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With fuel prices rising slowly, the world of transport is looking for measures in which to try counteract their rising annual costs. Engineers are working vigorously to try create everything from the cleanest burning engine, to a super bio fuel worth using and how aerodynamics and other small fixes can help this growing problem.
I have investigated some of the areas which I feel will be the most cost effective measures to use for the fleet haulage companies.
These measures are :
- Trailer technology
- Tire technology
- Driver Training
- Serviceable Parts
- Diesel Tank Caps
- Regular Cleaning
Aerodynamics is the way in which gasses interact with moving bodies. Any object that passes through air reacts to aerodynamics. The gasses we encounter mostly is air. Aerodynamics is primarily surrounding the forces of drag and lift, which are caused by air passing over and around a solid body.
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Engineers apply the principle of aerodynamics when designing many different things, such as vehicles, buildings, bridges and even things like soccer balls. The main engineering would be around the design of cars, trucks and aircrafts. The study of aerodynamics for aircrafts is called aeronautics and is primarily based around the fundamental design of a flying aircraft through the earth’s atmosphere. However, the aerodynamics I am investigating is the aerodynamic design around a haulage fleet.
If you can create a perfect or close to perfect aerodynamic design or modify an existing item to become more aerodynamic, there are huge savings to be made in fuel and overall money.
The aerodynamic upgrades which will be a huge factor to fuel saving measures are :
- Cabin Top Wind Deflectors
- Cabin Rear Side wings
- Truck Side Skirts
- Trailer nose cone
- Trailer Side Skirts
- Trailer Roof Fairing
- Wing Mirrors
- Wheel Covers
- Mud Flap Design
Cabin Top Wind Deflectors
As the nearly all truck fronts are large flat areas, when a truck is driving it is faced with a high level of friction. This friction causes increased fuel consumption due to the air not being able to pass around the ‘block like’ surface. With aerodynamic technology the reduction of such friction is possible.
The cabin top deflector is mounted just on top of the cabin ,this deflector is placed high enough in a way that the air after hitting the face of the truck, pushes upwards and is dissipated over the truck by the deflector. This deflector also helps the air pass over a trailer if being pulled by a truck, and is available in fixed or adjustable height options.
Cabin Rear Side wings
At the rear of a truck cabin normally lays a trailer that the truck is pulling, however between the truck and the trailer there is gap of roughly two-three foot. This gap is there so both the truck cabin and trailer will not come into contact when turning or reversing, but this gap has a negative effect on the aerodynamics of a truck. This gap can cause turbulence and substantial friction from the air hitting the face of the trailer, which in turn has a force against it.
With technology, cabin side wings have come into play and have helped this problem massively. These wings are fitted to rear vertical corners of cabin and help push the air past the gap and down past the trailers body. This technology hugely reduces the effects of drag.
Truck Side Skirts
Truck side skirts are another aerodynamic feature that improves force against the truck. Side skirts are positioned as low to the ground as possible in order to prevent the force of the air from pushing under the vehicle, also in this case cover the truck tires from friction too.
These sides skirts are mounted onto either side of the trucks body, from the back of the cabin to the front of the wheels.
Trailer Nose Cone
A trailer nose cone is a bubble like device that can be attached to the front face of an artic trailer. This nose cone is curved in such a way that the air glides over and around the trailer. This nose cone is an aftermarket product and can be made to fit any type of artic trailer. Another benefit of this is the improvement of trailer stability due to the lack of pressure hitting the face of the trailer.
Trailer Side Skirts
Trailer side skirts are becoming more common in recent years. These side skirts can be made from light metal sheeting or plastic, however for optimum benefit the plastic side skirts work best. Not alone can these side skirts reduce drag and to reduce wind resistance massively, which reduces fuel costs, but they are a safety feature. In the event of a car crashing into the side of an artic trailer, if the trailer is fitted with side skirts the car will be prevented front going under the trailer in most cases.
Trailer roof fairing
A trailer roof fairing is a strip of reinforced fiberglass attached to the rear end of the trailers roof. This technology directs the air to travel smoothly around the back of the trailer. This fairing significantly reducing the vacuum pocket that can form behind the trailer during haulage, in turn you can pull the trailer with power required. Some companies even claim that this product can have a 4% increase in overall mpg.
Wing mirrors are the most protruding part of any vehicle, they may not have a large are area but they still are a factor which causes drag. With research and testing, engineers have come up with stream lined covers for existing wing mirrors and designed new wing mirrors for future vehicle manufacturing.
Nearly all truck wheels have a deep ‘dish’ like effect, with the wheel nuts deep inside the wheel itself. When people think aerodynamics, they really would not think about the type of wheels under each vehicle in their fleet, however with testing, it has been proven a ‘wheel cover’ can reduce your fuel costs from between 1.5-2.5%. This percentage may seem low, but if you think over the pace of a year and by how many vehicles your fleet has.
Wheel overs are easy to fit and are easily detachable to get at the wheel itself. They are made of a light plastic material with metal clips to attach onto the wheels rim. The covers come in at a low cost, so your overall savings would be worth it.
Mud Flap Design
Very like wheel covers, when people think aerodynamics very little people would consider mud flap design to be anything to take into account. Originally mud flaps were a tough material that were fitter for purpose and nothing else, however now with the testing of trucks in wind tunnels and the like, mud flaps are showing up as an effect of drag, that before people wouldn’t have considered.
New designed mud flaps have slots/vents cut of them, this way mud, stones and debris will be stopped from flying up from behind the vehicle but they will also allow the air the go through them. This new technology will reduce drag.
Pictures from all aerodynamic technology’s below
Cabin Top Wind Deflectors Cabin Rear Side wings
(kudauk, Unknown) (Murphy, 2017)
Truck Side Skirts Trailer nose cone
(Priden, Unknown) (Nosecone, 2016)
Trailer Side Skirts Trailer roof fairing
(illinoisautothermoking, Unknown) (Aerotechcaps, unknown)
Wing Mirrors Wheel Covers
(Kudauk, unknown) (Aerotechcaps, unknown)
Mud Flap Design
Aerodynamic upgrades may be the answer for existing trailers in your fleet, but what about if you are buying new trailers, are you going to buy the same type trailer and have to add the aerodynamic parts to them or think about a different style.
A company called ‘Don-Bur’ have engineered a high quality aerodynamic trailer called the “The Don-Bur Aerodynamic Teardrop” this trailer has been a major success and a massive change to the haulage industry.
The trailer is engineered into the shape of a teardrop, this streamlined shape has been proven to have a large effect on decreasing fuel costs in haulage fleets. The design improves the turbulence caused when a conventional trailer is traveling at normal speed, however these turbulence cause drag which effects the fuel consumption of the vehicle.
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Aerodynamic technology can save a haulage fleet up to 50% of fuel consumption, mostly at cruising speeds. As the speed of the vehicle increases, aerodynamics becomes more of a contributor. This is the main reason Don-Bur wanted to create the ultimate aerodynamic shape for a truck trailer. Below are pictures of the evidential proof to their design.
Standard 4.2m high trailer Teardrop trailer
⇧ Wind-tunnel illustration ⇧ Wind-tunnel illustration
⇧ Turbulence illustration ⇧ Turbulence illustration
When people buy tires, most people will go by price or brand, not by the quality or tires ability. There are seven main pieces of information stamped onto every tire, this information tells you:
- Service type- If its suitable for a passenger vehicle or truck (P or T)
- Width- The width is measure in millimeters
- Aspect Ration- Width/Height
- Construction- Radial or Bias
- Wheel dieater- Read in inches
- Load index- The number corresponds to a weight the tire can hold
- Speed rating- A letter that corresponds to the max speed that tire can handle
These are the basic requirements stamped on any tire. As technology has grown, the design of a tire has different outcomes and the most popular outcome at the moment is the best tire to save people money over the life of the tire.
There are three main areas to take into consideration when designing fuel-efficient tires, tread design, tread compounding and casing construction. Its been proven tread design and compounds together contribute to between 35 to 50 % of a tires rolling resistance, as well as the casing can make up the remainig, from 50-65%.
After testing different designs, it came out that tires with thinner tread design creates less heat than tires with a deeper tread depth, this results in a lower tire temperature overall which in return produces improved fuel effciency.
As engineers are still competing to make the most fuel efficent/drag free tire for both large vans and trucks, the little things to help reduce fuel economy need to be looked at also. Two major effects on fuel economy are correct inflation of a tire and wheel alignment. During a drivers morning safety checks, a reading of each tires pressure should be done, underinflated tires will increase the friction and drag on the vehicle which immediatly increases the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. Like wise, wheel alignment if not at the right degree (all in the one direction), the tires can ‘scrub’ against the road surface and this will cause a larger aerodynamic drag when the truck/trailer is in motion.
Driver driving styles can differ from person to persons, some people understand the ways in which to drive their vehicle to get the the maximum mpg, while others don’t think about it. With the improvments of telematics each drivers style in the fleet can be told on a graph, elements like speeding, harsh driving, etc.
Drivers that are seen to be in need of training from there on board telematics report, are usually sent to driver training courses, the course may cost money but in the long run will save the company in costs.
Harsh accelerating has an major effect on the fuel consumption of a vehicle, epically a truck. If a driver changes their accelerating over just the space of a journey, they will notice a difference in their mpg used.
Harsh breaking can be the cause of traveling too fast before needing to turn or stop, not paying attention to when you should start breaking in advance or in the case of an incident. Harsh breaking has three effects on the cost per vehicle. Firstly the accelerated wearing down of brake pads. Secondly, the extra wear put on the tires due to friction. Finally, if a driver has to break hard, in return to pick up speed again they will have to accelerate hard, instead of breaking well before the bend and continuing a safe speed around it and out the other side.
Changing gears at the correct time (not too high or low in the rev range) is the must fuel efficient way to drive. Changing gears too early will put the vehicle under pressure and will lose momentum. Changing gears too high up the rev range will automatically decrease fuel efficiency. Learning when is the right time is a key component to every day driving.
Cornering too fast in any vehicle will cause excuses stress/friction on the vehicles wheels, for a truck depending on its size, which can be many wheels under excuses friction. This driving behaviour can decrease the life expectancy of a set of tires, epically if the vehicle is being put under this type of stress each day. With the price of truck getting the most out of them is key.
The driver taring course will explain and put this into practice along with much more during the course of the day
Servicing your vehicle at regular intervals can have a positive effect on your fuel efficiency and emissions. Two main items that can affect your fuel efficiency is an air filter and spark plugs. If an air filter is blocked, the air to fuel ratio will not be 14.7:1, and in this case will cause the engine to over fuel meaning a decrease in fuel efficiency.
Spark plugs also need to be changed roughly every 50,000 miles to avoid a decrease in fuel efficiency. If a spark plug gets old and worn or gets heavily covered in carbon, the spark plug could start miss firing which causes fuel to not burn in the cylinder which leads to the decrease in fuel efficiency.
Changing these small serviceable parts regularly, can show an increase in cost savings.
One other part that leads to over fuelling is the oxygen sensor. If the trucks telematics report is showing more fuel being used on a normal journey, this sensor could be a potential lead also. An oxygen sensor has a life of a couple of hundred thousand miles, but has been known to malfunction earlier.
Diesel Tank Caps
Having read thought a few different things that should be kept an eye on in order to achieve the maximum mpg as possible, I came across on a few occasions that diesel caps can cause up to a loss of two mpg with a vaporization loss of upwards of 15%. This is due to the wearing down of the seal on the diesel cap itself, some articles go as far as saying that all caps should be changed every two to four years as they are in constant use.
Most drivers are required to have a clean truck/trailer as they are live sponsor for the company, however what people would not think about is the difference in drag caused between a clean washed truck verses a truck that has dirt, grit and dead fly’s on. This is the simplest fuel saving measure that any fleet can achieve, and that is a regular wash of all trucks and trailers.
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