Aerodynamic Study of Bulk Commodity Tractor Trailers

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Western Trailers
Team Name Trailer Park Boys
Team Members
  • Jake Frost
  • Liam Johnson
  • Brandon Hilliard
  • Duration Fall 2017 - Spring 2018
    Faculty Advisers Dr. Steven Beyerlein
    Mentor Sarah Willis

    Our project goal is to test aerodynamic features of four existing tractor trailers in order to reduce emissions. This will be accomplished by studying and comparing the drag coefficients of each design. Our designs will be created with either 3D printing and/or laser cutting technology.

    Problem Definition[edit]

    Semi-trucks are used all over the world for transporting goods. They provide easy and affordable methods to keep economies running. The downside is that semi-trucks produce a lot of carbon-dioxide pollution from their exhaust. If the trailers they tow are improved aerodynamically, that carbon-dioxide production can be minimized. Western Trailer Company, headquartered in Boise, ID, has four main tractor trailer models, which are a flat-floor trailer, drop-center trailer, hopper trailer, and pup trailer. The Trailer Park Boys are tasked with testing and simulating these models in various configurations so improvements can be made to meet new tractor trailer requirements that will be implemented in 2018.

    Design Goals & Deliverables[edit]

    At the end of the project, the client will receive:

    • Scale models of selected Western Trailer products suitable for testing in the ME Wind Tunnel

    • Wind Tunnel data on aerodynamic drag associated with different scale models at different wind speeds

    • Methodology for translating changes in scale model drag coefficients to changes in fuel efficiency and emissions for full-size trailers (following appropriate federal guidelines)

    • Quantify changes in trailer performance associated with changes in trailer geometry for specific trailer models

    • Final design report that documents the team’s model development and testing process


    Trailer Specifications
    Wind Tunnel Specifications

    Concept Development[edit]

    Designs to be Tested[edit]

    The existing tractor trailers are:

    Flat Floor
    Nose Cone
    Hopper Bins
    Nose Cone

    Design Modeled[edit]

    SolidWorks Model of Design
    Cross-Sectional View of SolidWorks Model of Design

    Testing Results[edit]

    Coefficient of Drag of Each Model

    The coefficient of drag of the nose cone model does not differ by much from the base model.

    We would like to run at higher speeds to see if a larger difference in drag coefficient shows up.

    We still need to correlate our drag coefficients with full-size trailer drag coefficients.

    Project Learning[edit]

    Wind Tunnel Learning[edit]

    Wind Tunnel

    When testing scale models, geometric similitude is very important.

    The ratio of model length to actual length must be identical with model width to actual width, and so on with all other dimensions.

    The Buckingham-pi theorem allows dimensional analysis to simplify testing and data processing.

    Team Members[edit]

    Member Photo Biography Discipline
    Brandon Hilliard
    Brandon Hilliard.jpg

    Brandon Hilliard is a Mechanical Engineering Senior at the University of Idaho. His interest in mechanical things began when he was working on cars with his father. Originally, he was planning on becoming an automotive technician, but he also wanted to learn how to design mechanical systems, such as an automobile, so he chose to become a mechanical engineer. His interests in the mechanical engineering field include heat transfer, fluid dynamics, and mechanical design. Outside of school, he enjoys playing basketball, playing guitar, cooking, and drag racing.

    Mechanical Engineering.
    Liam Johnson
    Liam Johnson.jpg

    Liam Johnson is a Mechanical Engineering Senior at the University of Idaho. His interests are in design and manufacturing optimization. His current goal is to work in the industry for a few years before returning to school to specialize in a field of interest.

    Mechanical Engineering
    Jacob Frost

    Jacob Frost is a Mechanical Engineering Senior at the University of Idaho.

    Mechanical Engineering