Aerodynamic Truck Sideguards: Improved Safety and Fuel Efficiency
Sideguards Make Roads Safer and Reduce Fuel Consumption in Europe – Why Not in Canada?
February 10, 2012
TORONTO – Research and practice in Europe show that truck sideguards not only improve road safety but can also yield environmental and economic benefits. This is achievable through aerodynamic design that reduces fuel consumption and consequently greenhouse gas emission. NDP Transport Critic Olivia Chow is making the case to make aerodynamic sideguards a reality in Canada – to the benefit of Canada’s road users, trucking companies and our environment.
Background: In 1989, Directive 89/297/EEC was passed which made the introduction of truck sideguards mandatory in all EU member states. The stated objective of the directive is to protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists in the case of a lateral collision with trucks . Based on the specifications laid out in the regulation, various research institutions and companies have developed a number of sideguard products that yield both the desired safety effect and as well as fuel saving benefits.
These EU-regulation compliant truck sideguards are described and advertised using a range of different names, but they all fulfill two goals: mandatory safety requirements (e.g. withstanding a lateral force of 1 kN) and reduced drag – which results in improved fuel economy.
The idea of aerodynamic sideguards that reduce fuel consumption is not new. Early prototypes were tested in 1996 in the Netherlands. These first models resulted in fuel savings of 4-5% in real-life, long-time tests (six months). Since then, significant gains have been made by improving the sideguard technology.
The Dutch company Ephicas, together with Delft University of Technology, has developed a sideguard (branded as SideWing) that yields fuel savings of 5% to 15% for tractor-trailer combinations, (depending on speed, weather and road conditions). This model is already being sold to and installed by trucking companies in various European countries. On average, this sideguard model leads to a 9% improvement in fuel economy.
A competing German company, Krone, is selling sideguards (branded as FuelSaver) that results in 7% lower fuel consumption. One long-distance trial resulted in fuel savings of 20%. A British design leads to an average reduction in fuel consumption of 10%.
The new generation of aerodynamic sideguards is built to last long and make truck maintenance easy. The average lifespan is designed to be 20 years. Each panel can be opened and locked independently, providing easy access for inspections and repairs. The material for the various products is high-tech plastic that has the necessary physical characteristics. For a regular trailer, such sideguards weighs a total of 220 kg.
Fuel savings are also achieved by installing aerodynamic sideguards on rigid trucks (non-articulated trucks). Wind tunnel tests show a 10% drag reduction when fitted with closed sideguards.
The National Research Council has calculated the potential benefits for Canada if aerodynamic sideguards were in place on all tractor-trailer combinations in the country: assuming a conservative fuel consumption reduction of 5%, annual savings for Canada’s fleet of ~230,000 tractor-trailer combinations would reduce fuel consumption by 401 million liters. This results in a decrease in CO2 emissions of 1.1 million tonnes annually.
The same study calculated that the average payback period for the installation of sideguards is around 2 years – well below the average lifespan of a trailer or truck.
The facts are clear: Canada can only gain from the introduction of aerodynamic sideguards. Our roads will be safer, trucking companies more profitable and our country’s carbon footprint reduced.