Making it last

Oct. 1, 2006
James Van Zoeren says to keep Class 8 tractors running 10 to 12 years — clocking nearly a million miles on the odometer — fleets should focus on maintenance, especially oil changes

Manager: James Van Zoeren

Title: President & COO

Fleet: Alvan Motor Freight, Kalamazoo, MI

Operation: Regional LTL


James Van Zoeren says to keep Class 8 tractors running 10 to 12 years — clocking nearly a million miles on the odometer — fleets should focus on maintenance, especially oil changes.

“We're a classic high-mileage LTL,” explains Van Zoeren, who represents the third generation of his family to take the helm at 65-year-old Alvan. “Our tractors typically start out in our linehaul operation, running 160- to 170-mile routes to accumulate some 500 miles a day, which adds up to 100,000 to 120,000 miles a year.”

Of the 360 trucks in Alvan's fleet, 110 run linehaul, with the rest on city P&D routes, where it's not so much the miles but idling and stops and starts that put wear-and-tear on engines. After 600,000 to 700,000 miles in linehaul operations, tractors — mainly day-cab twin screws — move into the P&D operation, where they finish out their life. The fleet does buy some new single-screw tractors for P&D, while other tandems do double-duty — switching back and forth between linehaul and P&D.

To keep all of them going for nearly a million miles requires what Van Zoeren calls an “aggressive” oil service interval: changing the oil and filter every 20,000 miles for linehaul trucks and every 14,000 miles for P&D units.


After a one-year pilot test involving three of its trucks, Alvan has determined it will use the OPS-1 on-board oil refiner system developed by Shelton, CT-based Oil Purification Systems. Van Zoeren says two of Alvan's trucks in the pilot test were equipped with the OPS-1 system and completed 100,000 miles without an oil change, while the third acted as the “control” vehicle, with its oil changed every 20,000 miles.

“We used oil sampling to keep a close watch on all three trucks, and the oil in the ones equipped with the OPS-1 system remained as clean as the oil in the truck that wasn't equipped with it,” he says. “The oil quality remained virtually the same.”

Van Zoeren notes that 100 of the units have been installed this year and expects that will save $40,000 per year in oil maintenance costs, including saving from streamlining its PM routine. “Overall, we estimate that we will save $360,000 over a five-year period just on the linehaul fleet,” he says.

Van Zoeren relates that the OPS-1 technology reduces or eliminates the solid and liquid contaminants from engine oil, thereby greatly extending the time between oil changes. So instead of changing the oil at incremental mileage intervals, analysis of the oil determines when an oil change is required. He says the OPS-1 unit weighs 11 lb. and comes as a compact, two-piece system that can be split up for easy installation on the engine.

“One of the nicer things about it, as well, is that the oil sampling valve is really easy to get to,” Van Zoeren adds. “Our maintenance guys really like that.”

“The biggest benefit may be the pure monetary savings from reducing oil changes, followed by the elimination of shop downtime. But reducing oil consumption is part of our commitment as a SmartWay carrier, so this fits right in with that effort,” Van Zoeren says.

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

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