Can large fleets regain their operating cost-per-mile advantage?

Large commercial truck fleets historically held one clear competitive advantage over small and medium-sized fleets. Because more of their trucks tended to be younger in age, they enjoyed lower fuel consumption and higher miles per gallon per truck than smaller fleets. Considering that fuel is around 25% of operating costs, that meant a lower operating cost per mile. When scaled across a large fleet, that enabled them to be more price-competitive overall.


But that is changing. In the wake of a strong economy and tax cuts that encourage reinvestment, small and medium-size operators are refreshing their fleets more frequently with newer, more modern and fuel-efficient trucks. As their fuel and operating costs go down, the larger fleets’ cost-per-mile advantage diminishes, and the competitive landscape suddenly becomes much more intense.


So how can a large fleet regain its edge? It’s not just a matter of acquiring the newest trucks coming off the assembly line. You also need to be sure to use supporting technologies to maximize the efficiency of those assets. And that includes using an engine oil that supports greater fuel economy.


That brings us to a compelling case for wider adoption of API FA-4 heavy duty engine oils.


You’ll recall that, in 2016, the lubricant industry launched two new API categories of diesel engine oils: CK-4, which is backwards-compatible with older vehicles, and FA-4, which was designed primarily for newer vehicles with engines built to today’s more vigorous fuel economy and emission standards. Adoption of API FA-4 has been comparatively slow, owing largely to the diverse mix of vehicle ages, makes and models that comprise many fleets. Some fleets are resistant to carrying different types of lubricants to support different types of trucks. Others are concerned that the lower viscosity of API FA-4 oils means less durability.


Let’s dispel that last notion first. At Chevron, we’ve put our Delo® FA-4 formulations through rigorous, real-world testing in collaboration with customers. With our unique formulation and additive package, they have proven to deliver excellent oxidation resistance, anti-wear and deposit control comparable to higher viscosity oils. There’s no logical reason to miss out on the fuel-saving potential of Delo FA-4 oils due to performance concerns.


As for adoption within mixed fleets, we are working closely with our North American customers on a special program that will enable them to take advantage of Delo 400 ZFA 10W-30 across a wide range of vehicles. In addition to Daimler HD engines 2010 or newer, and Cummins HD engines 2017 or newer, Chevron’s program will allow the use of Delo 400 ZFA 10W-30 in other OEM engines built from 2013 through the present. Our goal is to help customers remove barriers to adoption by minimizing the perceived risk that is often associated with change.


While smaller fleets may be closing the “age gap” of their trucks, larger fleets are still younger in general, and are therefore in a better position to adopt FA-4 oils. Those that do so stand to reap the benefits of greater fuel economy and more MPG per truck, which translates directly to lower operating costs and a stronger competitive position in the marketplace.

James Booth
About the Author: James Booth graduated from the University of Southampton (UK) with an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and Ph.D. in Tribology. James began his career with Chevron 10 years ago in Chevron Oronite Technology, The Netherlands, and later moved to Richmond (Ca, USA), as a formulator within Automotive Engine Oil (AEO) Product Development team. He previously held the position of Americas region AEO Product Qualification Team Leader, and vice-Chair of the American Chemistry Council Product Approval Protocol Task Group. James is curently the Commercial Sector Manager supporting Chevron’s Delo brand and other related lubricants brands.