Aerodynamics research steps up

From the April 2015 issue.

Even though suppliers in Europe and the US continue to see huge potential in the aerodynamic optimisation of semi-trailers, uptake in the industry is still patchy. Now science has committed to bringing more transparency to the market.

The question of how to best manipulate the airflow around a truck and trailer combination has divided the transport equipment industry for almost a decade now and led to the formation of a whole new market segment that is solely dedicated to challenging the common conception of trailer design.

With Stemco’s acquisition of US company ATDynamics – which has long pioneered the trailer tail movement in the US – and even more conservative European companies like Jost and Wabco jumping on the bandwagon at the last IAA Show in Germany, the debate is picking up pace once more at the moment.

But consumers in both regions are still skeptical as to whether the use of drag reduction devices will actually generate a measurable Return Of Investment – especially since most of the research that is publically available has been financed by those who benefit from selling them.

That’s why a San Francisco-based team managed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Senior Scientist, Kambiz Salari, stepped to the plate to find out just how efficient the different technologies for sale really are. Salari’s team conducted a survey of 256 US fleets and found that five per cent of them are currently using a gap reduction or boat tail device, while four per cent have tried trailer skirts to reduce fuel consumption.

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