The science of streamlining
Through innovative, aerodynamic designs, Aero Truck has contributed to bringing down fuel consumption in one of the most fuel-heavy industries – trucking
According to Cameron Dudley-Owen, director of Aero Truck: “Even though, back in the 1970s, the trucking industry in Europe was already taking cognisance of fuel consumption figures from trucks – and investigating the effects that aerodynamics could have on reducing this operational cost – truck aerodynamics was still an unknown factor in South Africa.”
Aero Truck was established in 1986. “The vision was to demonstrate, to the South African transport industry, the benefits of fitting aerodynamics and to manufacture units, which were as good as those being offered anywhere in the world,” Dudley-Owen explains.
At the launch of Toyota’s new Super Dolphin Truck Tractor, Aero Truck persuaded the company to fit an aerokit. “This was the small start of what is now a nationwide business. Aero Truck’s vision is to continue to fit custom-made, wind-management kits built to South African truck specifications,” he states.
According to Dudley-Owen, several manufacturers are importing kits with European specs. He emphasises: “These are not only more expensive, but a number of them are also significantly less effective than our locally manufactured ones, because they were not designed with South African height and width specifications in mind.”
The company’s head office is in Johannesburg, where the manufacturing takes place. It also services the North West, Limpopo and Free State provinces and neighbouring countries. Durban and Cape Town branches, as well as several agencies in smaller towns, have their own administration and fitting teams, and hold adequate stocks of Aero Truck products.
“Aero Truck’s international sales are made primarily to Namibia and Botswana and are generally concluded on the proviso of being fitted in Johannesburg, as the vehicles tend to be exported from South Africa. We have also made sales into East Africa and are working on growing this side of the business,” Dudley-Owen adds.
Aero Truck is a medium-sized enterprise, providing employment and expertise in the South African market. The company has a policy of continuous training and upgrading of skills. Dudley-Owen notes: “This ensures that the speed and efficiency of production, as well as the quality of the product, are improved on an ongoing basis. We also have a policy of promoting staff from within, as far as it is practical.”
Product design and manufacturing are done in-house. “Management and senior technical staff attend overseas trade shows on an annual basis, in order to keep abreast with the latest international trends, and Aero Truck has its own marketing division, with each branch having its own sales department,” he explains.
The major raw materials used are steel and fibreglass and Dudley-Owen claims that, wherever possible, Aero Truck seeks to source locally made materials.
“The company has been designing and manufacturing for the South African market for over 30 years and, despite the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) not having any South African National Standards (SANS) number specification for aerokits, we strongly believe our manufacturing standards and quality to be equal to any of the imported units,” he stresses.
Nevertheless, the company is in the process of obtaining SABS specifications for their products, as well as in obtaining an International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) rating.
While an Aero Truck wind management kit can cost anywhere between R6 000 and R40 000 – depending on the vehicle, the requirements of the operator and the operational use of the specific truck – Dudley-Owen rationalises this spend: “This may seem expensive, but one should bear in mind that a properly designed and fitted aerokit will give the operator maximum returns (fuel savings), and thus the best return on his investment.”
The company utilises cutting-edge designs, which it has been fitting for over ten years, in South Africa specifically, to cater to the distinctive larger local truck specifications. In contrast, the European (and in particular the British) manufacturers, have only recently been advocating the fitment of custom-made aerokits, versus those available from manufacturers, or purchased off the shelf. “In this instance, ‘one size cannot fit all’,” Dudley-Owen adds emphatically.
“As far as the local aerodynamics industry is concerned, we have a major advantage in the vastness of our country and the huge distances between our major cities. This means that our vehicles need to travel longer distances and, with our kits fitted, higher average speeds than in most other countries are possible.
“A further advantage that Aero Truck enjoys is the active participation and partnering of our development section with transporters such as Barloworld, Bakers Transport, EPS Couriers, Imperial Logistics and others. This level of commitment from our customers is of enormous benefit to them in their quest to remain at the forefront of the country’s aerodynamics industry,” Dudley-Owen says.
Truck Test 2014
Asked for his input on Truck Test 2014, he says: “While it may be somewhat premature to reflect on Truck Test 2014, the segment that was tested is probably the largest by sales, but covers only the five- to nine-tonne range of trucks. These vehicles tend to be driven by their owners, rather than by commercial transport contractors. The imperative will be to get the information on the results over to the individual operators. Because of the larger numbers involved, this will not be as easy as it would be when dealing with commercial truck operators.”
This aside, he adds: “The Truck Test series adds tremendous value to the industry; it stimulates interest, bringing manufacturers together to collaborate and make the event informative. Aero Truck believes it is an excellent forum to get manufacturers, importers, body builders and accessory suppliers (such as ourselves) together. It is likely that participants will have learned something new; not only in terms of improving their own products, but also about the industry in general. Of course, the important thing will be to pass this information on to the end-user. The fact that Truck Test is also a tremendously fun occasion, can only be of further benefit to all concerned.”