The day-to-day demands placed on the commercial transport industry should not be underestimated. By taking a closer look at fluid analysis, the industry could save money and improve reliability, explains Stuart Keddie, National Business Manager at Finning UK.
With nearly 40 years’ experience, amount of goods moved by GB registered testing 225,000 fluid samples a year, Finning considers itself well positioned to expertly analyse equipment and make insightful recommendations. Whether it’s a fleet of on-highway heavy haulage trucks, light or medium-duty commercial vehicles or bus services, the commercial transport industry faces significant day-to-day demands. For instance, 4.53 billion journeys are made by buses in England every year, while operator costs for local bus services outside London have increased from £2.19 billion in 2004/05 to £3.05 billion in 2015.
It is a similar story for the UK’s road freight industry. Between the beginning of July 2015 and the end of June 2016, the heavy goods vehicles reached 156 billion tonnes, an increase of 6% on the previous 12 month period. Furthermore, these goods travelled a distance of 18.6 billion kilometres.
Hauling heavy freight can put significant pressure on engine components, while the need to meet strict deadlines for increasingly complex supply chains means the impact of any potential maintenance issues can be considerable. With companies trying to reduce operations and maintenance costs too, it has never been more important for operators to pay close attention to vital fluids – such as the oil, fuel and coolants that keep them running.
Fluid analysis essentially ensures all components are operating as expected. Failure to do this could potentially result in systems falling victim to mechanical problems, or breaking down completely. Effective fluid analysis means any issues can be detected and remedied before failure.
Common issues found in commercial vehicles include fuel dilution, coolant matrix leaks, oil contamination and the use of unspecified oil during service. These can all have very serious consequences on overall performance.
Many operators try to prevent these issues by implementing a periodic maintenance programme. However, this approach to servicing fails to offer a predictive approach to potential maintenance issues, anticipating any problems that could reveal themselves in the future. Fluid analysis means any potential issues can be identified and proactively addressed, with maintenance schedules then safely optimised.
Fluid analysis investment
The benefits to fluid analysis are extensive and multi-faceted. Reducing maintenance costs is an obvious but no less important one, ensuring equipment is serviced when required and optimising fluids reduces the total cost of ownership of a business’ assets.
Minimising the risk of serious accidents is another key benefit. Fluid analysis ensures potential faults can be identified early, dramatically reducing the risk of vital components failing unexpectedly. Fluid analysis enables asset life to be optimised.
A comprehensive fluid analysis and condition monitoring programme should help identify common trends, such as comparing component life and wear patterns by analysing oil, and forecasting long-term asset requirements. From this, either a dynamic or optimised strategy can be implemented. The former means oil and component replacement can be proactively managed based on fluid analysis monitoring, while the latter ensures oil and component life is optimised with schedules based on results. Therefore, repairs and maintenance can be arranged for when is convenient. As a result, unscheduled downtime which can be extremely costly, is avoided.
A lasting legacy
As commercial fleets move from planned maintenance schedules to evidence-based, proactive strategies, fluid analysis is transforming how the commercial vehicle industry is managing maintenance.
One major UK on-highway operator was able to quickly remove an asset – a Volvo B7 ALX400 – from service that had been identified, via fluid analysis insights, as requiring attention. Readings indicated a sudden coolant leak and, upon closer inspection, it was discovered that the asset’s compressor head gasket had been damaged, with coolant leaking into the engine oil as a result. If this had not been dealt with, this could have resulted in significant costs further down the line, such as unscheduled downtime.
Another example is a leading operator of Dennis Trident buses, which was able to action repairs before failure, reducing engine replacements and rebuilds by 50%. By limiting common problems, such as coolant matrix leaks, fuel dilution and injector issues, the operator was able to realise a cost saving of more than £250,000.
With a comprehensive fluid analysis and condition monitoring programme, six figure savings are not uncommon. Given the cost and potential financial penalties that can arise from vital component failure, it could be argued that the risk of not implementing a predictive strategy is the real cost.