"The devices have been around 20 years, but the trucking companies are not buying them because they're not convinced they'll see a decent payback," says Wabash's Ehrlich. However, he and others believe that as fuel continues to get more expensive, the devices will look more attractive to trucking companies because the replacement costs for damaged aerodynamic devices will be less than the potential savings they could generate.
"Aerodynamics work-it's a slam dunk," says Great Dane's Hill. "You put skirts and boat tails on your trailers and you'll save five percent or so. Nose cones will save somewhere along the line of three percent."
However, Hill points out that fleets all run tractor-to-trailer ratios that can affect the economics of aerodynamic devices.
"A typical fleet might have one tractor for every three or four trailers," he explains. "And a trailer spends the majority of its time sitting idle in a location, waiting to be picked up."
Companies have to divide the potential savings of putting an aerodynamic device on a trailer by whatever their truck-to-trailer ratio is, because they won't always be running that same aerodynamic trailer.
"That being said, aerodynamics will be adopted by the industry for trailers, but it will be a little slower than it has been with tractors," says Hill.