There are two aerodynamic devices in the trucking industry that are sometimes confused: TruckWings and TrailerTails. Yes, they’re both aftermarket accessories designed to help trucks reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency and have both been proven successful at achieving fuel savings. And it’s true each has anatomical names. But, that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
The products are significantly distinct from one another: They’re mounted on different parts of the truck. One’s fully automatic and the other isn’t. And most importantly, TruckWings is available pre-delivery via all major OEMs while TrailerTails is no longer available.
The parallels between the two products are just enough to have caused some confusion in the marketplace. The following table was developed to make distinctions clear—and hopefully dispel the notion that TruckWings and TrailerTail are one and the same.
TruckWings is an aerodynamic device installed on the tractor.
TrailerTails is an aerodynamic device installed on the back of the trailer.
TruckWings was designed to close the gap between tractor and trailer to reduce drag.
TrailerTails was designed to streamline airflow off the back of the trailer to reduce drag.
Introduced to the market in 2015 and is available pre-delivery from all major OEMs.
Rising fuel prices – topping off at more than 75 percent higher than last year – have left the trucking industry scrambling for solutions to reduce fuel costs and improve the efficiency of their fleets.
Diesel prices have reached record levels and not since the 1970s has there been a tougher time to manage fuel hikes and keep trucks running.
The seemingly endless trend in the wrong direction has trucking operators turning their attention from the inside of the tank to the outside of the truck, reconsidering truck aerodynamics and new advances in products and devices that curb their losses.
The Impact of Aerodynamics on Fuel Economy
Semi-truck aerodynamics plays a large role in how fuel efficient a truck can be when traveling at high speeds along an interstate highway.
At highway speeds, a semi-truck consumes more than half of its fuel by pushing through air resistance created by the size and shape of the semi-truck and trailer. This so-called aerodynamic drag decreases fuel efficiency.
That drag is created along multiple points of the truck and trailer, including the front of the truck, the gap between the trailer and the tractor, the sides and underbody of the trailer, and the back of the trailer. The smoother the airflow around those points, the lower the drag.
Improving aerodynamics can deliver significant fuel cost savings. In fact, industry reports indicate that using multiple devices to reduce aerodynamic drag can reduce trucking industry fuel consumption by more than 12 percent – or some $10 billion in diesel fuel costs.
The Most Common Drags
Trucking companies have popularized many products over the years that improve semi-truck aerodynamics, including streamlined shields, trailer skirts, trailer tails, and devices that cover the gap between the tractor and trailer.
All are directed at reducing the percentage of drag created by each aerodynamic-resistant component of a truck and trailer.
Among the leading offenders on a truck, when it comes to wind resistance, is the gap between the tractor and the trailer, which can produce 25 percent of the overall drag. Any gap of 18 inches or more between the tractor and trailer can produce increased air resistance, researchers say. Covering the gap can reduce drag by as much as 9 percent.
The front end of a tractor also produces a significant amount of drag or about 25 percent. Many truck manufacturers are eyeing the front of the truck for more aerodynamic design, including sloped front windshields and pedestal door mirrors.
All along the side of a semi-trailer, aerodynamics are impacted, along with the underbody. Combined, that’s another 25 percent of overall drag created by a tractor-trailer rolling down a highway.
Finally, the back of the trailer creates yet another point of drag when air gets trapped around the tail.
5 Easy Ways to Improve Semi-Truck Aerodynamics
Devices on the market today can create much-improved aerodynamics on semi-trucks and are readily available. Here are five leading ways to boost fuel efficiency.
Reduce the gap between truck and trailer: Using an aerodynamic device to cover the gap can significantly reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency. Trucking industry giant Ryder System, Inc. partnered with us to use our TruckWings device, which delivered them a fuel saving of 4.1 percent. TruckWings automatically deploys at speeds above 52 mph, covering the gap without any distraction to the driver, and retracts when speeds drop below 50 mph, allowing for safe maneuverability on surface streets.
Reduce airflow underneath: Side skirts reduce airflow underneath trailers, leading to fuel savings of more than 4 percent, according to manufacturers.
Minimize tail drag: Trailer tails, or “boat tails” that reduce turbulence can knock fuel costs down by around 6 percent for semi-trucks traveling at 65 miles per hour
Check your wheels: Wheel covers allow air to flow past the tires, reducing aerodynamic drag.
Make mud flaps aerodynamic: Switch from heavy, solid rubber flaps to slotted mudflaps, which allow air to pass through them.
Improve Aerodynamics, Cut Fuel Costs
In the face of unprecedented fuel costs, fleet owners are finding a growing number of options on the market for improving truck trailer aerodynamics and creating fuel-efficient designs.
Leading the way in preventing costly wind resistance is TruckWings, providing an accessible, automated aerodynamic option that can significantly trim fuel costs across an entire fleet.
How Innovation is Keeping Fuel Costs Down, Drivers Comfortable
TruckLabs VP of Product Andrew Kelly sees an increasing need for truck fleet operators to reach emissions reduction goals while tackling increased fuel costs and driver shortages. Thankfully, technology and product innovations are now speeding solutions for keeping fleets online and drivers comfortable. Kelly shares his insights on the latest innovations sparking the future for fleets and top solutions helping the trucking industry face unprecedented disruption.
Q: What trends and innovations are most exciting for the trucking industry, especially against the backdrop of ongoing challenges, including rising fuel costs and driver shortages?
A: Sensor technology, the enabling of IoT through connected devices, and the pursuit of aerodynamics are among advancements paving the way for the future of trucking fleets, said Kelly, who oversees the design of TruckWings, a key product offering from TruckLabs. The tractor-mounted active aerodynamic device automatically closes the gap between a truck cab and the trailer at highway speeds to reduce drag, improve handling, and save fuel.
Trip data that can now be collected along a truck’s route is providing increased visibility into how to optimize routes, economize on fuel, improve driver satisfaction, and increase the operational efficiency of entire fleets. New platforms can measure a truck driver’s performance while accounting for real-world complications, including weather, traffic and load. Data systems and sensors provide minute-by-minute data that can pick apart stories about truck performance to see how a truck operates, noted Kelly.
Truck design and the adoption of leading-edge aerodynamics are also shaping the future of the industry, Kelly added. Aerodynamics are one of the most cost-effective means of improving a truck’s efficiency. Improvements in aerodynamics for trucks are going beyond fuel efficiency design to the frontier of EV capabilities.
Q: What does the future hold when it comes to the adoption of electric truck fleets?
A: For sure, we can hear the silent roar of electrification, said Kelly. Designing electric trucks addresses the dependence on fossil fuels and the increasingly important issues of carbon emissions and fuel efficiency. But, there is a lot of apprehension from an operational standpoint, and massive adoption is still well around the corner, Kelly noted.
Aerodynamics is critical for America’s trucking fleets. While EV manufacturers continue to address issues around battery weight and range, aerodynamics is one of the most critical factors in achieving range targets in electric trucks. Aerodynamic losses are irreversible in EVs, whereas energy spent on acceleration can be partially recovered with regenerative braking in trucks, for example, Kelly said.
We see the aerodynamic choices of passenger car EVs on the market today that stand apart, including flush door handles, digital side view mirrors, and 3D wheel covers. Truck manufacturers have to make the same leap in aerodynamic efficiency to hit their range targets for market appeal. As manufacturers continue to put R&D investments into battery technology, the first generation of electric trucks will look much like their diesel counterparts. That leaves room for aerodynamic design to help in this first stage of adoption.
Right now the fastest way that a truck manufacturer could reduce drag on an existing truck model is to apply TruckWings, said Kelly.
Q: How does the TruckWings product address fuel efficiency and aerodynamics, while making the lives of fleet managers easier? A: TruckWings closes the gap between the truck cab and trailer, where airflow commonly creates drag and stability issues. The product can be quickly installed and requires zero driver input to operate. Using vehicle speed and a smart sensor to detect trailer clearance, the patented folding panel design automatically deploys and retracts for easy use and maximum maneuverability without being prone to damage from user error. Common aerodynamic product offerings on the market today include long side extenders, which can limit turning radius during in-town driving. TruckWings retracts automatically at speeds under 50 mph without driver input, so trucks can be easily maneuvered for all driving conditions.
TruckWings traces its origins to a visit company founder Daniel Burrows made to a truck stop. Inspired by his work with climate change, Burrows noticed the gap between the truck and trailer and wondered if there was a better way to create energy and performance efficiency for commercial trucks.
The latest generation of the TruckWings solution automatically fits about 90% of trucks that are being manufactured and can be customized for others. That allows TruckLabs to buy parts in bulk to have on hand for delivery and service for any make and model of truck and cut down on lead time.
TruckWings works for all major OEM tractor models, a symbol that our customers have already pushed the limit and are keen on what makes a tractor most efficient and are looking to unlock best in class trucking aerodynamics, said Kelly.
Q: How do aerodynamic solutions for trucks help with driver retention? A: Driver shortages have kept the trucking industry scrambling as supply chain and logistics issues have gone from one-time “black swan” events to an ongoing global challenge. Trucking fleet operators have responded by working to improve driver retention and the comfort of long-haul drivers.
Aerodynamic solutions like TruckWings can help. Product reviews and studies show that TruckWings helps reduce buffeting and improves the stability of a truck traveling in crosswinds, which can reduce fatigue associated with fighting crosswinds. Drivers also have reported feeling that TruckWings helped with straighter driving, said Kelly. The product operates automatically, so drivers don’t have the hassle of another device to maintain or operate.
Trucking companies today are looking for just about anything that can keep drivers happy and comfortable, but also need to take advantage of the latest technology to improve fleet operations and stay competitive.
So much is changing for the industry, yet the basics of driver comfort, safety and optimizing routes remains at the core of doing good business.
Ready to learn more about TruckWings? Reach out today and receive a complimentary product introduction and information.
Incentivizing use of emissions-reducing technologies in the trucking industry
Technologies have been developed in recent years to actively control aerodynamics and rolling resistance, and otherwise increase efficiency in the trucking industry. Smart devices that move and adapt to driving and vehicle conditions—automatically and in real-time—have huge potential to minimize drag, save fuel, and reduce emissions.
The STEER Act was introduced in mid-2021 to accelerate the adoption of these new technologies. The proposed federal program incents trucking companies to buy and install solutions that deliver significant economic and environmental benefits.
Once the legislation is passed, vouchers will offset the upfront cost and installation. The U.S. government will cover expenditures associated with adopting fuel-efficient technologies on Class 8 trucks, among the heaviest vehicles on the road, and those with the most potential to make an impact.
“We can reduce fuel consumption and emissions in the transportation industry without enacting costly … mandates on American companies and workers,” said U.S. Representative Rodney Davis, who introduced the bill in the summer of 2021. “It’s common-sense, market-driven ideas … that will protect American workers and our environment without destroying our economy,” he said.
“The STEER Act is rocket fuel for American innovations which help the trucking industry become cleaner and more efficient.” Daniel Burrows, Founder and CEO of TruckLabs, maker of TruckWings
Daniel Burrows agrees. The founder and CEO of TruckLabs, maker of TruckWings, an aerodynamic device that closes the gap between tractor and trailer to reduce drag, said. “One-third of the world’s carbon emissions come from the transportation sector. Fleets are spending 3% to 6% more on diesel than they should. Making it easy and affordable to consume less and reduce our carbon footprint helps us all breathe easier.”
The STEER Act authorizes $100 million annually from 2022 to 2026 to retrofit heavy-duty trucks with emission reducing technology that is currently available. Fleet size determines voucher amounts.
“This bill has huge potential to bridge the gap to zero-emission truck fleets,” Burrows said, referring to the almost 4 million Class 8 trucks in operation in the U.S. “We are proud to be part of the movement to help make the world we live in a better, more sustainable place.”
The STEER ACT was introduced to fast-track deployment of already available technologies, and make an environmental and economic impact now
Improve the profitability and economic stability of our largest workforce—truck drivers
Strengthen the backbone of the nation’s supply chain
Save money on fuel and speed ROI
Improve Class 8 fuel efficiency by as much as 15%
Cut national fuel consumption by 4.5 billion gallons/year
Pave way for an alternative fuel futureSignificantly reduce carbon emissions
Transportation accounts for the largest portion of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) released into the atmosphere.
Twenty-nine percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from combustion of fossil fuels, including gasoline and diesel used to transport people and goods, via on-road vehicles, aircraft, trains, and ships.
One quarter of that CO2 is emitted by trucks—particularly Class 8 trucks—which are responsible for releasing high (and harmful) levels of carbon dioxide.
Increasing CO2 in the air traps heat, raises temperatures, and causes energy imbalance that negatively impacts our health and degrades the environment.
The evidence is alarming, but the good news is there are actions to take. Alternative energy sources, aerodynamic devices that reduce drag, and new technologies are increasingly embraced by trucking companies to reduce the industry’s effect on the world we live in.
TruckWings check every box
With 450 million over-the-road miles under its belt since 2015, TruckWings goes a long way toward doing something about GHG. As the only aerodynamic device that automatically closes the gap between cab and trailer, TruckWings is part of the solution towards reducing unhealthy emissions in the air.
Deploying at 52 mph and retracting at 50 mph—with zero driver intervention required—TruckWings gives everyone good reasons to get on board:
Drivers count on TruckWings to do their job while they stay focused on their driving. Operators know it’s there, but there’s no action required on their part to make it work.
Fleet owners depend on TruckWings for fuel savings of 4% to 6%. As advances are made toward the use of renewable energy sources like propane, natural gas, electricity, hydrogen fuel cells, and biodiesel, the same TruckWings that are installed today will deliver even more savings and sustainability benefits as new fuels become mainstream.
Those in the c-suite appreciate the fast return-on-investment TruckWings delivers. With a million-mile lifespan, the automated solution has an ROI of just 15- to 18 months.
TruckWings is making a statement. Every day, at every turn, its presence reminds drivers, customers, and those who share the road that the company responsible for the tractor-trailer that sports them is serious about running an efficient business—and making a difference for us all.
The problem TruckWings help solve
More than three-quarters of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are comprised of environmentally detrimental CO2 .
Today almost all transportation energy comes from petroleum-based fuels that pollute the air we breathe.
Millions of metric tons of CO2 are emitted each year by all sectors: transportation, electric, industrial, residential, commercial, agriculture.
Greenhouse gas reduction opportunities in the transportation sector:
Automation, Targeted Design Boost Performance by Closing the Gap
Improving fleet performance, reducing emissions and reducing fuel costs are top priorities for the trucking industry, especially as fuel costs soar and green policy pressures increase. Fleet operators searching for innovations and solutions have eyed better aerodynamics as an easy answer.
The pocket of air between the tractor and trailer – or gap – is the most common cause for drag, which costs money and wastes fuel. How to close the gap while a truck is at highway speeds, yet maintain maneuverability on surface streets has posed a challenge for operators.
Extra long, static cab extenders have provided some relief. But, while they help close the gap and reduce drag, they interfere with trailer clearance for tight turns, making them a potential nightmare for in-town driving conditions.
Automated design has uncovered a better way to close the gap. Closing the gap reduces buffeting and trailer sway in cross-winds outperforming even the longest side-extenders on the market today.
Automation in Aerodynamics Delivers New Option Introduced by TruckLabs in 2015, TruckWings is a tractor-mounted device that has unlocked a new frontier in Class 8 efficiency through the use of active aerodynamics. Developed by hardware engineers, software developers, and data scientists to systematically manage the gap in all conditions, TruckWings is innovating the industry. Closing the gap reduces buffeting and trailer sway in cross-winds outperforming even the longest side-extenders on the market today.
The TruckWings device requires zero driver input to deploy or retract, delivering an automated solution that keeps people and property safe, while achieving the savings and sustainability improvements fleet owners are seeking.
How Do TruckWings Work? TruckWings is the only fully automated solution that works without driver interaction. As a smart device, TruckWings receives real-time information about the speed of a tractor-trailer to determine when to open and close. When the vehicle reaches 52 mph, a signal is sent from the cab to automatically deploy the TruckWings. When speed dips to 50 mph or below, TruckWings automatically retract before the truck needs to make sharp turns. The standalone TruckWings controller is installed on the truck’s CAN J1939 data link. Additionally, a sensor scans the area behind the TruckWings to ensure adequate clearance to the trailer exists.
Five of the 10 largest fleets in North America have installed TruckWings on their trucks, logging over 400 million miles. Each one makes the savings and sustainability impact of taking two vehicles off the road every year.
TruckWings reduces the energy lost in the tractor-trailer gap, lowering wind drag, improving fuel economy and reducing carbon emissions. Most fleets see 3-6% improvement in fuel efficiency. Each TruckWings device reduces 20,000 lbs/yr in carbon emissions. Analysis and customer reviews also confirm an improvement in vehicle stability at higher crosswinds by reducing the side forces acting on the trailer. This leads to improved safety and vehicle control.
As more fleet operators turn to solutions that drive down fuel costs and improve emissions rates, TruckWings automation is delivering a powerful boost to fuel efficiency and sustainability efforts.
There are two ways to run a more efficient trucking business, and they go hand in hand. Using less fuel saves you money and reducing CO2 emissions saves our planet.
Savings and sustainability are inseparable when it comes to aerodynamic device TruckWings. Built to automatically close the gap between cab and trailer when a truck travels at highway speed, TruckWings’ cuts your fuel bill while making our world a healthier place to live.
Bottom line benefits Fuel accounts for 12% of vehicle-based costs, or $0.36 per mile, according to a 2021 study by the National Private Truck Council (NPTC). The opportunity to cut that cost by reducing drag as much as 7% is real: Six of the 10 largest fleets in North America are doing it now with TruckWings.
These leading companies are realizing a short 15- to 18-month ROI by equipping their trucks with a smart device that deploys and retracts with no driver intervention required. Making the decision to install TruckWings delivers measurable financial impact, and it’s one drivers support.
Cleaner air to breathe One-third of the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. Those who’ve chosen TruckWings are taking an active role in reducing levels of harmful CO2 in the atmosphere. They’re proud to be among visionaries doing what it takes to help the environmental cause. TruckWings on their tractor-trailers make a statement that reflects positively on their companies and their people.
Each time TruckWings automatically deploy, they signal the commitment made by the organization that owns and manages the truck to accomplish two key objectives: To cut fuel consumption and meet carbon reduction goals.
They show everyone on the road that they’re serious about running an efficient business—and making a difference for us all.