Increasing Fuel Efficiency for Tractor Trailers

Aerodynamics largely impacts the fuel efficiency of any moving vehicle, especially for semi-trucks or tractor trailers. The energy that is generated by tractor trailer engines is overwhelmingly used to overcome drag forces that occur when operating at highway speeds. Manufacturers and engineers have to take into account aerodynamics when designing equipment for modern tractor trailers. Although there has been some improvement in aerodynamics for tractor trailers there is still great potential for improvement.

The shape of tractor trailers creates an overwhelming wind resistance that causes a significant amount of drag for the vehicle. Designers have changed the traditional box shape of many tractor trailers after a study performed by NASA during the 1980s in order to increase fuel efficiency. For example, by streamlining the rear, front, and undercarriage of a rectangular vehicle designers were able to reduce waste caused by drag by over 30%. Designers continue to think about aerodynamics when designing new tractor trailers. The following areas are ways in which designers have reduced drag and continue to increase the fuel efficiency of tractor trailers.

Side Fairings

The underneath of a trailer is the location where there is the greatest potential for aerodynamic improvements. Trailing skirting technology has been used to reduce airflow and crosswinds around the drag. Technological improvements for the undercarriage include rear wheel axle components and cross members to provide improved airflow around the trailer.

Gap Fairings

When driving on the road you may often see the gap between the tractor and the trailer. This area is another location for high drag and where designers have successfully made improvements to increase fuel efficiency. Manufacturers have made significant improvements in roofing and siding, but additional improvements have proven difficult because the remaining gay is necessary in order to allow for turn mobility. Designers made Wing Gap Fairings, which are placed around the gap, in order to reduce the drag caused my cross winds. The Wing Gap Fairings have been a great solution for a lightweight and practical improvement; however, there is still room to improve the fuel efficiency of tractor trailers through design.

Rear Fairings

Some of the main problems around improving the aerodynamics of tractor trailers are around operational constraints, such as mobility and usage. Rear door configurations make it difficult to increase the aerodynamics of the rear fairing system. Currently, designers are looking at how to improve the aerodynamics of the rear system.
Currently, designers are looking at making ongoing improvements to the fairings of tractor trailer systems. Little John Tank offers premier products that are made with fuel efficiency in mind. If you are interested in renting or leasing a tractor trailer you can contact us at 864-573-9314.


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