More for less: working continually to reduce the cost of operating fleet equipment.
The first avenue of attack is to specify the latest technologies designed by vehicle, system and component suppliers to lower the cost of operation by reducing the need for both labor-intensive service and replacement parts. These include major items, such as engines that last longer and drivetrain components that are backed by warranties lasting as long as 750,000 miles. There are also longer life options for lights, namely LED lamps, electrical and air systems as well as tires.
On a second front, equipment executives are also revamping maintenance programs and practices. For example, there is a trend toward longer drain intervals for engine oil. This not only cuts the amount of lubricant and filters required over a given mileage but the labor to perform the oil change as well. In addition, disposal costs associated with environmental compliance are a major expense for many fleets. Subsequently, a savings is realized when longer drain intervals are adopted.
Extending the interval at which engine oil is drained, as well as utilizing synthetic gear lubricants to eliminate oil changes in transmissions and rear axles altogether, adds up to a tidy savings when all the reductions are multiplied by the size of the fleet. Similarly, antifreeze suppliers have been making it possible to cut out virtually all routine cooling system maintenance.
Among the companies offering longer service intervals for antifreeze products, for example, is Texaco Lubricants Company. It recently announced, for example, that its coolant for heavy-duty systems is now certified for 600,000 miles of on-highway service without the need for any supplemental additives. The move doubles the protection cycle of its Extended Life Coolant/Anti-freeze that was introduced two years ago.
"It's clear from the performance in more than 150 heavy-duty vehicles over more than 50 million miles that this product has surpassed our initial protection claims," related Carmen Ulabarro, product engineer. "Along with very positive feedback from customers, including no cooling system problems, tear downs and inspections of several engines revealed that corrosion and cylinder liner protection were excellent after more than 450,000 miles of use."
Texaco Extended Life Coolant/Antifreeze is formulated for use in heavy-duty diesel and natural gas engines. The system consists of a pre-diluted 50/50 mix of coolant and deionized water, a concentrate for adjusting the freeze point and a recharge package. There is no need for supplemental additives, Ulabarro noted, just one Extender at 300,000 miles. In addition, the coolant is formulated to protect cooling system metals and without silicates, nitrates, borates, phosphates or other abrasive solids that can cause water pump seals to wear.
Perhaps the most important point that Ulabarro brought out, however, is one that applies to the application of any maintenance reducing technology - it may cost more initially. The upfront costs may seem high in some cases, but a closer look at the bottom line often proves it to be a worthwhile investment. In the end, the battle for lower maintenance costs is one that can be won with the help of forward thinking suppliers and by the application of practices that reduce labor and parts needs.
Seth Skydel is the executive editor of Truck Fleet Management and Trucking Technologies, both publications of the Adams Trade Press Group.