Trailer Tail Improves Miles Per Gallon

Out of any vehicle on the interstate today, few could be more aerodynamically challenged than the common semi-trailer truck, the most common vehicle in the commercial trucking industry.

With a boxy shape, massive proportions, and plenty of room for airflow beneath the trailer, a big rig creates heavy air resistance that flows around and under the truck, generating drag on the back end of the vehicle. The extra work through which this puts the truck's machinery reduces its fuel economy, adding a hefty chunk to what's already a costly bill for a year's fuel.

With gasoline prices on the rise once again, any type of innovative measures that could be taken are bound to see a warm welcome, for profit's sake and the environment's. Side-skirt panels have already been in wide circulation for a while to help with poor aerodynamics, but a brand-new device is promising to soften the blow of heavy gas consumption even further.

The Trailer Tail, a product of aerodynamic engineering research at Clarkson University marketed by California-based ATDynamics, is a rear-mounted boat-tail attachment consisting of a set of unfolding panels not unlike an open box top.

After The inward angle of the panels allows the wind to flow more smoothly off the back and sides of the trailer, reducing drag and allowing for a substantial decrease in gas consumption. ATDynamics CEO Andrew Smith reports that according to 3rd-party SAE J1321 testing, a Trailer Tail causes a 6.58% fuel efficiency increase. Coupled with side-skirt paneling, fuel usage can be lowered by as much as 12%. This is especially impressive considering that truckers or their companies can spend over $40,000 a year on fuel expenses. At a price line of $1,500, the cost of a Trailer Tail will be recouped in only one year.

The outlook for Trailer Tails is promising; New Mexico trucking firm Mesilla Valley Transportation has placed a fleet order for 3,500 of the devices. Other trucking companies are also looking into adopting this technology.

For the moment, though, the device does have at least one major limitation. To allow for opening and closing of the trailer door, its panels are designed to fold flush against the back, and the shape of the current model is only compatible with French doors. Fortunately, the team at Clarkson has received extra funding for the sake of putting together a model that will work with garage doors.

Innovative, effective, and already receiving a great deal of confidence from the industry, the Trailer Tail has the potential to impact efficiency in trucking well into the future.


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