Many fleet owners and operators are turning to natural gas vehicles as stringent emissions guidelines and incentives drive the industry to seek alternative fuels. With increasing numbers of fleets looking into alternative fuels, there has been an upturn in mixed fleet operations that include diesel, gasoline and natural gas engines.
Managing a mixed fuel fleet presents unique challenges that need innovative solutions. One area that is particularly affected is maintenance, especially when it comes to engine oil. The variation in fuel type makes the process more complex for mechanics, and typically means they must carry and stock a variety of oils and other maintenance essentials to cater to each type of engine.
Not only does this add to the cost of maintaining the vehicles, but it also means that additional storage space is required to house the oils safely and securely based on their manufacturer’s advice.
Taking up valuable shop space and requiring more time and money to manage another lubricant in a time of economic pressure, the increase of oil products in the shop can also make the maintenance process more prone to costly mistakes, such as using the wrong oil in an engine or run the risk of running out of oil. This directly impacts the company’s bottom line by taking the vehicle off the road and increasing its time in the shop. The very two things that fleet owners want to avoid.
The Role of Lubricants
Before selecting an engine oil for a mixed fleet, it is important to consider their vital role and how they impact the overall performance of the vehicle.
Heavy-duty engine lubricants help minimize frictional losses between moving components within the engine and reduce viscous drag. The API CK-4 and FA-4 categories, which were launched in December 2016, were designed to offer these benefits alongside a robust and improved resistance to oxidation, enhanced aeration control and greater shear stability.
Combined, these vital qualities allow engines to run more efficiently and use less fuel (specifically when using FA-4 oils) while offering protection to the essential components of the engine.
Steps for Engine Oil Selection
When selecting an engine oil, it is important to consider several key factors:
- The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) vehicle manual recommendation.
- The conditions that your fleet operate in.
- Benefits of synthetic vs non-synthetic oils.
- OEM approval requirements.
For mixed fleet owners and operators, finding an engine oil that has the correct OEM approvals and meets the warranty requirements for all the fleet vehicles would be a cost effective solution and would help optimize vehicle maintenance.
A Forward-Thinking Solution
To meet the unique challenges that operating a mixed fleet presents, lubricant manufacturers continue to develop innovative new lubricants, such as Petro-Canada Lubricants’ DURON GEO Long Drain (LD) 15W-40 and 10W-30.
These new product lines can deliver superior engine protection for mixed fleets with compressed natural gas/liquefied natural gas, diesel and gasoline engines. For these applications, it is important to check the product’s OEM approvals and licenses to ensure compliance with each vehicles’ OEM manual recommendations, as otherwise any warranty could be invalidated.
Not only offering a "one-size-fits-all" engine oil for mixed fleet operations, the latest lubricants can also provide added potential fuel economy benefits and the ability to extend oil drain intervals. Extending oil drain intervals and maximizing the time that trucks can stay on road enhances the efficiency of the fleet and can result in significant cost savings.
For fleet owners looking to extend their oil drain intervals, it’s vital that this is done in partnership with lubricant experts and used oil analysis testing to ensure that doing it does not compromise engine protection or performance. This helps ensure the smooth running of a fleet and, crucially, protects the bottom line of the business. (Note: Extending drain intervals should always be undertaken in conjunction with an oil analysis program.)
Operating a mixed fleet can offer incentivized benefits for fleet owners and operators but can also present maintenance challenges. OEM approved "one-size-fits-all" engine oil solutions can address both issues by securing cost and maintenance efficiencies and performance benefits.
About the Author: Ron LeBlanc Sr. is the senior technical advisor for Petro-Canada Lubricants.