Keep Truck Operating Costs from Going Up in Smoke

By Bruce Boyers | September 28, 2010

Medium trucks are a vital link in our troubled economy, enabling service fleets and deliveries all across America. But while goods and services keep on arriving, average citizens don’t know how dearly the owner-operators and fleets are paying to keep it all going.

Thanks to unpredictable diesel fuel costs and increasing emission regulation and laws, fleets are running on a dangerously thinning margin of profitability.

It’s not just the fuel cost, however. It’s also 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. Not only are fuel prices and emission restrictions gouging owners, but also the life of the truck is being shortened as it is driven.

Diesel fuel has now had its sulfur content considerably lowered to ultra low levels preventing damage to catalytic converters and particulate traps on newer 2007 and beyond vehicles. Sulfur removal is done through a unique hydro treating process that depletes the lubricating value of the new ultra low fuel. While sulfur has little to no lubricating value, the national standard ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel has resulted in a diesel fuel with a higher-than ever abrasion factor.

While there is little that can be done to control the cost of diesel fuel, there is an easy way to keep an engine clean from all those abrasive particles and re-introduce the lubricating properties to diesel fuel. The potential result is more power, higher mileage and the life of the diesel engine considerably lengthened. And for the first time in a long time, that would mean a wider profit margin for independent operators and fleets.

Gunk Inside Your Engine

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.

According to a study published by General Motors and the Society of Automotive Engineers, an oil filter that catches particulates down to 5 microns will yield a "50 percent or better increase in the service life of the unit." Yes, that means an increase of at least half the life of the vehicle! Unfortunately, however, the average oil filter only catches particles that are 25 to 40 microns. In case you haven’t read up on your science lately, 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 they can’t be caught by the normal oil filter, how might these particles be removed? A new technology has arrived that cost effectively provides engine flushes for diesel engines, completely cleaning those particles out.

While common for gasoline engines, engine flushes have not been regularly available for diesel engines in the past. This has to do with the fact adapters are needed to attach the cleaning machine to the oil-filter port, and these engines just required too wide a variety of adapters. A company called Diesel TEK has overcome that barrier now, and 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.

Current testing of the Diesel TEK Engine Flush System at California Environmental Engineering Laboratories

After completing the Diesel TEK Engine Flush on the test engine, the emissions test showed the following results:

  • Total Hydrocarbons -16%
  • Carbon Monoxide -53%
  • Particulate Matter -65%
  • Fuel Economy +2%

The reduction of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter coupled with the increase in fuel economy indicates that the clean engine operates more efficiency resulting in more complete combustion of fuel. On road testing supports this theory as drivers regularly report more power and performance with the higher oil pressure and the engine running cooler after being flushed.

"I watched the oil being drained from my truck, and it was really black and very dirty," said Ocea, founder of Travel Wellness, who drives a medium duty diesel truck with a 6.7-liter Cummings Turbo Diesel Engine in conducting her business. "That in itself was amazing, because the truck only had 60,000 miles on it."

The results?

"When they were done, my engine was back to the state it was in when it was brand-new, which I know helps with the life of the engine, and the oil was completely clear."

Ocea also noticed a major difference in the truck’s performance. "My mileage has increased by 3 to 5 miles per gallon," she said. "I’m now getting 21 to 23 gallons on the interstate."

"The thing I really like about Diesel TEK it’s a technology that’s useable right now," Ocea continued. "Unlike biodiesel fuel, it doesn’t cause you to have to go out of your way to try to find a certain kind of fuel because diesel is sold all over America."

The technology for this flushing process was invented by Eric 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 1980s, a study done because of so much high wear on diesel engines," Waelput said. "When they cleaned the engines so that there were no contaminants above 10 microns, it basically improved the lifespan of the engine by almost double. Then they went to testing to 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." AEC group has formed a strategic alliance with Diesel TEK for the exclusive licensing of the technology.

It is recommended that this service be performed every third oil change. It takes less than half an hour, so a truck can be back on the road in no time.

Keeping It Squeaky Clean

The engine flush is one of two parts of a good maintenance program. The second is fuel additives which cause 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. "Our fuel additive, the second part of the program, causes the fuel to burn longer during the combustion process. Normally, you get a quick ‘combustion flash’ and the combustion is over. With the Diesel TEK fuel additive the diesel fuel burns throughout the combustion process resulting in more power and fuel economy and fewer emission pollutants in the exhaust."

The Diesel TEK fuel additive is an ester based solution that restores the lubricating characteristics to ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel while it cleans carbon deposits in the combustion chamber and enhances the combustion process.

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.

About that Environment...

Of course, with the degree of clean-up obtained from a process like this, another benefit is the reduction of emissions. While operators of medium trucks 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 vehicles, they can also take pride in the fact that they’re actually having a positive impact on the environment that’s whizzing by them as they drive.

"I’m very much excited and involved in the Green movement in America right now, so I’m  pleased that I’ve greatly reduced particles going into the air and that I’m helping the environment," said Ocea. "I am already spreading the word in the entertainment industry, in which I work."

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 Bottom Line

Companies that maintain fleets of medium trucks as well as owner-operators are always looking for ways to improve profit. Regular implementation of a program such as this adds years of life to an engine and improves mileage — meaning a wider cushion for that all-important bottom line.

For more information, visit the web site: in Santa Ana, CA, an EPA & California Air Resource Board certified emissions testing laboratory, was completed in February, 2009 on a 1991 400hp Detroit Series 60 diesel test engine.

(Bruce Boyers is an independent writer based in Glendale, CA.)