Automatic greasers and special oil filters make a difference

Manager: Joe DeMarlie

Title: Owner and president

Fleet: DeMarlie Trucking, Reynolds, IL

Operation: Refrigerated carrier

PROBLEM

When you're a small fleet, every penny matters, especially when your service territory spans the lower 48 states of the continental U.S. No one knows that better than Joe DeMarlie, owner of refrigerated carrier DeMarlie Trucking, who has more than three decades of experience.

For example, DeMarlie focuses on fuel economy, trying to squeeze every tenth of a mile per gallon improvement he can from his tractor-trailer specs because he knows every penny he saves on fuel goes back into his operating budget.

“My top priority is fuel economy,” he emphasizes. “That [makes] the difference between being in business today and not.” So DeMarlie specs his12 Kenworth T2000s with 475-hp. engines, 13-speed transmissions and a 3.42 rear-axle ratio, using lighter weight components such as aluminum wheels and 100-gallon fuel tanks to help keep fuel costs in line.

DeMarlie also applies that philosophy to vehicle maintenance, making spec changes where he can to extend the service life of components. For instance, he began installing automatic greasers on his trucks over 20 years ago and consequently hasn't had to replace a kingpin since. This is a huge savings since kingpins cost $1,300 - not counting labor and installation.

Oil changes offered another area where DeMarlie felt an upgrade of some type could help lengthen service intervals without putting his equipment at risk. The only question was how to accomplish it.

SOLUTION

Five years ago, a friend suggested that DeMarlie switch to a brand of severe-service oil filters made for rock quarry trucks. Designed to scrub the engine oil free of all polluting particles, the filters had enabled the friend to double his oil change interval without degrading the lubricant, which would have exposed the engine to damaging wear.

DeMarlie put the new filters on one of his older trucks at the 10,000-mile mark. “Usually we added oil at 10,000 miles, but we didn't this time and ran the truck to 20,000 miles [5,000 miles past the normal 15,000-miles],” he explains. When the fleet sampled the oil at the 20,000-mile mark, they found it to be in better shape than when they tested it at 10,000 miles — and they hadn't burned any extra oil in the process.

DeMarlie was able to increase the fleet's oil change interval to 35,000 miles. When they began using the T2000s, it was extended even further, to 50,000 miles.

But he still makes sure the fleet keeps a close eye on its equipment. “We bring them in once a week just to give them a once-over, to make sure everything is working properly,” DeMarlie says. “Downtime costs money,” he adds. “When a truck goes down out on the road, it costs more to fix. The customer is not happy and the driver is unhappy because he's sitting around waiting while the truck is getting fixed.”

After five years or 700,000 miles, the company trades or sells its trucks and replaces them with new ones. And thanks to the fleet's solid maintenance program, there's never a shortage of buyers for DeMarlie's trucks.


Maintenance Bay presents case studies detailing how fleets resolve maintenance-related issues.