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Trailer Tails – Commercially Available Device to Make Trucks 6-12% More Efficient

| Monday June 16th, 2008 | 8 Comments

trailer-tail.gifWith no end in sight for high fuel prices, the pressure is on for the world’s truckers to take steps to cut back on fuel use or price themselves out of business. This task means changing driving styles as well as implementing aerodynamic changes to their vehicles. The latter technique is estimated to have the potential to save 2.4 Billion gallons of fuel annually. Do the math on that, line up the entrepreneurs and there’s a ginormous business opportunity at your feet.
Enter ATDyamics, who have invented a device called a “Trailer Tail” which is an aerodynamic attachment to the rear of a truck which results in 5-6% greater fuel efficiency. Match the Trailer Tail with side-skirt panels and you’ll get an additional 4-7%, tests show.
Of course such ideas come with unexpected challenges – The biggest – how do you close open the doors when there’s a tail on the truck?


The answer might be called “Truck Origami” – the tailer tail actually folds in on itself, collapsing against the doors so that they can be opened normally at a loading dock in a matter of seconds. The site has an eagles-themed video that can give you an idea as to how this works (link here).
Stating the obvious, CEO Andrew Smith says:

Suction drag at the tail end of a trailer causes the greatest amount of aerodynamic inefficiency still unaddressed by modern trailer designs. The worst shape to pull down the highway at 65 mph is a big rectangular box.

Considering the logic of Smith’s statement, it’s really a wonder why we haven’t seen technology like this emerge on a large scale before, such is the tragedy of nearsightedness inflicted when fuel prices are kept artificially low for so long. The good news is it’s clear that companies who are jumping at the opportunity early will emerge with a distinctly green competitive advantage – not only to their benefit, but to yours and mine.
Only drawback – no more drafting with your VW bug.


▼▼▼      8 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Julie Sammons

    I had the opportunity to hear Andrew Smith discuss the Trailer Tail at the Presidio School of Management this past spring, and was very impressed by his enthusiasm, energy, and words of advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
    Collectively, we must solve truly significant design challenges in the immediate future, but it’s encouraging to see how even small-scale design alterations like the Trailer Tail can make a substantial impact.
    Which other products and industries are begging for similar niche design solutions? The possibilities seem endless – from lighting to packaging to materials reduction and beyond.

  • Tormod

    Brilliant – I suppose there is more to come in the end.. – but what happens to you if you rear-end a device like this? Will your car be cut in two pieces by these ‘blades’ or will they collapse on a rear-end impact?

    • stevil8

      TrailerTail is built to self collapse to avoid injury during collision. TrailerTail has been crash-tested and was awarded exemption by the DOT (http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/sw/aerodevi…)

      Also, TrailerTail® provides additional safety by stabilizing trucks. Because TrailerTails® streamline the airflow behind the trailer and minimize turbulent vortices, hazardous road spray created in wet weather is lessened and truck drivers notice that the backs of their trailers do not sway as much. In addition, by eliminating suction drag at the tail of the trailer, passenger cars have less incentive to harass drivers by tailgating dangerously close to the rear of the tractor-trailers.

      The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has specifically confirmed a length exemption for TrailerTails. DOT federal law allows aerodynamic devices to extend up to five feet behind a trailer (23 CFR 658.16).

  • stevil8

    TrailerTail is built to self collapse to avoid injury during collision. TrailerTail has been crash-tested and was awarded exemption by the DOT (http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/sw/aerodevi…)

    Also, TrailerTail® provides additional safety by stabilizing trucks. Because TrailerTails® streamline the airflow behind the trailer and minimize turbulent vortices, hazardous road spray created in wet weather is lessened and truck drivers notice that the backs of their trailers do not sway as much. In addition, by eliminating suction drag at the tail of the trailer, passenger cars have less incentive to harass drivers by tailgating dangerously close to the rear of the tractor-trailers.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has specifically confirmed a length exemption for TrailerTails. DOT federal law allows aerodynamic devices to extend up to five feet behind a trailer (23 CFR 658.16).

  • Clos210

    This things are useless if you’re a cheap freight hauler

  • Walt

    Well done. I worked on this concept in the late 90s with a group of engineers. The savings are definitely there. The biggest challenge is getting the cooperation of the drivers. Makes sure that in the marketing and implementation stages you involve the truck drivers.

  • Drebe73

    Just saw a truck with a trailer tail on the highway and had to look up what it was. Great to see that the trucking industry is making strides toward more greener practices. Here’s hoping that trailer designers start to look for more aerodynamic trailer designs. Kudos to you for working toward solutions.

  • Bill Bennett

    An alternative to a tail is a wing! Joe Skopic, of Central PA, has developed a wing which attaches to a dry van with aviation cables. It does not rear protrude and adds about 5″ to the trailer width (Less that the mirrors on the tractor). It weighs 20 pounds and requires no driver intervention. Unlike a tail, it can be mounted to the Tractor for amazing fuel savings on flatbeds and tankers, as well. Take a look at the device at http://www.joflos.com and look for them on trucks, in the near future.