The SmartTruck Story
A vision for the future of truck aerodynamics, and the heritage to achieve it.
The idea behind SmartTruck began in the minds of a group of engineers who had previously focused their attention and careers on improving the aerodynamic performance of commercial aircraft, commercial ground vehicles, motorsports and ballistics. The concept of improved aerodynamics, while mind-numbingly complex to many of us, is actually quite simple: helping solid objects move through their environments—whether it is air (gas) or water (liquid)—with less resistance, less drag and less expenditure of energy.
Our engineering team began thinking about the concept of applying aerodynamics to the trucking industry just as C.A.R.B. rules were emerging, and complex computer modeling was becoming less expensive and more accessible.
As any innovator would, our team began with the universal dreamer’s proposition of “what if?”:
What if we could improve the aerodynamic performance of the long-haul truck?
What if we could develop products that would reduce the drag of the low-pressure wake that forms just behind the trailer and creates a backward pressure on the vehicle?
How far could we take long-haul trailer aerodynamics?
How big an improvement in fuel economy could we make?
And as any good business person would do, we first approached the trucking industry and asked them: IF we could improve trailer aerodynamics, reduce drag and improve fuel economy, would that be appealing to your business? Although the aerodynamic and drag-reduction conversations can quickly become bogged down in minute details, we resoundingly heard the word “yes!”. Yes, the industry is not satisfied with trailer performance. Yes, the industry wants and needs better fuel economy if it is to not only survive, but thrive. Yes, trucking wants to benefit from the new computer modeling capabilities, ideas and possibilities that have become the bread and butter of the aerospace industries.
We started with a wide variety of trailer fairing design ideas. A grant from the U.S. Department of Energy allowed us to gain access to the supercomputers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory that are critical to our design testing. Sophisticated Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and an optimization process using a Genetic Algorithm (GA) allowed us to hone our designs. Essentially, GA allows SmartTruck engineers to morph design elements until the absolute best possible shape, size and configuration are achieved.
CFD has changed everything for SmartTruck, as it has for commercial aeronautics. It’s CFD that allows aircraft designers to not only know that their new design will actually fly, but how it will perform. Prior to CFD, designers had to rely on wind tunnel studies. With CFD and performance validation through an extensive product testing protocol, SmartTruck is able to deliver real value in every product we offer.
Now, several years and many grey hairs later, we continue every day to refine, explore and create the next generation of aerodynamic solutions for the trucking industry. We aggressively challenge the status quo on how far long-haul trailer aerodynamics can take the industry, and how big an improvement in fuel economy we can make. Precision aerodynamics is in our blood. It’s changing the world, and will change the future of trucking.