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SB Components targets fuel savings with latest tractor unit catwalks

  • 26 April 2013
  • By David Wilcox

SB Components, the Wisbech-based manufacturer best known for custom-made vehicle fuel tanks, says track testing shows its latest design of tractor unit catwalks can achieve fuel savings that would recoup their cost in less than a year.

Although large catwalks primarily are designed to improve driver safety by reducing the risk of slipping between the chassis rails while connecting and/or disconnecting Suzies, they have long been claimed to offer aerodynamic benefits too. According to the government’s Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme, “In theory, a benefit should result if used in conjunction with cab roof and side fairings, and there is some anecdotal evidence to this effect. However, a rigorous quantification of this has not been documented.”

SB Components says an unnamed major fleet customer carried out two days of track testing at Millbrook Proving Ground last September, using two Daf CF85 4×2 tractor units pulling unladen curtain-sided trailers at motorway-type speeds. A factory-fit standard small catwalk was compared with SB Components’ aerodynamic catwalk. The latter is the same as SB’s usual aluminium catwalks, but double-skinned with a backing plate that prevents airflow down through the holes in the catwalk surface. The objective is to restrict the amount of air that gets into the space beneath the vehicle, where axles and chassis members generate aerodynamic drag.

SB Components says the tests found that when running with the aerodynamic catwalk, fuel consumption was 3.2% to 3.5% better than with the standard catwalk. Bearing in mind that percentage benefits would be around a third less when running fully laden, and taking account of lower speeds, SB Components is quoting typical savings of 2%.

The Millbrook testing found that savings were reduced to 1.5% if the catwalk is used in conjunction with tractor side-skirts, highlighting the interaction of airflows and the danger of assuming that individual aerodynamic benefits will accumulate in a straightforward manner.

Versions for 6×2 units weigh approximately 70kg and start at around £600; larger catwalks for 4×2 units weigh about 95kg and cost around £950

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Article source: http://www.commercialmotor.com:80/latest-news/sb-components-targets-fuel-savings-with-latest-tractor-unit-catwalks