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
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.”
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