Bottom Line
Oils, Engines & Owner Operators

When a trucker becomes an owner-operator, he or she has already made a lot of tough decisions.

The fledgling owner-operator must decide whether to be a lease operator or to apply for authority; choose a carrier or map out an area of operation; spec the truck to fit the operation; decide on financing; select an insurance carrier; and a hundred other details - all before the truck ever turns a wheel.

Most new owner-operators hit the interstate with a briefcase full of manufacturers'recommendations for maintenance intervals and products. Most will carefully follow these recommendations; still, even within warranty guidelines, there are choices to be made.

Getting the most miles and the best performance possible out of his/her truck's engine is one of the primary goals of any owner-operator. To attain that goal an owner-operator's decisions include what brand of oil to use; what filters; whether to use oil analysis (and how often); whether to add an auxiliary oil filtering device; where to have PMs done; and if it is an option under the engine manufacturer's warranty, whether to extend drain intervals. Should the truck owner stick strictly to manufacturer's recommended brand names, or opt for other acceptable alternatives?

Where do owner-operators go for information to help them make these decisions? In addition to digging deep into maintenance manuals, owner-operators talk to other owner-operators. In truckstops over a cup of coffee, under tilted hoods while waiting to unload, in waiting rooms at service facilities, owner-operators talk to owner- operators.

Grab a cup of coffee and let's talk about engines and oil drain intervals. We've lined up a group of owner-operators who, over the next half-million miles or so, will share their maintenance practices, service and repair histories, and their own tried and true maintenance tips with Land Line readers.

The participants in our group purchased new trucks in 1996 and 1997. They own Caterpillar, Detroit, Cummins, Volvo, and Mack engines and are engaged in a variety of over-the-road operations. Each article will introduce you to one or more of our participants, and we'll update you periodically as the miles pile up on their engines.

They are owner-operators like James Benton, from Waukegan, IL, who haul general commodities (in containers) in the Midwest. James is the owner of a 1997 Freightliner FLD 120, with a 500hp Cummins N14 under the hood, and an Eaton 13-speed double overdrive transmission. With a little over 160,000 miles on the engine, the most recent oil analysis indicated normal wear rates. James uses Shell Rotella T 1540, is changing oil every 15,000 miles and his service facility of choice is the SpeedCo in Effingham, IL.

So join us in future issues as we follow our owner-operators down the highway. We'll not only talk to our owner-operators, we'll quiz the engine and oil experts about any problems our truckers encounter along the way. LL