Refrigerated Transporter- April 2011
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Holman Transportation Services sees quick payback

For durability, saving fuel, rapid ROI, these skirts impress reefer carrier

Bob Holman likes skirts on his trailers, and he has good reason to. The side skirts, or fairings, manufactured by Freight Wing and installed on most of the trailers in his fleet, are saving fuel and proving durable, even through a recent brutal winter.

“Of all the energy-efficient things we’ve tried, the Freight Wing side skirts are the only ones I can honestly say give us a quick payback—it’s just 18 months,” said Holman, the owner of Holman Transportation Services, based in Caldwell ID.

The fuel economy gains come from the installation of Freight Wing side skirts on 72 trailers and the phasing in of super single tires.

This year, another dozen or so of Holman’s trailers will be traded in, and the new units, spec’d with super singles, will be fitted with side skirts. Before long, all of the carrier’s 98 Utility trailers will be equipped with Freight Wing side skirts.

Holman Transportation Services hauls frozen and refrigerated loads, as well as some dry goods, in 53-foot trailers. The fleet runs 96 tractors, all of them Peterbilt 387s. Painted a distinctive blue, the tractors “all look alike,” Holman said.

Besides fuel economy, another virtue turned out to be durability, thanks to the side skirt’s construction using a high-grade plastic, and flex mounting system.

“We have had several incidents where cars ran into them and banged them up, and they just basically rebounded back into place,” Holman said. “We had one experience that could have been a disaster if not for Freight Wing. We think the car probably would have gone underneath the trailer.” The driver of the passenger car in that episode lost control in slick conditions; the vehicle struck the side skirt on the trailer and bounced away.

“It didn’t really damage the Freight Wing side skirt to any extent,” Holman said, noting that one strut had to be replaced. “Other than that we just haven’t had any damage to speak of,” he said. “They’re really maintenance-free.”

Utility Trailer Sales in Boise ID handled the initial installations, and Holman personnel retrofitted some trailers as part of their conversion to super singles, but the bulk of the installations have been done by Utility at the factory.

The performance of the skirts during the recent severe winter further impressed Holman.

“That’s been a pleasant surprise,” he said. “We were worried that ice and snow might build up on the skirts, but it just doesn’t. I think the road vibration knocks it off. It doesn’t get a chance to build up.”

The carrier’s operating area extends throughout the Midwest and Southeast. Some routes run into California, which this year began requiring aerodynamic devices such as side skirts and low-rolling-resistance tires on new trailers. By 2013, any trailer entering the state must have side skirts and fuel-efficient tires, unless fleets enroll for phase-in plans.

But those new regulations in the Golden State are not what prompted Holman Transportation to try the Freight Wing side skirts. “We only run about three to four percent of our miles in the state of California,” Holman said.

Rather, he tried the side skirts simply because “we’ve always tried to be progressive when it comes to saving fuel,” he said. He tried them first on a pair of new trailers in 2009. “After about three months we could see that the mileage and performance were definitely better, and every driver that towed them liked them. We decided then and there we were going to use them on the whole fleet.”

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