MANAGER: Robert Daubach

TITLE: Fleet manager

FLEET: TJ Stidham Trucking, Plant City, FL

OPERATION: Dry and refrigerated freight carrier operating 30 tractors mainly along the East Coast

Problem: A penny saved is a penny earned; in other words, it is as useful to save money that you already have as it is to earn more. That’s an adage many trucking companies are intimately familiar with, especially when it comes to reducing both the direct and indirect costs of operations such as vehicle downtime.

“You really need to be open-minded and look at the big picture in the business,” explains Robert Daubach, fleet manager for Plant City, FL-based carrier TJ Stidham.

And that encompasses a willingness to examine any piece of the business, no matter how small—even down to the type of engine oil filter used by a fleet. In this particular case, Fleet Products, TJ Stidham’s parts vendor, approached Daubach with the ecoLast heavy-duty oil filter from WIX Filters.

Daubach initially thought the filter, which is said to increase oil change intervals, could translate into big savings for TJ Stidham’s operation. The only way to find out, though, would be to test it thoroughly.

Solution: WIX was more than willing to help Daubach and TJ Stidham test ecoLast filters on four of its highest mileage tractors, all 2005 and 2007 models, for 10 weeks. WIX used an independent laboratory in Indianapolis, IN, to conduct regular analysis of about six to eight ounces of engine oil drawn every 5,000 mi. from trucks equipped with the new filter.

WIX says ecoLast filters capture dirt and soot like a traditional filter, yet use what the company calls a “highly engineered media” to sequester the acids in the oil in order to prolong its useful life. According to WIX, that “life” could potentially double the oil change intervals of the fleet from 15,000 to 30,000 mi. on the Detroit Series 60 engines powering the fleet’s 30 Freightliner Century and Columbia highway tractors.

No changes or modification would be required for the trucks to use them, WIX stressed. WIX put its filter design through more than 1.7 million test miles during a 13-month time period with Cummins ISX-equipped vehicles using CJ-4 motor oil and “mixed” blends of engine oil. Oil drain intervals during those tests recorded an average increase from 23,000 to 54,000 mi.

In TJ Stidham’s case, the ecoLast proved its mettle by doubling the carrier’s engine oil interval on its trucks, which average 110,000 mi./year hauling fresh produce and dry freight from Florida to New Jersey—along with some infrequent runs out to the Midwest and back. Not only has this helped to reduce the amount of engine oil purchased and disposed of annually, but Daubach also found maintenance savings as well.

For example, eliminating vehicle downtime to change oil saved roughly $1,000 per day for each truck that is off the road for servicing. “We do most of the servicing here in our own shop with five on-staff technicians, but that also eliminated the every-now-and-again oil changes we needed to get done on the road at a dealership,” Daubach says.

The real key is eliminating the downtime associated with vehicle maintenance, however. “Any time you can do that, you really save on maintenance costs,” he stresses.

All told, after running the numbers for the four test trucks, Daubach estimates that switching TJ Stidham’s entire 30-tractor fleet to the oil filters will save the company six figures in terms of overall oil, labor and vehicle downtime. Currently, 22 of TJ Stidham’s trucks are using the new filter, with the rest expected to be outfitted before the end of this year.

“We expect to reap savings north of $130,000 after the first year,” he adds.