If you're a fleet manager dealing with vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW), aerodynamics is not just an impressive term to drop at your next networking function. If your business depends on keeping haulage jobs profitable, it can be a life-changing word.
Aerodynamics and the Bottom Line
The aerodynamics of fleet vehicles can affect almost every aspect of the supply chain – directly or indirectly – and, consequently, the bottom line. By making adaptations, fuel consumption can be significantly maximised, performance enhanced, emissions reduced, handling improved and stability increased – all of which add up to money saved.
What's the Purpose?
When "aerodynamic styling" is applied to a vehicle, its shape is adapted in order to reduce "drag" as it travels. There are many factors that affect a vehicle's drag, including speed, shape and frontal profile. For example, the wider the frontage, the more drag is created through the airflow pattern. The idea is to alter that pattern to provide the path of least resistance.
While paying attention to aerodynamics is certainly important for independent lorry drivers doing smaller haulage jobs, the money saved across multiple vehicles can be staggering when it comes to running a fleet.
Small Changes, Big Differences
Aerodynamics is one area where making small changes can make significant differences. The following features or modifications are some of those recommended for vehicles over 3.5 tonnes GVW, which are used for haulage jobs.
General: Every vehicle is different and certain modifications may or may not be suitable, or even possible. In general, though, minimising the gap between the cab and the container is one of the easiest ways to reduce drag. In the same vein, ensuring that the cab and container sit at an equal height is advisable. This can be achieved by attaching fairings or deflectors.
Cab: As the cab is at the front, it's an important place to make changes when optimising drag reduction. Some of the components that can be added are a roof deflector (probably the most effective), side edge and roof fairings, a cab collar to close the gap between cab and container, and an air dam to divert airflow around the edges of the truck.
Chassis: There are numerous chassis modifications that can be retrofitted. Some of the most popular and useful in reducing drag are tractor and chassis side panels, as well as chassis filler panels. These are used to cover the gaps between front and rear wheels and the cab and the chassis, respectively, limiting the airflow in those particular sites.
Body: While there are, again, many features that can be added to the body of a truck – including vortex stabilisers/generators and sloping front roof trailers – the most common and effective are fairings. They can be attached just at the front, just at the rear, or around the entire body. Their purpose is to direct airflow around the front of the body to reduce drag.
Add-Ons: Some of the ancillary features that can be replaced with more aerodynamic components include a more rounded cab sun visor (rather than an angular one), cab roof rims, which stand up vertically from the front roof edge, and low drag mirrors with rounded front faces.
Education and Maintenance
Like any part of a vehicle, regular maintenance is essential, and checking the aerodynamic equipment should be included as part of a driver's daily checklist before they set off on their haulage jobs. By the same token, ensuring that individual drivers are educated about the purpose, functions and benefits of such features will make the results all the more effective across the fleet.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage jobs with available drivers. Over 4,500 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment