To ensure modern diesel forklift engines operate optimally in winter conditions, it is more important than ever that truck owners ensure the right fuel is being used and that it is stored correctly through the year.
Incorrect storage of fuel, with the potential for contamination, can create real problems during cold weather operations. Add into the mix the need to ensure the correct grade of fuel is being used, particularly in relation to biodiesel and ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD) at it could mean a winter of risks.
Key Causes of Contamination Can Include:
Water in Fuel;
Particle Contamination/Poor Filtration;
Extended Storage Periods;
Diesel Microbial Contamination;
Irregular Tank Maintenance;
Fuel can also be contaminated with dirt, rust, sand etc., which can result from simple bad fuel handling practises and cause real damage to an engine or machine and its fuel system. However, there are a number of simple steps which can be taken to address these problems.
Buy from Reputable Sources
This will prevent the likelihood of microbe, water or particulate contaminant problems; a reputable fuel distributor turning over high volumes is more likely to be on top of preventing these problems;
Maintain your Tanks
Tanks need maintenance – there may be treatments available to prevent water accumulation, but no additive can overcome a rusty tank that allows rain water in;
Keep Tanks Full
This minimises development of condensation;
Limit Storage Time
Ideally diesel should not be stored for more than 12 months;
Fuel shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures above 35˚C;
When moving fuel, run it through a filtration system;
Test regularly for microbes and water – this will help you stay on top of stored fuel problems;
Use biocides every 90 days to prevent microbial contamination, especially with ULSD fuel.
Another issue that can cause problems, both for modern diesel engines designed to meet the latest emissions legislation, and older engines designed to previous specifications, is ensuring that the correct grade of fuel is used. Engines designed to run on ‘European’ grade Diesel, with a cetane rating of 51 (the cetane number relating to how readily diesel burns under compression) can struggle to run effectively on UK red diesel, with a cetane level of 45. The advent of ULSD can also mean a reduction in the ‘oiliness’ of fuel, or lower ‘lubricity’. This can potentially be an issue if used in older engines which were not designed for ULSD.
For some engines, fuel containing 7% of biodiesel results in reduced cold-weather handling performance and more potential for water pick-up, meaning a great possibility of corrosion in filters. This has led to some suppliers offering so-called “FAME-free fuel”, which claims to be biodiesel free. However, this is extremely difficult to guarantee, given how widespread biodiesel is in the supply chain, so relying on this has potential problems.
To keep your fleet operating at maximum efficiency, with minimum downtime, effective fuel storage and tank maintenance is vital. If this is matched with adherence to the fuel grade needs of your fleet, be it brand new or of a less recent vintage, it will help ensure that the winter weather won’t stop your business in its tracks.
Other General Maintenance Tips
Alongside the use of the correct fuel and fuel storage protocols, general vehicle maintenance tips allied to fuel and efficient operation include:
Observing the manufacturer’s fuel filter service lift recommendations, particularly around frequency of replacement;
Daily draining of water from fuel filters;
Replacement of a vehicle’s fuel filler cap immediately after refuelling.