Janne Haarala, Manager Europe CVL Sector, ExxonMobil tells the story of the trucking industry, the challenges it has overcome in the last 100 years and speaks to experts in the field to get insight on how to navigate change
Road haulage is one of the biggest global industries, propelled by technological developments, economic growth, globalisation and the road skills of generations of dedicated drivers. It all began in 1879 when Karl Benz patented the first reliable internal combustion engine – a world- changing development that made its debut appearance in a truck in 1895, by which time Rudolf Diesel had also made an invaluable breakthrough.
The ensuing 130-year journey has been dotted with innovations and landmark events, which have helped produce the industry we know today. And that journey’s still developing; Covid-19 is the latest incident to alter the haulage industry’s direction of travel, but many of the significant developments have been sparked by much more benign influences.
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The birth of the diesel engine lubricants
One of the most significant contributions has been made by lubricants – the unsung oils and greases that are essential for the protection of bearings, drive shafts and engine components. And one issue above all else was causing problems – the high pressure and heat generated in diesel engines was proving especially detrimental to the life and performance of engine oils, resulting in vehicles being in the garage instead of being out on the road, delivering on time.
But out of challenge comes innovation; scientists at Vacuum Oil, a predecessor firm of ExxonMobil, devised a special oil formulation, which was registered in 1925 as Diesel Engine Lubricant by Vacuum Oil, or DELVAC. Our Mobil Delvac™ range of lubricants was officially born and continues to protect the world’s truck fleets to this day.
Rising to meet economic challenges
The diesel engine’s performance during World War II helped to popularise its use in commercial vehicles in the post-war years. This, in turn, helped boost road haulage, which quickly became the backbone of economic activity, linking ports with rail networks, distribution centres and customers across the nation. Everything was running smoothly.
The next big step came in 1949 when the first synthetic oil was developed by Vacuum Oil researchers who were looking at new process technologies. However, the potential of synthetic poly-alphaolefins (PAOs) wasn’t immediately appreciated and it took more than a decade before the advantages were fully realised, such as a wide operating temperature range, a consistent viscosity, enhanced parts protection and longer life.
The 2007-2008 economic crisis saw fuel prices soar once again, leaving fleet operators to seek out savings; the pressure was on to reduce maintenance costs and improve the total cost of ownership. One innovation was especially beneficial – the formulation of our high performance, long life Mobil Delvac™ engine oils. This helped extend oil drain intervals, reduce inventory costs and enhance engine protection.
Navigating unprecedented changes
Improving fuel quality, new sustainability legislation and evolving engine designs have all moved the goalposts for vehicle manufacturers, fleet owners and lubricant manufacturers. New low ash engine oil formulations are now helping to improve fuel economy while at the same time ensuring that drivers and freight can safely get from A to B, while also still meeting the latest vehicle regulations.
While no industry has had an easy time with the virus, it is obvious that the road haulage industry and the drivers in particularly have faced many unique challenges in the last few months.
Dealing with the issues of social distancing, safeguarding and preserving public health, while also answering the demands for new levels of service, is not easy. If the Covid-19 crisis proves anything, it’s that road hauliers are built of strong stuff.
The future of trucking
The pandemic wasn’t predicted, but there are other challenges ahead that have been well signposted such as the upcoming so-called Euro 7 regulations.
Research is already underway to formulate low and ultra-low viscosity oils, which will help enhance fuel efficiencies without compromising on parts protection or service life.
The impending arrival of new technology also casts a shadow over the industry – new electric commercial vehicles will add complexity to fleets and require new skills, new lubricants and advanced predictive maintenance. But smart trucks are already here, combining assisted driving, remote truck monitoring and increasingly sophisticated sensors to improve safety on the road and help enhance fuel efficiency.
What is clear, however, is that the road haulage industry in its various guises is currently experiencing change like never before. The combination of new technologies and revised emissions regulations, along with the current pandemic, are reshaping how fleets operate, which in turn will affect the logistics and planning involved in their day-to-day running.
The good news is that the sector’s key players are already working hard on achieving the best possible outcomes.
ExxonMobil’s latest contribution to the effectiveness of the road haulage industry comes in the forms of two new extra high performance diesel engine oils: Mobil Delvac™ XHP ESP FE 5W-30 and Mobil Delvac™ XHP Ultra LE MN9 5W-20; the latter has been specifically formulated to meet the latest MAN M 3977 efficiency requirements. Both lubricants help deliver outstanding protection and fuel economy potential* in modern, high performance, low emission engines used in severe on-highway applications.
Of course, that’s not the end of the journey that started back in 1925 with the introduction of Mobil Delvac, a product that continues to provide long engine life and high performance protection for truck engines and drivelines throughout the world, in all conditions. Our technologists and chemists continue to carry out their industry-leading research, developing products that will help road hauliers meet their compliance targets, safely and efficiently, now and in the future.
*Fuel economy potential is based on experience of comparing a 5W-30 with 10W-40 and 15W-40 viscosities.