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Nearly every day there are semi-truck industry news stories talking about rules, regulations and improvements in the industry. The beginning of December is no different with the announcement of two new oil blends being introduced to the trucking industry, CK-4 and FA-4. The former are oils with similar viscosities to current formulas, while the latter offers thinner viscosities. While they are, in part, an answer to the GHG rules, they are also a response to the newer engines that manufacturers are producing.
For newer engines, the FA-4 formulation promises to provide a substantial improvement in fuel efficiency. However, all fleets that use the new oils will see improvements. In fact, it's estimated that trucks will accomplish at least 1.5% improvement in fuel economy by changing from the current 15W-40 engine oil blends to the new CK-4 10W-30 formulations. Those that use the FA-4 products will see even higher increases. This fuel efficiency improvement is mainly due to the low viscosity, which means the engine doesn't have to work quite so hard to move the oil around.
Truck maintenance is a significant part of any fleet's budget, yet it is a necessary evil. One of the items on every maintenance crew's checklist is an oil change. Using the current blends, oil and filter changes must be done every 60,000 miles, depending upon the way the truck is used. By contrast, 2017 model trucks and beyond that use the new formulations will only need an oil and filter change every 75,000 or so. This will equate to a savings of roughly $1,000 per truck for every 600,000 miles of operation. One can easily see how this will benefit fleets of all sizes, but especially larger fleets.
The new oil blends aren't just for model year 2017 trucks, although they will be factory filled with the new FA-4 version. However, in some instances, such as high-heat and very dirty environments, it may be wise to use the CK-4 version in newer models. Even older trucks will benefit from changing their formulations from the standard 15W-40 oils they currently use to a CK-4 10W-30 blend. It should be noted, however, that the FA-4 oils are specifically designed for newer engines that run hotter than their older counterparts. CK-4 versions are compatible with older vehicles that don't require such low viscosity.
Switching to these new, all-synthetic motor oils will improve a truck's fuel efficiency, increase drain time intervals and they're backward compatible. All these things are benefits to the industry, however, there is a major drawback. It is estimated that these oils will, for the most part, cost substantially more. For fleet owners, it will come down to weighing the benefits against the costs, however, it seems these oils are set to become the new industry standard, like it or not.
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