Equipment Type

The Sorry State of Diesel Fuel

One of the key costs that manufacturers have identified is fuel, which accounts for nearly half of the operating cost of a piece of equipment.
October 21, 2015

Rod Sutton is editorial director of Construction Equipment magazine. He is in charge of editorial strategy and writes a monthly column for the magazine, The Sutton Report. He has more than 30 years in construction journalism, and has been with Construction Equipment since 2001.

Manufacturers are targeting something in their advertising that we’ve been talking about for many, many years: operating costs. What’s behind it? Manufacturers say operating efficiencies in new equipment will offset the higher costs of acquisition for said equipment.

One of the key costs that manufacturers have identified is fuel, which accounts for nearly half of the operating cost of a piece of equipment. Manufacturers can provide information on how to cut idling, increase fuel efficiency, and reduce fuel consumption.

The irony, however, is that all the fuel tips in the world will not help if the fuel isn’t clean.

As we’ve been reporting for a couple of years, new engine technologies require cleaner diesel fuel. Tolerances have narrowed to such an extent that a 3-micron particle will cause mechanical damage in fuel injectors. In recent months, a rising concern among equipment managers has cast clear doubt on the cleanliness of the fuel arriving in vendors’ trucks.

Walt Moore provides a well-balanced look at the fuel-supply chain, but as he reports in his blog, “Somewhat of a fistfight is developing in the diesel-fuel community about who or what entity is responsible for fuel cleanliness. At present, by default, it has become the machine owner.”

This pertains to every equipment manager who has new-generation equipment in their fleet. We hope the conversation will begin right now, as refiners, suppliers, filter manufacturers, and equipment owners acknowledge the issue and begin to address ways to deal with it.

In the meantime, Moore provides the best counsel for now:

“Given that reality, machine owners are being advised to radically improve housekeeping practices for the bulk storage of fuel, beginning with tank evaluation and cleaning if required, filtering fuel from the vendor’s tanker into the storage tank, filtering again when dispensed into the machine to catch any debris or chemical issues from the tank, and properly maintaining the tank in between.”

These practices are not without challenges, especially filtering incoming fuel, which might repeatedly clog filters during delivery. But any measures for improving tank housekeeping will give a fighting chance to on-engine filters, which, we assume, are the best quality you can buy.

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