By the end of the year, construction equipment managers will have access to two new engine oil formulations, specially designed for the latest emissions hardware. In addition, one of those new oils, FA-4, will work toward reducing greenhouse gases (the next targeted emission) produced by on-highway trucks.
The new oils and forthcoming regulations on greenhouse-gas emissions are just the latest steps in the battle for cleaner air that has been causing consternation for the past 15 years. Engine makers and equipment manufacturers deserve to be commended for what they’ve accomplished with the technologies that have been developed.
But that hasn’t made it any easier to manage fleets. Increases in acquisition cost and changes in maintenance-management strategies have slowed the penetration and acceptance of Tier 4 equipment into existing fleets. Coupled with the mining market tanking, new-equipment sales show this reluctance to buy new.
In research conducted by EquipmentWatch and AEMP last year, 50 percent of respondents said they would not be investing in Tier 4 equipment over the next 18 months. Four of 10 said they expected annual maintenance costs to increase with Tier 4 equipment.
Construction Equipment’s research supports that. In conversations we’ve had with equipment manufacturers and equipment managers, the move to Tier 4 is indeed slow. Although all agree that some of that hesitancy stems from general economic factors, many cite the increases in machine cost; more cite the uncertainty over maintenance. Still others cite the increased sensitivity of emissions technology to impurities in fuel and lubricants, including diesel soaps.
With new lubricants coming to market, maintenance issues will start to lessen. With more hours of performance recorded on Tier 4 machines, maintenance strategies will start to gel. With economic stability and the aging of existing fleets, Tier 4 acquisition costs to be absorbed.
Tier 4 machines will move steadily into fleets as replacement machines and also as machines added to accommodate growing business opportunities. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together.