For contractors operating fleets of vehicles it appears 2007 will offer models that sacrifice miles per gallon to improve the environment, and offer a variety of technological improvements that will not only require a change of maintenance practices but, predictably, will require more maintenance parts and result in increased labor costs.
Over the past 10 years technological improvements have actually resulted in less maintenance required on fleet vehicles. Examples include:
- Extended oil changes
- Longer brake life as a result of ABS brakes
- Application-specific tires/treads that resulted in improved MPG
- Improved batteries, alternators, and starters
- Long-life lights
- Sealed front-end, universal joints
- Improved suspensions
- Longer warranties
- Engine Electronic Control Unit (ECU), or Electronic Control Module (ECM) computers
These and other improvements lead to improved, more-efficient service and maintenance at less cost. But changes and improvements in 2007 models are expected to have the opposite effect, requiring more attention to vehicle maintenance.
For example, additional diesel improvements will be implemented to further reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions. Similar changes in 2006 models resulted in some environmental improvements but also lower MPG and higher operating under-hood temperatures. These higher temperatures under the hood generated premature under-hood failures, which caused higher maintenance costs. Examples are:
- Wiring insulation, connectors, and connections saw increased incidents of repair due to higher under-hood temperatures. Vibration loosened connections and harness bandings loosened harness locations causing movement and resultant insulation damage.
- Heat soaking caused higher ranges of hot and cold heat ups and cool downs, working on hose integrity and causing premature failures.
So budget for new 2007 models for added repairs in rubber hoses, insulated wires, and gaskets that deteriorate from heat – components that used to last 100,000 miles that will now last only 60,000 miles because of heat sinks.
Oil. Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and particulate traps enable EPA goals to be reached but at a still-higher operating temperature which will require more improved engine oils, which are still being developed and tested. Also better oil filters will require shorter oil change intervals initially to control oil contamination until we research a "sweet spot" of efficiency.
Looking to reduce our dependence on petroleum products and crude oil, synthetics look attractive if their production can result in lower cost and greater acceptance. It's easier on oil manufacturers who can produce single lines more economically than multi-product lines.
So rather than a fleet stocking many different oils to use in changes and add-oil programs, we look to standardize for smoother operating processes, deeper purchasing discounts based on higher volumes that can be used in 2007, 2002 and pre-2002 engines.
Fuel. Ultra-low diesel fuel will be used to ensure reduced exhaust emissions with improved filtration, initially to catch dirt and residue left by previous high-sulfur fuel use. Like the use of bio-diesel that cleans out inventory tanks and vehicle fuel tanks, we must pay attention to detail of all our on-vehicle fuel tanks and filtration systems for our in- and above-ground fuel inventory systems.
Filters. Filter manufacturers will develop and produce better fuel filters for our fuel dispensers and vehicle use but we should plan and fund for increased filter use and modify our preventive maintenance programs to accommodate our changes in frequency. We need to adjust the preventive maintenance frequency of only the affected vehicles until we verify that they fit the standard preventive maintenance frequency within our mixed fleet.