As a growing number of fleets spec aerodynamic devices such as fairings and side skirts to save fuel and cut GHG emissions, some of their shops are paying closer attention to the durability and potential maintenance costs associated with such equipment.
In a report by Fleet Owner magazine, Chuck Cole, manager of technical sales and product training for Utility Trailer Manufacturing, said the still-unknown long-term costs with annual maintenance for trailer aerodynamic devices is a growing concern within the trucking industry.
Side skirts, for example, are located in an abusive environment and are subject to impact damage from the highway. Some of the dozens of models in the market are tested to withstand severe impacts, but the durability and effectiveness of other models is unknown, he said.
“We have had a lot of new companies jump into this space without fully understanding that key requirement,” says Cole.
Marty Fletcher, of aerodynamic device maker Aerofficient, says that while price was initially the most important factor for manufacturers he believes the “evolution” of such products will focus more intensely on durability and maintenance in the near-term and designs will be better integrated with the footprint of the trailer itself.
Fletcher agrees that some of these devices are challenged by the extreme work environments.
“Temperature extremes are causing warping and eventual cracking or de-lamination,” he explained. “Ground contact – most commonly in drop-down docks – is causing breakage while support struts are failing due to fatigue. Thus the design evolution must be to strengthen [trailer] fairings.”
The suppliers recommend that fleets do their homework when spec’ing aerodynamic devices oo adding on aftermarket parts.