Con-way Truckload eventually may outfit its more than 8,000 trailers with cost-saving SmartTruck UnderTray System technology shown in red here.

Big Savings Projected for Aerodynamic Trailer Add-Ons

Tested in simulations on the U.S. Department of Energy's Jaguar supercomputer, the SmartTruck UnderTray System could save $5 billion in fuel costs per year by letting rigs achieve fuel savings of 7-12 percent, according to DOE.

A potential breakthrough in fuel economy for over-the-road trucks has been introduced by BMI Corp. after simulations on the Jaguar supercomputer at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The simulations cut the time needed to move from concept to production by half, down to 18 months.

"We were able to run simulations based on the most complex tractor and trailer models instead of simplified models, and we were able to run them faster," said Mike Henderson, chief executive officer and founder of BMI, an engineering services firm based in Greenville, S.C. "Our first goal was to design add-on parts for existing trucks and trailers to make them more aerodynamic," he said. "By reducing drag, we boost fuel efficiency and cut the amount of carbon that's being dumped into the environment."

DOE said use of the SmartTruck UnderTray System provides fuel savings of 7-12 percent for a typical 18-wheeler. The technology could save 1.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel and $5 billion in fuel costs per year; it was named one of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine's Top 20 Products of 2010 in an awards ceremony Feb. 9 at the 2011 American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council Annual Meeting in Tampa, Fla.

Henderson said if all 1.3 million Class 8 trucks were configured with the minimum UnderTray package, average fuel economy of 6 miles per gallon could increase to about 6.5 mpg or more, while the trucks' carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by 32.7 billion pounds. "The Department of Energy's supercomputers provide an enormous competitive advantage for the United States," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "This is a great example of how investments in innovation can help lead the way to new jobs, new ways of cutting our carbon emissions and new opportunities for America to succeed in the global marketplace."

Con-Way Truckload, an EPA SmartWay Transport Partner since 2005, has ordered a few dozen UnderTray Systems and eventually may equip all of its more than 8,000 trailers with them.

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