It is vital that waste fleet managers and owners select the correct lubricant to ensure the protection of crucial engine components.

By Brian Humphrey

Urban environments can be tough on heavy-duty diesel vehicles that collect and transport waste. Although it is a costly and time-consuming process, waste fleet managers maintain high levels of monitoring of their specialized vehicles at all times to ensure optimum performance.

These fleets operate in unique conditions, where stopping and starting is a frequent occurrence and there is often a wide operating temperature range. Combined with heavy loads, the varied environments can result in increased engine wear and be the cause of unplanned maintenance and downtime, which can significantly impact a business’ bottom line. Therefore, it is vital that waste fleet managers and owners select the correct lubricant to ensure the protection of crucial engine components.

The Role of Heavy-Duty Engine Oils
Before selecting an oil, it is important to understand the role of heavy-duty engine lubricants. Minimizing frictional losses between moving components, while reducing pumping and spinning losses, engine oils can improve fuel economy and reduce viscous drag.

The trend towards lower viscosity oils has also supported this, as they provide lower frictional resistance and drag in the engine. This means, very simply, that the engine does not have to work so hard or consume as much fuel to provide the same level of power. By allowing the engine to run more efficiently, while offering improved levels of wear protection, the use of low viscosity oils can further improve fuel economy and reduce carbon emissions.

In addition, other operating conditions should be considered, and this is of particular importance for the waste industry where the use of stop/start technology is widespread. To provide protection for waste fleet engines, it is therefore vital to use a more durable lubricant to prevent wear during a substantial number of on/off cycles.

New vehicles also have specific requirements to continue to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy, thus, their engines tend to run at higher temperatures, which can stress conventional lubricants. In turn, this can accelerate the rate of oxidation and degradation. To address this, newer oils—such as API CK-4 and FA-4—offer greater resistance to oxidation, along with improved aeration control and shear stability.

Selecting a Heavy-Duty Engine Lubricant
The evolution of heavy duty engine oil technology along with industry legislation poses a challenge for waste fleet owners and operators wanting to choose a new lubricant. And with an increasing abundance of choice available, what steps should be taken when selecting a heavy-duty lubricant?
Firstly, any decision to change engine oil should always begin with consulting the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) vehicle manual or by contacting them directly for further information and advice on which product to use.

It is then important to consider both the use and climate that your fleet operates in. To provide a solution for varying temperatures, lubricants are available in different SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) grades. For engine oils designed to provide protection in colder temperatures, a ‘W’ will be displayed following the SAE viscosity grade, which stands for ‘winter’. A heavier oil, such as a SAE 30 or 40 grade may be more suitable for fleets that operate in warmer conditions. By resisting the breakdown associated with higher temperatures, these oils ensure proper and adequate flow, and the protection of vital engine components.

Viscosity of an engine oil is a crucial consideration as it dictates the ability of the oil to flow. If the oil’s viscosity is too high in cold conditions it may resist easy movement. This can delay lubrication and protection of the engine, resulting in increased wear. For low viscosity engine oils, it is good practice to look for industry-standard tests such as ‘Cold Crank Viscosity’ (CCS) and ‘Low Temperature Pumpability’ (MPV) as these will ensure optimal lubrication of critical components even in the coldest of operating conditions. These oils do a better and more efficient job of lubricanting engine parts due to their enhanced abilities at lower temperatures.

Conversely, in high temperatures, a low viscosity oil may not provide the level of protection needed and may burn too quickly, causing damage to the engine. The High Temperature High Shear (HTHS) value also provides insight into the oil’s viscosity in the bearings and highly loaded parts at operating temperature. Simply, a lower HTHS results in greater fuel economy, but a higher HTHS provides better wear protection, so a careful balance must be struck.

Another factor to review is the synthetic quality of an engine oil. Both full synthetic and synthetic blends offer improved performance in a range of weather conditions due to their increased stability when compared to conventional oils. Depending on the fleets’ operating conditions, synthetic blend oils can improve an engine’s protection and performance. For an even greater performance, full synthetic oils that are formulated with a synthetic base stock blended with high-quality, performance-enhancing additives offer the ideal solution.
Proof of performance should be one of the final considerations before selecting a lubricant. This information will demonstrate the product line’s credentials with evidence, which can take the form of OEM approvals, real-world testing results or customer testimonials.

Seek Advice
When selecting a heavy-duty lubricant for waste fleets that operate in unique and challenging conditions, it is vital to seek advice from the vehicle’s OEM manual and an expert lubricant supplier.

Brian Humphrey is OEM Technical Liaison for Petro-Canada Lubricants (Mississauga, ON) He can be reached at For more information, visit and search DURON.