Dollars & Sense

Kevin Rutherford

Owning a trailer can pay off in more ways than one

| December 27, 2012

The same physics that apply to tractor fuel economy improvements can be applied to the trailer. The more aerodynamic the tractor is, the more critical it is for the trailer to play a complementary role in streamlining airflow.

Studies have shown that the fuel economy difference between a typical fleet van and a more aerodynamic trailer is 1 mile per gallon or more. So an owner-operator could add $10,000 or more to his bottom line in one year by using a trailer with strong aero features. That means the trailer would pay for itself long before it wears out.

The great news is we can build fuel-efficient trailers with products already on the market. I’ve been working with some companies to design and build the most fuel-efficient trailer possible.

We’re using SmartTruck’s UnderTray system, which is more durable and less susceptible to damage. It addresses many of the trailer’s aerodynamic problems, including the undercarriage, tandems, the top and sides of the trailer, and the low pressure created behind the trailer. We’re also working on designs to improve the aerodynamic efficiency at the front of the trailer.

The other key factors are rolling resistance and mechanical resistance. We designed the trailer with the most fuel-efficient, low rolling resistance tire possible. We’ve also  incorporated liftable axles so that the only tires on the ground are those needed to carry the weight at any given time. We’re also using an automatic tire inflation and tire pressure monitoring system.

To reduce mechanical resistance, we are employing racing technology by using the MicroBlue polishing and coating process on all bearings, axles and any other component subject to friction. These improvements, along with many others, have shown fuel mileage increases as much as 1 mile per gallon or more over typical trailers.

You know how frustrating it is to pick up a trailer with brakes out of adjustment or malfunctioning completely. Putting the owner-operator in ownership of the trailer drastically reduces those problems, as well as the downtime that comes with them.

Having a well-maintained trailer is also critical given the strict penalties for violation under Compliance, Safety, Accountability regulations.

Another large benefit of trailer ownership is increased revenue potential. Typically carriers pay 7 percent to 10 percent more gross load if the owner-operator owns the trailer. Compared to pulling an ordinary company trailer, the fuel savings of using your own aero trailer eventually pays for the ownership. The increased revenue goes directly to the bottom line.

Your owning a trailer makes you more valuable to a carrier, too. Having increased capacity without any additional capital expenditures is a major benefit for carriers struggling to manage capacity in a cost-effective way.