Much of the ad­vanced world is seek­ing sav­ings by re­duc­ing trailer drag and an op­por­tu­nity to do more ex­ists here, as Aero­trans shows

Much of the ad­vanced world is seek­ing sav­ings by re­duc­ing trailer drag and an op­por­tu­nity to do more than is done at present ex­ists here

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS R OB M CKAY

Aus­tralia is one of the world’s great truck­ing suc­cess sto­ries, with trailer in­no­va­tions, par­tic­u­larly as re­lated to Per­for­mance-Based Stan­dards, one area the coun­try is recog­nised as a global leader.

Road trains are also seen as a heavy-duty pro­duc­tiv­ity mar­vel that would be picked up else­where if na­tions that would gain from them could get past their own red tape and vested in­ter­est.

Much of this progress has ar­rived through cre­ativ­ity driven by need and bright minds, and much more could still be done if our own in­er­tia and bu­reau­cracy could be shifted out of the way.

In­deed, and per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, Aus­tralia is home to an in­ter­na­tional trailer aero­dy­nam­ics equip­ment man­u­fac­turer and in­no­va­tor in Aero­trans Aus­tralia, based in Rowville, Victoria.

Mostly the in­dus­try play­ers have been keen to take on ideas that al­low them to steal a march on com­peti­tors and make them at­trac­tive to ex­ist­ing and po­ten­tial cus­tomers, of­ten brav­ing the some­times bizarre and sur­real world of ve­hi­cle and road com­pli­ance for years be­fore be­ing able to hit the road with new con­cepts.

So it is some­thing of a co­nun­drum for some in­dus­try ob­servers that trailer aero­dy­nam­ics strug­gles as a pop­u­lar av­enue to run­ning ef­fi­ciency and cost sav­ings. It’s not as if ex­ten­sive re­search on the sub­ject over decades has not been un­der­taken for trail­ers and even the most ca­sual ob­server of the truck man­u­fac­turer’s art will strug­gle hard to avoid de­scrip­tions of ta­per­ing and wind-re­sis­tance re­duc­tion strate­gies even for some­thing as blunt as a cab-over.

Nor is the north­ern hemi­sphere with­out sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est and in­vest­ment among fleet- own­ers in trail­ers de­signed to be as dra­g­less as pos­si­ble. The AirFlow Star­ship shows the lat­est US think­ing on the con­cept

Two years ago, ATN re­ported on British su­per­mar­ket chain Waitrose, a fleet- owner in its own right, and its work on ef­fi­ciency per­for­mance of its trail­ing equip­ment.

“We be­lieve in the prod­uct cat­e­gory and con­tinue to de­velop the prod­uct.”

This had got to the point that it could jus­tify the cost of fit­ting less cargo into lower-roofed trail­ers with drag-low­er­ing de­sign as­pects, given on sav­ings en­joyed in the rest of the driv­ing and distri­bu­tion task.

Re­search by the US En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA)-backed SmartWay part­ner­ship, with its list of ver­i­fied body tech­nol­ogy, in­cludes re­sults for skirts, tails, gap re­duc­ers, un­der trailer de­sign and splash guards.

This is not to say noth­ing has been done. Aero­trans Aus­tralia has seen progress its busi­ness through an on­go­ing fo­cus on in­no­va­tive aero­dy­namic so­lu­tions. Through its bran­d­line busi­ness, Aeroz-Prod­ucts, it of­fers Fuelscoop and NoseCone to all sec­tors of the mar­ket.

It has found that many fleets, which in the past spec­i­fied NoseCone, have de­vel­oped to now use roof-mounted Fuelscoop, and Full Aero­dy­namic Kits.

Fur­ther to stan­dard roof mounted Fuelscoop, the Aeroz-Prod­ucts range now in­cludes new roof mounted prod­ucts for rigid re­frig­er­ated trucks. Re­cent tri­als by PFD con­firmed a 12.2 per cent fuel sav­ing from Fridgescoop 4 Small Trucks, and they now have added this to their stan­dard truck spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

Fuel-Skirts have been avail­able within the Aeroz-Prod­ucts range since de­vel­op­ment for a suc­cess­ful trial with Toll and Wool­worths, where Fuel-Skirts were com­bined with our longer cab ex­ten­der kit for Mercedes Benz Ac­tros.

Recorded re­sults of this trial were 7.8 per cent fuel sav­ings in ad­di­tion to the per­for­mance gained from the stan­dard Mercedes Benz OEM aero­dy­nam­ics that was re­placed with the Fuelscoop Full Aero Kit.

“The mar­ket seems to have de­vel­oped over our 29-year his­tory from noth­ing with NoseCone as an op­tion, to NoseCone be­ing the base re­quire­ment, with those more aware of aero­dy­nam­ics mov­ing to Fuelscoop,” Aero­trans Aus­tralia MD Nigel Fletcher tells ATN.

“Be­yond this, in­creased aware­ness leads op­er­a­tors to fit Full Aero­dy­namic Kits, in­clud­ing cab ex­ten­ders.

“Aero­trans Aus­tralia con­tin­ues to de­velop its stan­dard prod­ucts and is work­ing on a range of new ini­tia­tives to of­fer lo­cal and overseas fleets with ad­di­tional ways to re­duce fuel con­sump­tion.

“In Aus­tralia, the ‘slip­pery’ na­ture chal­lenge for the trailer starts at the cab due to the size of gap be­tween truck and trailer [in cab-over ap­pli­ca­tions]. Tri­als of a com­bi­na­tion of prod­ucts have con­firmed fill­ing the gap goes ‘ hand in hand’ with de­vel­op­ing the trailer aero­dy­nam­ics.

“We have con­cep­tual pro­pos­als based on our 29 years of IP that will pro­vide huge sav­ings by means of more ‘slip­pery’ trailer. To be­come a re­al­ity, it will re­quire for­ward think­ing within the in­dus­try and small changes in trailer de­sign.’’

But de­spite hav­ing what ap­pears a com­pelling story to tell the lo­cal in­dus­try, the com­pany is fac­ing a cer­tain in­er­tia, not­with­stand­ing hav­ing just com­pleted its best year fi­nan­cially.

But Fletcher is not de­terred.

“We be­lieve in the prod­uct cat­e­gory and con­tinue to de­velop the prod­uct and are cur­rently de­vel­op­ing open­ings in ex­port mar­kets,” he tells ATN. “A cou­ple of trailer man­u­fac­tur­ers are work­ing on pre­par­ing trail­ers to more eas­ily of­fer the Fuel-Skirts op­tion for clients. Fur­ther to this, Aero­trans Aus­tralia has much broader trailer ini­tia­tives with po­ten­tial sav­ings well be­yond Fuel-Skirts alone.”

RE­SEARCH

Aus­tralian in­ter­est in trailer aero­dy­nam­ics has been around for decades but mostly in aca­demic cir­cles, and much re­search has cen­tred on Mel­bourne in­sti­tu­tions.

It is pos­si­ble to go back to 1986 to find Royal Mel­bourne In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (RMIT) re­searchers tak­ing to wind tun­nels

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