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Trucking companies need every trick to save on costs, and one of the promises of aerodynamic retrofit kits was to reduce drag and raise fuel efficiency. Aerodynamic retrofit kits for trailers generally work in three areas: top front edge (top fairing), rear door area (tail fairings), and underside (trailer skirts). Top fairing controls the air between the cab and the trailer, or between two tandem trailers. Tail fairings fit around the rear doors. Trailer skirt manages the airflow around the trailer axles.
The claims for fuel efficiency varies. SmartTruck claims their full kit (all three areas) can deliver 10% better fuel economy. Wabco claims their skirts and tail fairings can do 8% fuel savings together. ATDynamics' TrailerTail (tm) claims up to 6% fuel savings. Most of the savings are verified by EPA. The tail fairings often cost about $2000 per trailer. The skirts often go for $1000-1500. That means the investment will usually see itself paid off in a year or two.
There are some controversies over the skirts. Being close to the ground, they are the most often damaged portion of the aero package, and repairing them may be costly. Some cities, such as Boston, Massachusetts require them as they provide protection to bicyclists and pedestrian in "right-turn" accidents. On the other hand, there is debate whether the side skirts actually save lives, as they are designed as aero devices, not safety devices.
The aero packages of the future will provide even higher fuel savings. Shell Starship, an experimental big rig just completed a cross-country demonstration trip that yielded 8.94 miles per gallon, and it is extremely aerodynamic, even further than the EPA "SuperTruck II" initiative.
If you operate both tractors and trailers over long routes, you should invest in aero package refits or trailers with them built-in, when you can enjoy fuel savings long-term. However, if you don't have long high-speed routes, then it becomes a bit more of personal choice. No matter which route you choose, Country Supply will help you choose the right trailer for your load and keep them on the road.
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