Aerodynamic truck legislation ready to Improve Fuel Efficiency, Reduce Emissions and Improve Road Safety in the UK

As of the 14th February 2022, HGV operators in the UK have been given the green light to use aerodynamic truck features as a result of a change in legislation

These changes mean that HGV operators can now use aerodynamic features, as well as longer cabs, on their fleet of vehicles. 

The new legislation aims to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions, as well as improve road safety by giving drivers more space in their cabs, plus reduce the size of blind spots. 

“This is another brilliant step not just in our efforts to reduce emissions across our transport network, but also to improve safety on our roads.”
Baroness Vere of Norbiton – Roads Minister, Department for Transport

A study conducted in 2013 estimated that fuel savings of 7-15% could be made by making aerodynamic adjustments to HGVs. 

What are the benefits of an aerodynamic truck?

An aerodynamic truck, quite simply, is exactly what it says on the tin.

It’s a truck (or HGV) that has had features added to make it more aerodynamic, or more streamlined. 

In this instance, the features we’re referring to are Aerodynamic Rear Devices, which are flaps fitted to the back of the truck’s trailer to reduce vehicle drag, without using up valuable load space on the truck’s trailer. 

While these have been in use in different parts of the world for some time, they were previously not issued for use on British roads under regulations that have been in place since 1986. 

“Allowing the use of aerodynamic features and elongated cabs on HGVs is fantastic news for our transport sector, which is looking to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.”
Phil Lloyd – Head of Engineering Policy, Logistics UK

The Aerodynamic Rear Devices help reduce fuel consumption by decreasing the vehicle drag, meaning less fuel is required in order to power the vehicle forwards. 

How do aerodynamic rear devices reduce drag?

Aerodynamic rear devices reduce a certain type of drag, called pressure drag.

There’s quite a lot of science behind how pressure drag works, so we wanted to break it down into really simple terms. 

As the truck moves forward, it pushes air molecules out of the way, which inevitably go above, below and down the sides of the vehicle. 

This creates a sort of ‘gap’ behind the truck, which, once the truck moves forward, the air molecules are all trying to quickly move back into.

Aerodynamic-Truck-Rear-Devices-Pressure-Drag-Graphic

The force that’s created in this process happening is the ‘pressure drag’. 

This is essentially a force that feels like it is pulling backwards on the vehicle, hence ‘drag’.

By using aerodynamic rear devices, what is happening is that the air molecules are being released back into this at a more gentle rate. 

This results in the pressure drag behind the truck being smaller and therefore allows the truck to move forwards with slightly less effort. 

Pressure Drag Definition

If you want the really ‘sciency’ definition of pressure drag, then here it is!

“Pressure drag is drag caused by increased pressure on the front and decreased pressure on the rear of an object moving through a fluid medium such as air or water or of a stationary object around which the medium passes.”
The Free Dictionary

Aerodynamic Truck Features Summary

Whilst there are significant benefits, to both businesses and the environment, when using these aerodynamic features, there are also some safety concerns to be aware of, such as:

  • Increased overall length of the vehicle in one of its blind spots
  • Requirements to ensure the devices are installed properly and secure at all times
  • The risk it poses to vulnerable road uses, particularly in urban or rural areas

Thankfully, The Department for Transport has published good practice guidance on the use of aerodynamic rear devices on HGVs in urban and rural areas.

In summary, the legislation being passed is a great step forward to help in reducing the environmental impact of HGV operators.

The ability to now use longer cabs and reduce the blind spots for HGV drivers is also a significant boost in making the roads a safer place in the UK. 

Aerodynamic trucks are a great way to make your fleet more efficient, and decrease the carbon footprint of your business.

But so too is providing your drivers with optimised routes to ensure they’re travelling the shortest distance on their delivery and collection runs. 

Interested to find out how route optimisation could benefit your business? Find out here