Canadian aerodynamic truck accessories cut energy consumption
Laydon Composites Ltd.
December 16, 2013— Oakville, Ontario
Large transportation fleets such as FedEx, UPS and Conway are under mounting pressure to reduce fuel consumption and harmful emissions. A major challenge for fast-moving freight trucks is the extra fuel it takes to fight the wind pushing against them on the road as they race to meet delivery deadlines. Many of these companies are turning to Ontario-based Laydon Composites Limited (LCL) for practical solutions that improve mileage and performance, and reduce emissions. And with support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), LCL has been able to research and develop products that break new ground.
LCL's two main products—fairings or windscoops on top of truck cabs and skirts attached to the sides of trailers—send wind over the top and sides of a truck, eliminating much of the resistance that wind creates. According to LCL president Brian Layfield, these fairings and skirts can cut fuel costs up to seven per cent, saving fleets thousands of dollars.
Customers are lining up for both new and retrofitted products, and LCL has recently been awarded the largest trailer retrofit contract in North American history. Over the past two years, this 50-employee enterprise has experienced 300 percent growth, and boosted its North American market share from two to 15 percent.
"We believe in listening to our clients, and they've told us they need strategies to become greener, reduce their carbon footprint and cut their energy costs," says Layfield. "Our response has been to construct high-quality accessories from lightweight composites, ensure they are built and shipped quickly—and sold at the most competitive prices."
Layfield points out that ease of shipping and installation are important factors in LCL's success. "Truck cabs come off the production line piggybacked in sets of four, so the fairings need to be collapsible for shipping," he explains. "The skirts, installed by end users, must be easy to mount and pliable so if they hit a curb or a snowbank, they will bounce back into shape." Skirts also help reduce splash and spray, benefitting not only drivers on highways but also pedestrians and cyclists in cities.
Driving change with NRC-IRAP
For almost a decade, LCL has worked with NRC-IRAP to research and develop these products. To complement LCL's internal expertise, Industrial Technology Advisors (ITAs) such as George Boden introduced the company to experts in polymer and injection-molding technologies. Layfield notes that Boden was "very helpful in co-ordinating funding and outside resources to help us get our products to market more quickly." LCL also benefitted from using NRC's wind tunnel testing facilities where they could conduct simulation studies to optimize product aerodynamics.
Boden reports that NRC-IRAP worked with LCL on several iterations of various products, including a best-selling device for attaching skirts to trucks. "They needed to move from steel construction to something lightweight and resilient." Layfield explains that plastic was not flexible enough for the tough trucking environment, so the company opted for composites such as polymers that "remember" and recover their original shape if they are damaged. To manufacture the products quickly, LCL uses injection molding techniques.
The company's marketing savvy was another important factor in its success, according to Boden. "LCL's senior executives come from trucking backgrounds, have stellar reputations in the industry and leverage their contacts to make those sales." Layfield agrees that "unless you have clients, you don't have a success story," noting that his formula is "concept, capital and clients."
LCL's profitability and increased cash flow have allowed them to invest in other areas of the business that will benefit clients - adding more technology to fuel productivity and further reduce energy consumption in transportation while increasing payload.
"NRC-IRAP has been extremely helpful in sourcing critical resources to deal with our specific problems, and was there for us through thick and thin."- Brian Layfield, President, LCL
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