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May 11, 2020 10:00 AM, EDT

Trailer Aerodynamics Suppliers Face Headwinds During Pandemic

 EkoStinger’s Blue StingerEkoStinger’s Blue Stinger is a wedge-shaped aerodynamic device that is installed under the trailer and slides with the tandems. (EkoStinger)

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Manufacturers of aerodynamic trailer equipment are like most companies confronting the dramatic economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but are in some cases also working to prepare for a moment when business eventually picks up.

“There is uncertainty in the space right now,” said Richard Senatro, president of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Strehl, which manufactures the TrailerBlade side skirt. Senatro noted that his company is working with manufacturer Great Dane Trailers to test a silicon-based coating for its side skirt. The coating is designed to repel dirt and resist corrosion.

“Mostly what we’re doing is a material vet,” Senatro said, “And the marketplace right now is helping us out with that.”

TrailerBlade side skirt

Side skirt by TrailerBlade

EkoStinger, a manufacturer of aerodynamic equipment that’s based in East Rochester, N.Y., had been preparing to test new products at a research site in San Antonio.

The company makes a wedge-shaped device that is installed under the trailer and slides with the tandems. A fixed version and other products are in development.

However, as the pandemic grew, EkoStinger was no longer able to bring its products, trucks, trailers and people to Texas for testing.

“Unfortunately, the situation right now has delayed a few things,” said Steve Smith, the company’s executive vice president of sales.

The steep drop in diesel prices that has accompanied the downturn has created a headwind for suppliers of aerodynamic equipment, as fuel costs are a key driver for their business, said Natalie Melomed, senior business analyst for Boulder, Colo.-based Avantechs, which makes VorBlade aerodynamic devices.

“The higher the fuel price, the more sales we have; both fleetwise and [to] individual owner-operators,” she said.

Avantechs’ plant closed in response to the pandemic, but the company has product in inventory, Melomed said.

Aerodynamic devices, combined with other equipment and in concert with weight reduction measures, could be used to meet future emissions regulations.

The Phase 2 greenhouse gas emissions rule prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration included federal standards for trailer efficiency, but the trailer portion of that regulation is still being contested and has not been put into effect.

“A number of fleets are creating their own solutions for [anticipated] GHG2 in conjunction with trailer manufacturers,” said Jon Fleck, founder and president of A de F, the manufacturer of Deflecktor and Hardspot products. “We are aware of a few who are doing this with our Hardspot [wheel] covers.”

Similar standards that had been scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1 in California have been suspended by the state’s Air Resources Board for at least two years.

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