Birth of an Icon

Lucinda Coulter | October 01, 2010

Los, who has driven for 28 years and now delivers plants to Walmart and Home Depot, says Overdrive’s spirited advocacy gave him hope. “I loved that rag. It was my connection to a world I longed to be a part of.”

50 Years of Equipment Innovations

First bolt-on aero device

While truck body designers had introduced strategic curves before the mid-‘60s, Rudkin-Wiley Corp. took aerodynamics further when it brought out the first bolt-on aero device for trucks in 1965. The Air-Shield retro-fit mounted on the cab roof, guiding air over the top of the trailer, thus greatly reducing drag at highway speeds.

Ads claimed fuel savings of $200 to $1,600 per year (not bad in an era when fuel cost well under $1) and a drag reduction as high as 21 percent on cabovers. This reduced shifting and transmission wear and, in some applications, allowed use of a smaller engine for further fuel savings.

Another version of the Air-Shield combined a similar cab roof fairing with a semi-rectangular device installed on the front of the trailer to guide air straight back from the cab and along the trailer sides.

The device ultimately drove a revolution in cab aerodynamics in which Rudkin-Wiley played a part by providing tractor and trailer fairings. Rudkin-Wiley was renamed Airshield and is still in business as Star Composites, though it no longer makes truck aero devices.

During its anniversary celebration, Overdrive will publish monthly one of the top 50 equipment innovations of the last 50 years. Others in the top 50 can be viewed at The entire list will be published in the 50th anniversary issue, September 2011. The top 50 were chosen by an expert panel:

• Brant Clark, who worked as co-founder of Owner Operator magazine and in other truck publishing jobs, as well as in truck sales.

• Ed Shea, who worked as service manager in a Nash dealership, executive editor of Commercial Carrier Journal and publisher of Owner Operator magazine.

• Larry Strawhorn, who worked as vice president of engineering of the American Trucking Associations and as a Mack Trucks engineer.

Veteran owner-operator Richard Daniels, 80, of Akron, Ohio, pulls a reefer for summer deliveries for Kandel Transport, the company he sold to his son Jack Daniels, whom he stands beside in a photo taken circa 2002.

• John Baxter, Overdrive equipment editor, who worked as a transport refrigeration and truck mechanic in the U.S. Army and in other truck and automotive editorial positions.

• Bob Deal, who worked as an application service engineer for Detroit Diesel and in other diesel engine development capacities. n strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.