“Aerodynamic tractors have clearly become the standard over the past decade as fuel prices rose from $1.50 to $4 per gallon. And they continue to pay for themselves even at lower fuel prices.” — Rick Mihelic, NACFE Study Manager

OEMs are constantly working on improving the performance of their tractors. Most of today’s tractors are designed for aerodynamic efficiency. The flagship aerodynamic OEM models have been extensively optimized at the complete vehicle level to provide the best performance for a significant portion of the OEM’s customer base.

Tractor aerodynamics are customized as a system by the truck maker, and devices are not interchangeable from one manufacturer to another. The choice for the fleet owner is to select an OEM and then potentially subtract devices from the OEM’s optimized configuration.

The fuel saving benefits of aerodynamic devices on sleeper tractors have been documented. Day-cab tractors also benefit from the addition of aero devices even at typically lower average speeds and lower miles travelled.

Tractor Aerodynamics
What Fleets Are Saying

“We continue to update our fleet with more fuel efficient post-2014 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission compliant engines, install aerodynamic devices on our tractors, and equip our trailers with trailer blades, which all lead to meaningful improvement in fuel efficiency.” — Knight Transportation

“Appearance and detail of our equipment means a lot to our drivers. Drive wheel fairings don’t just save us money, but our drivers like them too.” — Brad Pinchuk, Hirschbach

“Sleeper tractor aerodynamics have been finely tuned by all OEMs. Eliminating various features can add 10% to a fleet’s fuel expense,” — Chief engineer at a major truck builder.

Decision Making Tools

The Confidence Matrix has been issued to help fleets make decisions about tractor aerodynamic devices.

Decision-Making Tools

Conclusions
  • Fleets should use the standard, optimized aerodynamic packages developed by tractor manufacturers.
  • Fuel efficiency can be lowered by about 10% by moving to partial or no aerodynamics.
  • Tractor and trailer ride heights should be matched for as many miles driven as possible.
  • Fleets operating day-cab tractors should pursue greater adoption of tractor aerodynamics.
  • Tractor manufacturers should design and make available aerodynamic features for day-cab tractors including those powered by natural gas.
  • Future EPA and NHTSA Greenhouse Gas Regulations will continue to challenge tractor builders to improve the aerodynamic drag of these vehicles.