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King of the Slipstream

If you ever need a quick lesson on the value of good aerodynamics, just stick your arm out the window next time you’re cruising along the highway. Feel that? Now imagine what your rig is fighting every day, all day. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to reduce the drag (on your rig, not your arm), and plenty of reason to do it.

The California Air Resource Board (CARB) began putting regulations in place to force the aero issue in 2010, and those regs are now being enforced more aggressively. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C, policy makers are pushing for additional improvements in big rig aerodynamics.

So here’s the truth: Slippery rigs are the future. It’s time to ask, how good is yours?

Independent tests show that long-haul trucks can improve fuel efficiency by 5-to-7 percent with good aftermarket aero equipment. So if you drive 100,000 miles annually, you could be buying about 1,000 fewer gallons of diesel every year. Fuel is probably your biggest operating expense, so it’s easy to see how the savings will add up.

If you’re ready, there’s plenty of good information out there. Better yet, any good dealer should be able to help find what’s best for you. Start looking around. Start asking questions. Popular equipment includes:

  • Side skirts
  • Underbody tray systems
  • Top fairings
  • Trailer tails
  • Cab-side extenders
  • Wheel hub covers

Most aero add-ons will mean slightly more weight, but good gear will make your rig more efficient and save you money in the long run. Just make sure you’re buying equipment that’s certified by the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership and is CARB compliant.

As they say, “your results will vary.” But if you cover long distances and keep the speed in the 60 to 65 mph range, aero equipment can be a great traveling companion that pays for itself pretty quickly. If you’re not running any now, it’s time to start.