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ConMet acquires maker of tractor-trailer gap-closing TruckWings

9-year-old aerodynamic innovator will become technology company subsidiary

ConMet has acquired the maker of TruckWings, the aerodynamic gap closing technology for tractor-trailers. (Photo: Truck Labs)

Tractor-trailer parts and components maker ConMet has acquired Truck Labs, the inventor of gap-closing TruckWings that create fuel savings through aerodynamics.

Truck Labs, founded in 2014 as XStream, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Vancouver, Washington-based ConMet. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal closed last Thursday.

Becoming part of a major supplier could help Truck Labs move into OEM factories after operating mostly in the aftermarket.

“The extra drag caused by the tractor-trailer gap is a well-known problem to OEMs. It is quickly becoming the next ‘low-hanging fruit’ to be solved,” Daniel Burrows, Truck Labs founder, said in an email to FreightWaves. “We think that TruckWings’ 750 million miles of direct experience with fleets, combined with ConMet’s market position and deep OEM relationships, we can bring a full solution to OEMs.”

OEMs want proven solutions to improve fuel economy to increase the value of their trucks to their customers and to meet upcoming regulatory standards, he said. 

Classic combination

“It’s classic in our industry. Some technologies can be moved through the aftermarket where fleets need something unique,” Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, told FreightWaves.  

OEMs and large fleets usually avoid tie-ups with startups. They worry about scaling, service and parts availability and whether the business will be around.

Truck Labs has defied the odds. Roeth once told Burrows that others had tried and failed to create gap-closing technology. He didn’t give Burrows much chance of succeeding.

“They really can close the gap and save a lot of fuel,” Roeth said of TruckWings.

How they work

The tractor-mounted technology works by automatically deploying panels from the back of the cab to cover the tractor-trailer gap at highway speeds. The folding panels auto-retract at slower speeds, allowing for trailer clearance during turns. Impact-resistant, glass-reinforced composites attach to the rear sides and roof of the cab.

A stand-alone telematics system in the cab allows drivers and fleet managers to track deployments as well as fuel and dollar savings.

Less fuel used and emissions avoided

TruckWings reduces drag, improves stability and increases fuel efficiency by 3%-6%. That saves more than 1,100 gallons of fuel and 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per diesel truck per year. They also extend the range of electric and hydrogen vehicles.

“Their technology — which has been proven through 750 million logged highway miles — aligns well with our goal of providing OEMs and fleets with forward-thinking, profitable solutions to improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions,”  John Waters, ConMet president, said in a news release.

TruckLabs experienced 250% year-over-year growth in 2022. ConMet could help TruckWings boost its emissions-reducing credentials. Truck Labs data shows TruckWings has saved 80 million pounds of carbon dioxide since its launch in 2015. Every TruckWings-equipped commercial vehicle is equivalent to removing two cars from the road.

“ConMet is the perfect partner to introduce our product to a wider customer base, and adds much needed scale to our manufacturing capabilities,” Burrows said.  “Together, my team and I are excited to join with ConMet to supercharge our impact on our customers’ fuel costs and climate goals.” 

Truck Labs employees join 6,000 ConMet workers in 17 global locations. The Truck Labs name remains for the time being, Burrows said.

Editor’s note: Adds comments from Burrows and additional details.

High-flying TruckWings looks at what’s next

Winging it can save money and emissions

Xstream Trucking broadens business and becomes Truck Labs

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.