Transtex LLC of Indianapolis, Indiana, is in negotiations to acquire the assets of Greenville, South Carolina-based trailer aerodynamic system supplier SmartTruck, Heavy Duty Trucking has learned. A notice appeared on the Transtex website on Feb. 15, indicating the two companies are in discussions.
“Transtex, leader in the development and manufacturing of aerodynamic solutions, and SmartTruck are pleased to announce they have executed a letter of intent related to an agreement for Transtex to purchase from SmartTruck its assets related to Class 8 trailer aerodynamic systems, specifically the TopKit. …. SmartTruck will continue to deliver products to its customers until such time as Transtex is able to step in without interruption,” the statement reads.
Transtex confirmed to HDT in an interview that the two companies are talking about an acquisition.
“Transtex has established a letter of intent to buy out the assets of the business,” said Todd McGuire, vice president of sales at Transtex. “We are going through our due diligence right now. If the due diligence goes well, we will acquire all of the assets in March of 2019 and SmartTruck will be Transtex.”
When we contacted SmartTruck, representatives indicated they were bound by terms of a non-disclosure agreement and could not comment.
A SmartTruck insider, close to the business but since relieved of his position, told Heavy Duty Trucking that the owner of SmartTruck, Oak Hill Capital Partners founder Robert Bass, decided around Thanksgiving to close the company and sell off the assets. He said several executives had departed the company as early as Jan. 15.
SmartTruck produces several trailer aerodynamic devices, including the UT-6 undertray trailer bogey fairing for which the company cited 2-6% fuel savings, and the TopKit roof and trailer side kits, which the company said offers 4-6% savings.
“The TopKit is our focus right now, so the letter of intent is on the TopKit,” said Transtex's McGuire. “The other devices remain to be seen as to whether we acquire them or not.”
SmartTruck and Hirschbach Motor Lines of Dubuque, Iowa, recently settled a lawsuit filed by Hirschbach, which alleged that the UnderTray product did not live up to the supplier’s claims. That case was settled out of court; the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
PIT Group (Performance Innovation Transportation) of Quebec, Canada, tested the UnderTray product in 2013 and found it delivered substantially less savings than advertised. Track tests by PIT Group found undercarriage trailer systems offered by SmartTruck and other makers improved fuel economy by no more than 2.2%.
SmartTruck responded to that test with a third-party computational fluid dynamics study conducted by CD-adapco, which it said showed SmartTruck’s UT6 trailer aerodynamics system reduces drag by more than 10%, translating into highway fuel savings of approximately 7%.
However, the SmartTruck source, who did not wish to be identified, told HDT that more recent tests conducted in June 2018 revealed similar results. Said the SmartTruck source: “It didn't test well in a wind tunnel." In CFD testing it worked fairly well, and in coast-down tests it was zero. In June, as tested again by PIT, the results were 1.87% rounded up to 2%.
“The TopKit package, on the other hand, did quite well, testing to nearly 6%,” the source added. “When the [UnderTray] results came in, [SmartTruck] stopped production, stopped shipping product, stopped everything.”
Transtex did not offer a comment on how much of SmartTruck’s business the letter covered.
“The letter of intent was signed by both parties on Feb. 15, and if the due diligence goes well the closing will be next month, so this will all go fairly quickly,” said McGuire. “This will be good for Transtex, as it definitely fills a void in our product range and it should be good for the customers of SmartTruck to be able to take advantage of our synergies of both being aerodynamics leaders.”
Transtex offers aerodynamic trailer products such as the Edge Tail automated boattail device and aerodynamic trailer side skirts.
Customers looking for information on SmartTruck are directed by a notice on the SmartTruck website to contact McGuire at (413) 214-8822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.