Fairing pieces are the same as for vans, but brackets are mounted slightly differently to better direct air away from flatbed and tanker undersides.

Fairing pieces are the same as for vans, but brackets are mounted slightly differently to better direct air away from flatbed and tanker undersides. 

FlowBelow Aero Inc., the manufacturer of fairings and wheel covers that control air movement around a road tractor’s drive wheels, says it is now selling a version for tractors that pull flatbed and tank trailers.

And the new AeroKit product saves up to 3% in fuel when used with flats and tankers, versus 2.23% fuel savings on tractors pulling dry van and refrigerated trailers. So said the company’s vice president of sales, C. Bren Marshall, at a press conference on Saturday, during the opening of the American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference & Exposition, held this year in Philadelphia.

The device saves more with flats and tankers because they almost never use any other type of aerodynamic improvers, “and when you start with nothing your results are always more impressive," he said. Box-type trailers commonly use side skirts and rear fairings that already save fuel at highway speeds, so an AeroKit’s results are less dramatic.

Skirts and boat tails cannot be applied to flatbed and tanker trailers because of their basic shapes. And tankers usually are some distance behind the tractor, leaving a long tractor-to-trailer gap where turbulence is produced.

An AeroKit for flatbed or tanker operators differs mainly in how brackets are attached to a tractor’s frame, which adjusts placement of the fairing pieces in relation to the wheels and the trailer behind, Marshall explained.

Indian River Transport successfully tested the AeroKit for tankers and decided to retrofit many of its tractors, FlowBelow said previously. The product for tractors pulling tankers and flatbeds is now generally available. Photo: FlowBelow

Indian River Transport successfully tested the AeroKit for tankers and decided to retrofit many of its tractors, FlowBelow said previously. The product for tractors pulling tankers and flatbeds is now generally available. Photo: FlowBelow

Fairings of an AeroKit fill the space between a tandem’s foreward and rear wheels, and another fairing just behind the rear wheels directs air flow away from a trailer’s undercarriage. Drag-producing turbulence is thus reduced at the tandem and beneath the trailer, where landing gear, crossmembers and other objects otherwise grab the air.

Wheel covers meanwhile block air from entering the wheels’ offset cavity and sends it smoothly past the wheels. Wheel covers are easily installed and removed by push-and-twist fasteners, while an AeroKit can be installed in under 10 minutes and removed in even less time for maintenance or before selling a tractor, Marshall said.

Because AeroKits are applied to tractors only, trailers need no additional equipment that save no fuel when they’re parked. This is important to fleets running drop-and-hook operations that have two, three or more trailers for every tractor, he noted.  

However, a version for trailers has being designed and is now being tested. And FlowBelow is about to close agreements with truck builders for factory installation on tractors. The main advantage to customers is that the devices’ price can be included in a purchase contract and financed along with the truck.

FlowBelow AeroKit fairings are made of durable and flexible thermoplastic polyolefin, or TPO, commonly used in automotive applications. Steel brackets are e-coated and powder-coat painted. Standard colors are black or white, but for a slight upcharge, almost any color can be molded into the fairings, or customers can simply paint them.  

List price for a single AeroKit is about $1,800, but fleets get discounts for volume buys. More than 160 fleets now use 10,000 kits, and Marshall expects the kit number to rise to 35,000 by the end of next year.

Return on investment through fuel savings can be as low as six months in team operations where the tractor seldom sits still, Marshall said. In more normal operations, the payback is about 18 months.

Author

Tom Berg
Tom Berg

Tom Berg

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

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Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.

View Bio
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