Fortune magazine’s Tech Transformations series last week detailed the supercomputing power harnessed via the web as part of truck maker Kenworth’s efforts to design the ultra-fuel-efficient T660 tractor currently on offer. Senior writer Jon Fortt leads with a chronicle of the exposure of the seemingly mundane mudflap to intense design effort. “>Most people don’t spend much time thinking about mudflaps — those strips of rubber behind a big rig’s wheels that repel grime and maybe show a gun-toting Yosemite Sam, warning ‘Back off!’ But by using sophisticated design technology, engineers at truckmaker Kenworth discovered that the little flaps were also a major source of drag. Simply trimming and tapering the flaps will cut about $400 from a typical truck’s annual [fuel] bill.”
(Yes, Fortt’s original read “>gas” bill.)
But there are some who think about mudflaps. Consider the parallels between KW’s efforts to reduce mudflap drag and those of Overdrive 2007 Trucker of the Year Henry Albert, whose rig (pictured) he’s customized along similar lines to accommodate the reduction in overal tire width that comes with the use of wide singles rather than the dual single pair. I had a chance a few weeks back to catch up with him at the TravelCenters of America location in Tuscaloosa, where he showed me the Freightliner Cascadia he’s currently test-driving for a year through Freightliner’s “>Slice of Trucker Life” program (you’ll remember my post about him from December, and you can read his blog here). It was indeed concerns about aero drag that led him to trim each side of the Utility trailer’s flaps (though clearly presentation and marketing was on his mind as well, considering that the Utility identifier on the flaps remained intact).
Todd Dills is Senior Editor of Overdrive magazine and writes from Nashville, Tenn. He frequently covers business, regulatory and lifestyle topics for the magazine and at OverdriveOnline.com. His work on the “CSA’s Data Trail” series in Overdrive about the federal CSA program was awarded the highest honor in trade journalism – the “Grand Neal” – by American Business Media at the 2014 Jesse H. Neal Awards. Dills’ Channel 19 blog covers a grab bag of on-highway hearsay, owner-operator news and driver views from the roadways the nation over. His work in trucking journalism builds on a background of news feature, fiction and other creative writing and editing. Find him here at the Channel 19 blog and via his Twitter feed, or send tips to email@example.com or via phone at 205-907-2481.