Equipment and Best Practices for Handling Fluids In the Field

Aug. 26, 2013

Proper fluid handling and contamination control outside the confines of your shop has become more important than ever.

In addition to ensuring your equipment doesn’t pick up downtime-inducing foreign bodies during field service, there are environmental and safety concerns to weigh. Here’s an overview for managers with emphasis on the equipment and procedures needed to successfully handle fluid in the field.

Your technicians have a lot on their plates—oil changes, greasing, fueling, adding water and antifreeze, salvaging the old fluid—in a variety of job site conditions. With most Tier 4 engines, there’s also DEF to consider. And the equipment itself is becoming more complicated.

“The higher system pressures, tighter tolerances, and increasingly sophisticated technologies found in today’s equipment make fluid systems more vulnerable to foreign materials,” says Terry Cook, product manager of commercial products at Iowa Mold Tooling (IMT).

“Contractors should do everything they can to keep their fluid systems free of contamination, because the consequences can be costly,” Cook says. “Introducing even a small amount of dirt into a hydraulic system can take down a machine, leading to significant downtime.”

The right job site equipment

When a trip to the shop or transporting equipment to some other central location is not an option, technicians need a lube truck, lube skid or trailer.

“The right lube truck or lube skid can be a valuable component of an effective strategy to minimize fluid contamination,” Cook says. “To ensure the most efficient fluid delivery, contractors should select a lube truck that is customized to meet their specific needs. Purchasing a truck that is too large, too small, or improperly specified can result in wasted money and operational inefficiencies.”

Cook cites the IMT SiteStar lube truck as an example of a truck that can be modified to include only the systems required to meet specific application needs. “It can be configured more than 250 different ways with fluid systems such as oil, antifreeze, grease, fuel, water, oil salvage, antifreeze salvage and grease salvage.”

Different types of tanks are available, depending on the fluid and the size needed. Fluid tanks are often polyethylene, while fuel tanks can be steel.

“We provide the option of a stainless steel tank to store and be able to pump antifreeze,” says Loren Van Wyk, president and owner of Thunder Creek Equipment, a maker of lube and fuel trailers. Its service and lube trailer has a modular tank design, and offers 25-, 55-, or 110-gallon capacities in either mild or stainless steel; there is no polyethylene offering.

“For the SiteStar, polyethylene tanks range from 75 to 350 gallons,” Cook says. “Rectangle steel fuel tanks offer capacities from 480 to 800 gallons, while elliptical steel fuel tanks provide 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of capacity.”

Cook says polyethylene tanks are 80 percent lighter in tank weight than steel, and rust isn’t an issue. They are also impact-resistant and UV-protected.

“Our trailers can be equipped for DEF,” Van Wyk says. “It’s a stainless steel tank, and we use our patent-pending 2-in-1 DEF pumping system to maintain a closed system. DEF is highly susceptible to contamination. Our DEF pumping system, along with the fact that every component meets ISO 22241 standards, means the purity of DEF can be maintained between the bulk supply and high horsepower equipment.”

DEF is also vulnerable to freezing, and Thunder Creek offers a heater option for environments where it would be exposed to prolonged temperatures below 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition to choosing your fluids and tank styles, consider these capabilities and features: filter drainage; reel compartment drip recovery; coupled nozzles; salvage recovery; proper lighting; emergency fuel shutdown; DOT-approved fuel vapor recovery and overfill protection; overfill alarms on fuel, salvage and product tanks; and bulk tank fill couplings.

Van Wyk notes that on his company’s service and lube trailer, fluids are pulled out of the top to eliminate hoses on the bottom.

Fluid safety tips

It’s critical to have your technicians read labels on fluid containers before performing any fluid-related tasks.

Misuse of lubrication equipment on a lube truck, lube skid or trailer can cause the equipment to rupture or malfunction and can result in serious injury. Operators should consult the manuals of their specific lube equipment manufacturer, but truck- and skid-maker IMT recommends taking the following safety precautions:

  • Read all instruction manuals, tags and decals prior to operating the unit.
  • Use the equipment for its intended purpose only, and make no modifications or alterations.
  • Check equipment daily and repair or replace worn or damaged parts immediately.
  • Do not exceed the maximum working pressure of any component.
  • Do not use hoses to pull equipment.
  • Route hoses away from traffic areas, sharp edges, moving parts, and hot surfaces.
  • Do not lift pressurized equipment.
  • Comply with all applicable local, state and national fire, electrical and safety regulations.
  • Do not put fuel in any system not specifically designed for fuel. Fuel may damage the pump or other components.

Fluids from the dispensing valve, leaks or ruptured components can inject fluid into your body and cause serious injury. Fluid splashed in the eyes or on the skin can also cause serious injury. IMT also recommends the following safety precautions:

  • Fluid injected into the skin may look like just a cut, but it is a serious injury. Immediate medical attention should be sought.
  • Do not point the dispensing valve at anyone or at any part of the body.
  • Do not put your hand or fingers over the end of the dispensing valve.
  • Do not stop or deflect leaks with your hand, body, glove or rag.
  • Use only extensions and nozzles designed for use with your dispensing valve.
  • Tighten all fluid connections before you operate the equipment.
  • Check the hoses, tubes and couplings daily. Replace worn or damaged parts immediately. Do not repair high- pressure couplings; the entire hose must be replaced.

Protecting against spills

Today’s lubrication vehicles are designed to minimize impacts on the environment. “We offer salvage systems on our lube trucks along with accommodations for used filter drainage,” Cook says. “The reel compartments are enclosed, and all drips from nozzles are contained and recovered. A newer practice involves oils being dispensed directly into the machinery’s storage tanks through quick-coupled nozzles.”

Another precaution is to wash equipment before maintenance and repair; have a mud/oil separation system for the wash area, if at all possible.

In the event of a spill, trucks and trailers are equipped with spill kits.

There are also a host of newer features in the lube truck category to help technicians in the field, particularly with contamination control.

“Oil products can now be filtered as they enter the truck, as well as when they are dispensed,” Cook says. “Product can now be looped through the vehicle system to meet the various standards for cleanliness.”

Cook cites other recent milestones as proof innovation in field fluid handling isn’t dead, such as desiccant breather filters on oil, grease and fuel tanks to provide moisture removal capability, service indicators on all filters, and oil test ports located after each final-stage filter for immediate product testing.

There’s also coolant filtration, fuel delivery coalescing filters for moisture and contaminant removal, bulk fuel loading filtration, and quick-coupled nozzles that are stored in pressurized, clean compartments.

“I think increasingly high-tech requirements for fuel delivery and lubrication, as well as exhaust emissions reduction, will drive the future of lube trucks,” Cook says.

“Environmental concerns will still drive dispensing of products in the future, too. Electronic controls are available today for dispensing and tracking product delivery, and I can see real-time product quality monitoring as a future milestone.”

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