SDC Trailers

19th June 2019

SDC work with consortium to develop ground-breaking lightweight double-deck trailers for Tesco

One of the world’s largest supermarket groups, Tesco, is currently trialling six new model double deck trailers aiming to reduce their carbon footprint and HGV emissions by 15%. Trailer manufacturer, SDC have been working with Tesco and a consortium of partners including Cambridge University and Lawrence David on the project, which has been part funded by Innovate UK.

The proto-type Boxvan trailers, featuring a range of aerodynamic and lightweight elements will be tested against two of Tesco’s current vehicles on designated routes to establish which is the most effective in reducing the operator’s carbon emissions.

SDC’s Engineering Manager Jimmy Dorrian said “As the UK and Ireland’s leading semi-trailer manufacturer, SDC have made significant developments in the field of trailer aerodynamics over the years and we are delighted to be working with Tesco on ways to enhance their delivery operations.

When the project was commissioned, our engineers began by assessing Tesco’s current vehicle design and looking a new materials and components which could be used to reduce trailer weight. Once this was achieved, we then looked at aerodynamic aids in conjunction with our partners, that could be integrated in order to further reduce fuel consumption and associated emissions.

We are delighted with the outcome having delivered an overall weight saving of 1,250kg on the chassis alone, which will offer considerable benefits for Tesco with a reduction in carbon emissions and fuel consumption. As with all new concepts, only time will establish durability.”

Using Finite Element Analyis (FEA), SDC were able to reduce the amount of steel in the trailer chassis by fitting a honeycomb steel panel floor. The result meant that not only does the floor weigh less, but the build strength was enhanced by bonding the floor to the trailer chassis. SDC replaced Tesco’s current spec of wide twin wheels with six 445/45 super single tyres, which allowed the manufacturer to further reduce the trailer weight and reduce rolling resistance. This in turn meant that a standard nine tonne axle could be fitted with the added benefit of greater stability.

The trailer proto-type was fitted with a tapered rear end and a newly designed front pod with vertical splitter, which aims to reduce drag and fuel consumption by allowing airflow coming from the tractor unit to flow smoothly over the trailer. The trailer is also fitted with side skirts to prevent air turbulence in front of the axles.

Tesco’s existing design of double deck meant that due to weights, the trailer maxed out on payload before it maxed out on volume. The light-weighting of the trailer meant that Tesco can now plan based on maximum cage volume, without worrying about weight. This additional capacity equates to approximately 10% more cages being moved on each trailer, reducing the number of vehicles required and further reducing the supermarket’s carbon emissions.

Data from the project is being recorded and assessed by Cambridge University’s Engineering team, headed by Professor Michael Sutcliffe. Initial results from the trials have shown a positive reduction in trailer emissions, with the aerodynamic double deck trailers delivering a fuel saving of up to 11.2% per tonne-km payload transport work.

Tesco’s Fleet Engineering Manager, Cliff Smith, said: “It’s early days but the aerodynamic and lightweight features of these trailers are certainly of interest to us for future specification, as a company we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and both the aerodynamic and lightweight elements have achieved improvements in that area.”

Final results from the nine-month trial are expected to be announced in Q1 2020. In the meantime, Dorrian confirms that SDC’s engineering team will continue to explore light weighting and trailer aerodynamics to provide industry leading products and operator savings. SDC offer a wide range of aerodynamic enhancements across their full semi-trailer range and in 2011 they launched their ‘Aeroliner’ curtainsider, incorporating vortex generators and an aerodynamic design to deliver a 12% operator fuel savings.