First-of-its-kind study shows reduced maintenance costs, positive cold performance.
Amber Thurlo Pearson - NBB - Mar. 21, 2007
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Dale Decker is a third-generation trucker in the family business, which started in 1931 with one Model B Ford truck. Since then, the Fort Dodge, Iowa-based Decker Truck Line has grown to more than 700 trucks and more than 1,400 trailers, with nine terminals in five states. Dale Decker found out about biodiesel several years ago. The more he learned, the more he wanted to try it.
“I appreciate the fact that biodiesel provides support for American farmers as a home grown fuel,” said Decker, who is Industry & Government Relations Director for Decker Truck Line, Inc. He also said the added lubricity that biodiesel provides would help meet fuel lubricity requirements when used with the newly mandated Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD).
Decker Truck Line, Inc. is the first major trucking company to compare a soy biodiesel B20 blend to regular diesel in a comprehensive over-the-road test covering two million miles. Announced last fall, the “Two Million Mile Haul” has covered 350,000 miles towards the goal. Partners released interim results today at the Mid-America Trucking Show. In addition to Decker, partners in the Two Million Mile Haul include the Iowa Soybean Association, National Biodiesel Board (NBB), U.S. Department of Agriculture, Iowa Central Community College and Renewable Energy Group.
Decker says so far, so good. In fact, he has seen substantial benefits.
“What we’ve observed so far is great performance in the particularly cold winter we just experienced, and reduced maintenance and engine wear benefits that equal or outweigh the slightly higher cost of the biodiesel blend,” he said.
Decker Truck Line is using B20 biodiesel (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel) in 20 of the company’s trucks, running from its terminal in Fort Dodge, Iowa to either Chicago or Minneapolis. The trucks are Peterbilt 379s, 388s, and 389s, with mostly flatbed trailers. All trucks have Caterpillar C13 or C15 engines built to EPA 2004 and EPA 2007 emissions levels.
According to Decker, observations during the study, including oil analysis results, have shown:
- Cleaner engine oil.
- Positive impact on engine wear.
- Decreased maintenance due to increased lubricity.
- No cold weather issues – even with temperatures in the teens and single digits.
Caterpillar is also following the results of the study and conducting further analysis on the effects of biodiesel. In addition to Caterpillar, many trucking companies, independent truckers, government agencies and other Original Equipment Manufacturers are interested in the ongoing results. Decker Truck Line and Iowa Central Community College have developed a Web site to show results: www.2millionmilehaul.com
. Iowa Central collects and analyzes the data that is downloaded from the Qualcomm system in each truck. Data includes miles per gallon, total miles, idle time, max speed, average speed, and more.
Although some parts of the country have had an unusually cold winter, the 20 biodiesel trucks have had no issues with gelling or performance due to biodiesel. Decker Truck Line attributes this to the work that it has done with NBB in finding high-quality fuel that is properly handled and treated to help biodiesel perform in cold weather.
“We are pleased that Decker Tuck Line has taken on this project to test biodiesel in real-world conditions,” said Tom Verry, Director of Outreach and Development for NBB. “This over-the-road study of biodiesel will help trucking companies and independent truckers gain a better understanding of the effect of biodiesel on their fleet.”
Decker Truck Line experienced issues with fuel filter clogging that were due to self-blending of the fuel as opposed to using professionally-blended fuel. Decker Truck Line hopes that its experiences will help other trucking firms and independent truckers avoid the same pitfalls.
Until the two million miles are complete, conclusions about mileage and efficiency are not available. Tests so far are within the margin of error and are influenced by driving styles. Decker Truck Line and Iowa Central are working to stabilize factors to get quantifiable data on mileage and efficiency.
Biodiesel is a renewable diesel fuel that is made from domestic resources such as soybean oil or other domestic fats and vegetable oils. It can be used in any diesel engine at a B20 blend or lower, with few or no modifications. Biodiesel significantly cuts harmful environmental emissions. Today, more than 700 major fleets use biodiesel commercially, and more than 1,100 retail filling stations, half of which are truck accessible, make various blends available to the public.