Andrew Smith Tu’07 and ATDynamics, a company he founded while a student at the Tuck School of Business, hope to save the environment one tractor-trailer at a time with the TrailerTail, a rear attachment that saves fuel and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by making trucks more aerodynamic. Smith created the prototype of the product on his living room floor using tape and cardboard during his second year at Tuck.
ATDynamics currently outfits over 100 trucking companies ranging from Walmart to Frito-Lay and was recently awarded the 2012 Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Award in the category of Transportation. ATDynamics has saved over 2 million gallons of diesel fuel since its creation, Smith said.
“My focus has always been on what I call ‘environmental technologies,’” he said. “In looking at different green technology ideas, I was introduced to the fact that a big box-shaped trailer was the least aerodynamic and therefore least fuel-efficient shape to pull down the highway.”
After creating the initial model, Smith recruited engineering student Jeff Grossmann Th’07 to work with him on the project.
“It really connected with me in terms of the environmental goals, and I thought the engineering was fascinating,” Grossmann said. “We found a way to provide massive fuel savings and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by making the shape of tractor-trailers more aerodynamic than they have been for the last 50 years.”
The TrailerTail’s origami design collapses to provide easy access to the trailer’s freight and saves 5-10 percent of fuel at highway speeds, according to the company website.
Smith said his marketing strategy centered on convincing not only the trucking companies, but also drivers and maintenance crews of the technology’s benefit.
“The real key to bringing a new technology to market is not just to understand the opportunity but to understand the incentives of the people you are selling to,” Smith said. “Any new technology is a perceived hassle for the people that have to take care of the trucks and trailers.”
The TrailerTail is surprisingly practical, according to Senior Resource Traffic Fleet Manager for Frito-Lay/Pepsico Bob Raduchel.
“At first look I thought, ‘Wow, what are we getting into here,’ because it looks fairly complex, but it has proven unbelievably durable,” he said.
Raduchel said that the TrailerTail is and will continue to be important to the trucking industry.
“[Miles per gallon] has really become the holy grail of the industry, and anything that can assist a fleet in trimming diesel costs is a huge item,” Raduchel said.
Smith said he attributes the progress of ATDynamics to hard work and determination.
“It’s only successful because of about four years of absolute head down persistence and sweat equity of a handful of employees that really went through some bumpy times to get the job done,” he said.
Tuck professor Gregg Fairbrothers, who witnessed the evolution of the company, echoed Smith’s sentiment.
“[Smith] faced a lot of obstacles all along the way — nothing ever came easy,” Fairbrothers said.
While ATDynamics is currently based in Hayward, Calif., its Dartmouth roots remain evident, Grossmann said.
“This company is more Dartmouth than anything else,” he said. “One of the biggest things that Dartmouth provided was a network of people and a very strong alumni base that acted as a sounding board for all of the different issues that you face.”…