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2009-04-13:     

Over The Road (Magazine)

Keep Trucking Profits from Going Up in Smoke

Environmental Efforts

By Bruce Boyers -- Over The Road Magazine, April 2009

Average citizens don't know how dearly the owner-operators and fleets are paying to keep it all going these days. Thanks to skyrocketing costs of fuel, they're running on a dangerously thinning margin of profitability.

It's not just the fuel cost, however. It's also about what's happening as that fuel runs through the engine. Diesel fuel inherently burns dirty, and common oil filters only catch the larger particles. Smaller ones go right on through and cause considerable wear and tear on an engine, and many just get permanently lodged in there and do continuous damage. So not only are fuel prices gouging the trucker, but the life of the rig is being shortened as it is driven.

nother factor adds to the problem. Diesel fuel has now had its sulfer content considerably lowered to prevent damage to catalytic converters and particulate traps on newer trucks. Sulfur has a high lubrication value, and now that it's mostly gone, the fuel itself introduces a higher-than-ever abrasion factor.

While nothing can be done about the cost of fuel, if there were an easy way to keep all those particles out of the engine and re-introduce the lubricating property to fuel, higher mileage could be obtained and the lives of trucks could be considerably lengthened. And for the first time in a long time, that would mean a wider profit margin for independent truckers and fleets.

According to a study published by General Moters and the Society of Automotive Engineers, an oil filter that catches particulates down to 5 microns will yield a "50% or better increase in the service life of the unit." This means an increas of at least half the life of the vehicle. Unfortunately, however, the average oil filter only catches particles that are 25 to 40 microns. A micron is a pretty small measurement; for example, a human hair is four to ten microns. Small though they are, these particles circulate through the bearings and polished surfaces of an engine, grinding away its life. So if the normal oil filter can't catch them, how can these particles be removed? Some operators are turning to a new technology that effectively provides engine flushes for diesel trucks, completely cleaning those particles out.

While common for automobiles, engine flushes have not existed for trucks in the past. This has to do with the fact that adapters are needed to attach the cleaning machine to the oil-filterr port, and trucks just required too wide a variety of adapters. A company called Diesel TEK has overcome that barrier now, ant their engine flush service is now available at an ever-growing number of service centers across the nation. A heated lubricating oil containing concentrated detergents is pumped through the engine, running out through an oil pan plug adapter and then through two 3-micron filters. Needless to say, the results are astonishing.

"I sat there and watched them and I couldn't believe my eyes," said Randy Whitakerr, a fleet driver who recently had the service performed on his truck. "The soot and the junk that was coming out of my engine through the oil compartment was just black, nasty, sludgy looking stuff. And I'm not talking little bitty pieces—there were pieces in there the size of a dime." Randy's truck had over a million miles on it, and normal oil changes cannot remove such particles. You can guess what had built up in that engine.

The results? "Normally when we change our oil in these semis, as soon as you start it up and you drive 50 miles the oil is black because of the simple fact that you can't get all of the oil out of an engine for an oil change," Whitaker said. "But when they were done with that flush, the oil was totally clear, and it took almost theree and a half weeks before my oil showed any color differential. The inside of my motor was as clean or cleaner than a brand spanking new motor."

"Truckers have been amazed," said Paul Varela, owner of General Truck Supplies in Wilmington, California, who delivers the flushing service. "They've noticed less soot coming out the exhaust pipes, and when they checked the dipstick it was pretty clean. They've also noticed a big difference in the mileage."

Whitaker also noticed a major difference in the truck's performance "Before the service, I was getting right around 5.1 or 5.2 miles per gallon," he reported. "On my last trip, I got right at 7 miles to the gallon. My truck also had more power."

The technology for this flushing process was invented by Erik Waelput, currently a principal and Vice President of AEC Group. "The initial idea came out of the study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers in the eighties, a study done because of so much high wear on diesel engines," Waelput said. "When they cleaned the engines so that there were not contaminants above ten microns, it basically improved the lifespan of the engine by almost double. Then they went to testing below three microns, and according to the study if you can filter out particles below three microns and change the oil regularly, you will have no wear on the moving parts of the engine. The fuel economy is improved dramatically because you no longer have any drag or friction. It's basically preventative maintenance that will probably double the life of that engine."

It is recommended that this service be performed every third oil change. It takes less than half an hour, so a trucker can be back on the road in no time. The cleaning solution consists of a light lubricating oil with the same detergents you would find in a high-grade motor oil, only concentrated seven times higher.

The engine flush is one of two parts of a good maintenance program. The second is a fuel additive which causes the fuel to burn longer and cleaner, and also add lubrication.

"When we clean all the particulates out and keep them out, it reduces what the engine has to work harder to burn," said Eric Wheeler, CEO of Diesel TEK, Inc.. "Our Ester-based fuel additive, the second part of the program, causses a longer fuel burn during the combustion cycle so you don't have this quick flash and it is over. It actually continues to burn as the entire combustion process occurs and so there is no unburned fuel remaining."

The one-two punch of the engine flush plus the fuel additives mean better mileage, more power and years of life added to a truck. Of course, with the degree of cleanup obtained from a process like this, another benefit is the reduction of emissions. While truckers are going to care more for the fact that they're getting better mileage and saving money on fuel, as well as the fact that they've lengthened the lives of their breadwinners, they can also take pride in the fact that they're actually having a positive impact on the environment that's whizzing by them night and day along the highways.

Another environmental plus is the fact that the cleaning solution, once run through trucks, requires no special handling; it can be disposed of right along with waste oil.

"The best drivers are looking for everything to make the better profit," Whitaker concluded, "If you're a company driver, you've got to do everything you can to help your boss out, because if he ain't making money, you won't have a job. If someone can't make a profit, he's not going to be able to pay for insurance and he's not going to be able to buy the fuel. Doing this program, upping our fuel mileage any way we can, means there's a little bit bigger profit margin for us and we can keep going."

For more information, contact Diesel TEK Inc. E-mail: info@dieseltek.com or vist the web site: http://www.dieseltek.com.