How big are the engine oil fuel economy benefits?
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On the Road

How big are the engine oil fuel economy benefits?

David Sickels is the Senior Editor of Fleet Equipment. He has a history of working in the media, marketing and automotive industries in both print and online.

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I’ve got a financial riddle for you: Would you rather have a million truck bucks handed to you today or the sum of a penny doubled every day for 30 days?

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OK, I’m sure you’ve heard this one. We all know you’re supposed to take the penny because you end up with over $5 million truck bucks by the end of the month. The lesson here is that seemingly small amounts, over time, really start to add up. Especially when it comes to components of the consumable… lubricating variety.

You follow? You dig? It’s bubblin’ crude – oil that is. Black gold. Texas tea. And it’s smart to consider your choice of oil and the fuel economy benefits it can bring to your trucks, even if it may seem minuscule.

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I don’t need to tell you that fuel costs are high, representing around a quarter of a fleet’s average cost per mile. So here’s your first penny saved: According to NACFE’s Trucking Efficiency Confidence Report on Low-Viscosity Engine Lubricants, Class 8 over-the-road fleets can realistically expect fuel savings in the range of between half a percent and 1.5% by switching from 15W-40 to 5W or 10W-30 engine oil.

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Now as I’m sure you’re aware, in 2016, the American Petroleum Institute introduced the new CK-4 and FA-4 categories, with FA-4 being specifically formulated to deliver enhanced fuel economy benefits for modern engine hardware model year 2017 and newer, the result of less resistance between moving engine parts.

Now, per API requirements, both CK-4 and FA-4 oils deliver the same levels of high performance and engine protection. But that same report states that savings from switching to the fuel-efficient FA-4 variant can be expected to add a further .4 to .7% of increased fuel efficiency.

Projected across the lifetime of the vehicle, which may see more than a million miles on the road before it is taken out of service, FA-4 has the potential to deliver huge fuel cost savings versus a more conventional lubricant choice. Now project that across your entire fleet, and those pennies start to really add up.

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Another note on this, you’ll find that many heavy-duty truck OEMs today are factory-filling most new-model engines with 10W-30 grade lubricants. So, if you’re using 15W-40 lubricants in newer trucks, switching oil viscosities is worth some thought, if for no other reason than to remain consistent with your OEM’s specification.

Need another penny? Here’s another opportunity for savings: Maintenance.

Unplanned maintenance can cause a domino effect of inconveniences and costs for your fleet. Your driver may be temporarily unable to earn a living, and a sidelined truck and its cargo will likely not make it to its destination on time. Meanwhile, the fleet manager has to coordinate a tow and repair.

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According to a recent report by the American Transportation Research Institute, maintenance costs like these have consistently made up between 8 and 10% of a fleet’s average cost per mile over the past ten years. To that end, regularly servicing trucks with high-performance engine oil is an effective way that fleet managers can minimize this downtime.

Look, selecting a new engine oil for your fleet is a major operational decision. This means you should be checking in with your OEM and your oil supplier before making the switch. You may even want to consider performing some initial field testing to gauge how a lower-viscosity solution can impact your specific operational requirements.

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