and lugs; the covers have a patented push-and-turn quick-release latching system. Four fairings are placed between and behind the drive wheels of the truck.
At speeds above 40 mph, the system claims to be highly effective at reducing drag and horsepower required to move the rig. Citing multiple third party test results, FlowBelow claims fuel savings of up to 2.23%.
An AeroKit complements trailer aerodynamic devices, allowing a fleet to capture all available fuel savings from aero improvers across the entire vehicle, FlowBelow says. The product was introduced in 2013, and is now available as a factory-installed option on Freightliner and Kenworth trucks. Retrofit installations take as little as one hour, and account for over half of FlowBelow’s business.