By Alex Green
Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
Burl Pence probably wouldn’t have given trailer skirts a shot had Dena Jackson and her Chattanooga startup, Greene Skirts, not come along and made it a pretty easy decision for him.
Zero dollars is what the skirts — attachable flats installed on the underside of semi trailers to increase fuel efficiency — would cost, Jackson told him.
An eco-nut, visionary and now entrepreneur, Jackson comes from the world of big trucking with a dream of making the country’s 18-wheelers a little easier on the environment — one 53-foot trailer at a time.
Jackson’s Greene Skirts is just around 2 months old. She explains the business model as this: Greene Skirts buys trailer skirts wholesale, then finds advertisers to pay to have their name on them.
Once bankrolled by an advertiser, the trailer skirts are handed over to truckers and installed at no charge.
The trucking companies get a free set of $1,300 skirts; the advertiser gets its name on a travelling, eye-level billboard; Greene Skirts makes some in the middle and everybody wins, says Jackson.
“I’ve been an environmentalist my entire life, and I’ve always wanted to do more,” she said.
Free trailer skirts (and estimated $1,300 value), free installation and an estimated over 600 gallons of fuel saved a year sold Pence, a 51-year trucking veteran.
“This is the first one we’ve put on, so we’ll give them a shot and see how they turn out,” he said. “If she hadn’t have just given them to us, we probably wouldn’t have done it.”
With diesel prices averaging around $3.75 a gallon, one trailer equipped with skirts stands to save drivers around $2,400 a year.
And “that’s huge,” said Jonathan Pence, Burl’s great-nephew and do-it-all guy at BP (short for Burl Pence) Trucking.
Trailer skirts have been around for nearly a decade but have become increasingly popular over the last few years, and are now commonplace on the Interstate.
But Jackson said stories like Pence’s — of firms who probably wouldn’t go for skirts unless they were free — are pretty commonplace, as everyone tries to save a dollar.
So she thinks she can capitalize on the gap. Hers is not the first company to do this, but it’s one of the first in the east.
To make sure everyone stays happy, Jackson is also paying to install skyward-facing GPS monitors on trailers with Greene Skirts attachments so her advertisers can see everyday where their skirt is and how much ground it has covered.
Jackson says she can even match advertisers with trailers specific to geographic regions, for local and regional companies. A Krystal skirt, for instance, might be placed on a trailer that stays in the Southeast since Krystal is concentrated in this area.
And the skirts given to Pence, meanwhile, were the first set of in-house ads for Greene Skirts, with the Greene Skirts name and logo, hopefully to get the name out there, said Jackson.
Pence, watching the installation, approved of the look.
“It looks good,” he said. “I’m enthused with it.”
After 51 years in the industry, Pence said if it helps him make a few extra dollars and doesn’t cost anything in the process, he’s happy with it.
He shared the sentiment with Jackson: “I’m happy you called me,” he said.