Solution from the High Seas? "Boat tail" may reduce drag

| 1/13/2003

Kenworth Truck Co. and Aero Works, a small company based in Olympia, WA, are working together on a new device for tractor-trailers called a “boat tail,” a large, rounded appendage designed to increase fuel efficiency.

The boat tail, a 5-foot-long inflatable device shaped like half an egg attached to the back of a trailer, is designed to keep the complete length of the truck within U.S. Department of Transportation length restrictions for aerodynamic devices, the company said in a release.

Wayne Simons, engineering manager for Kenworth’s advanced concepts team in Renton, WA, said in a statement that Aero’s design represented a new approach to the idea of boat tails.

“The industry has known about the concept for years, but no one has figured out how to make it work,” he said. “Aero Works might change all that.”

Simons, who specializes in making vehicles more aerodynamic and researching ways to reduce vehicle drag, said the device increases fuel efficiency in trucks by several percent. Aero and Kenworth have tested a model in a wind tunnel and on the road.

Aero Works President Lee Telnack told The Seattle Post Intelligencer that the device is designed to allow truckers’ brake lights to still be visible and to give drivers access to the trailer’s back doors. The boat tail splits in half and closes with clips, he told the paper, and then the halves collapse "like an accordion" against the sides of the truck when the rear trailer doors are opened.