(May 10, 2012) -- As a growing number of fleets spec aerodynamic
devices such as fairings and side skirts to save fuel and cut GHG
emissions, some of their shops are paying closer attention to the
durability and potential maintenance costs associated with such
In a report by Fleet Owner magazine, Chuck Cole, manager of
technical sales and product training for Utility Trailer Manufacturing,
said the still-unknown long-term costs with annual maintenance for
trailer aerodynamic devices is a growing concern within the trucking
Side skirts, for example, are located in an abusive environment and
are subject to impact damage from the highway. Some of the dozens of
models in the market are tested to withstand severe impacts, but the
durability and effectiveness of other models is unknown, he
"We have had a lot of new companies jump into this space without
fully understanding that key requirement," says Cole.
Marty Fletcher, of aerodynamic device maker Aerofficient, says that
while price was initially the most important factor for manufacturers he
believes the "evolution" of such products will focus more intensely on
durability and maintenance in the near-term and designs will be better
integrated with the footprint of the trailer itself.
Fletcher agrees that some of these devices are challenged by the
extreme work environments.
"Temperature extremes are causing warping and eventual cracking or
de-lamination," he explained. "Ground contact – most commonly in
drop-down docks – is causing breakage while support struts are
failing due to fatigue. Thus the design evolution must be to strengthen
The suppliers recommend that fleets do their homework when spec'ing
aerodynamic devices oo adding on aftermarket parts.