Every year the transportation industry faces new challenges during the winter months, and this year is no different.
Among those challenges, many states have mandated biodiesel blends while many have mandated idling restrictions. To add to that, fleet fuel prices are rising, and weather forecasters are predicting a colder and snowier winter than any in recent memory. And with the early showing of snowy weather in the mountain states, they may be right. Truck breakdowns are certainly more prevalent during the cold winter months, and proper care and maintenance is critical to keep your fleet rolling. Here are a few tips that can help you stay on the road with as few problems as possible:
• Fuel treatments and additives: For many years winter fuel was a blend of #2 diesel and #1 diesel or kerosene. Today there are many fuel additives that give you the same cold weather benefits at a fraction of the cost. Be sure the fuel in your bulk tanks is treated. If using a mobile fleet fueling service, ensure that they are treating during the cold weather months. Most do, but don't just assume. Ask if you are unsure. Retail and card lock fuel is treated for the area it is sold. Make sure your fuel is treated to be protected down to the coldest geographic areas that your trucks run.
• With the new bio fuels/biodiesel blends, always ask your supplier if they are using a bio fuels blend and if they are treating that fuel. Biodiesel is more difficult to treat for trouble-free winter use than low sulfur diesel or ultra-low sulfur diesel. An accepted method of fuel testing is for cloud point or CP. The newer method is to test for cold filter plugging point or CFPP. The CFPP is the lowest temperature at which fuel will still flow through a specific filter. Ask your supplier if they are performing either of these tests on the fuel you are purchasing and what the cold weather performance of their fuel is.
• Cold weather starting: In most states, with idling restrictions, the days of leaving a truck idle all night to ensure it makes its run in the morning are gone. Most have engine block heaters. These should be plugged in when the engine is still hot, as they are designed to maintain the engine's heat, not heat a cold engine. Instruct drivers not to cool down the engine before plugging in the block heater. However, make sure that they know to unplug the heater before starting, as the heaters can be severely damaged if left plugged in a running engine.
These few tips can make the difference between a go or no go situation, making that delivery commitment, or completing a run versus breaking down. Breakdowns during inclement weather are extremely dangerous. There are many great tips for proper fuel management systems in cold weather ,but the best tip is to increase driver awareness and subsequently hold them accountable for action or inaction.Glen Sokolis is president of Sokolis Group, a nationwide fuel management and fuel consulting company, www.FuelManagementSokolisGroup.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or (267) 482-6160.
Previous installments of "Friday Fuel:"
* "Successful Fuel Management Program Equals Discipline"
* "Who's Watching Your Fuel Program,"
* "Fleet Fuel Margins: Are You Paying Too Much?"
* "How Do You Audit Your Fleet Fuel Invoices?"
* "Fleet Fuel Price Negotiating: Details, Details"
* "Mobile On-Site Fueling"
* "The Bees Are Still Buzzing: Handling Fuel on a Daily Basis"
* "Fleet Fuel Card Shopping"