VideoCheck Lights the Way

Shell's roving inspection kit focuses on fleets' engine maintenance

Steve Gitzlaff, senior vice-president of fleet operations for Marathon, WI-based Marathon Cheese Transport, is in charge of maintaining 33 Class-8 tractors and more than 100 trailers that travel across most of the country, from Idaho to Mississippi to Ohio. The company has worked with Shell for several years and had never needed VideoCheck™, but when Gitzlaff had the chance to get a demonstration this fall, he did not hesitate.

The good news is Gitzlaff didn't have any problem trucks that were stumping his technicians; he just wanted to see how the system worked and what its advantages were, and came away very impressed.

"The man-hours it would take to tear it down, to get the heads off and get it to the point where you can see inside the liners and pistons and look at the bottoms of the valves and everything, that's about 36 hours," he says. "What they found in the truck that had 925,000 miles on it is the wear was excellent for as many miles we had on that engine, it was wearing very well; we didn't have anything to fear from that truck--no excess buildups or carbon deposits or anything like that--the cross-hatching and everything else looked fine."

While he has avoided any major problems with his current fleet, he says VideoCheck would have been particularly helpful with some past issues.

"Throughout the years, we've had a lot of things that (I've) wondered about, and we did most of our diagnosis and still do based on oil sampling, and then it's kind of a crapshoot as to whether we should keep it and try it one more time and see what happens or do it now," he says. "This would help you make a quicker decision, and in some instances, maybe save yourself some money. It's an outstanding tool, no doubt about it."

For Gitzlaff, it's nice to know that while he may not need the system today, if and when problems crop up in the future, the system is just a phone call away.

"They said 'Don't hesitate to call us (if you have problems) and we would be able to let you know if it's free or in the area,'" he says. "They would do the best they could to get there as quickly as they could. I'm not aware of anything else out there that's similar to this. We'll certainly keep that in mind and try to use it if we can."


Ideally, the VideoCheck™ demonstrations will show that things are working well, like with Marathon Cheese Transport.

"It's not meant just to be there in case of emergency; it's meant to help show the internal operating conditions of their engines without tearing them down," Priborsky says. "The unique thing about that inspection was that engine has over 900,000-some miles. That just goes to verify that their maintenance program was working. When you see cross-hatching of that quality with over 900,000 miles, you know you've got a couple hundred thousands of miles to go before even considering any rebuilds."

Fleets that use VideoCheck™ also receive a digital inspection report to help managers figure out the best plan of action.

"It gives you a chance to review what occurred that day, and let's face it, with any situation where you see a demonstration, you can go back to your desk and six hours later it's like, 'What were we looking at?'" he chuckles. "It takes down all the basic inspection information, then it will talk about the procedure, what it was performed on, and from there will go into specific observations--you take a look at the piston crown, cylinder liner, RTDC area and the heads and the valves. And it will give you a summary on each of those and provide you with the images. There's a small road map that shows you exactly where they were looking on the cylinder."

Priborsky says the idea is to have the report in the hands of the fleet manager within five business days, if not sooner.

"The VideoCheck operator turns his report in within 24 hours, it is reviewed by our technical team here at Shell to make sure their observations are accurate, and they're not over-stating everything, then it's put into a PDF format for delivery and review with the customer," he says.

Priborsky says most times, he finds that VideoCheck™ ends up showing that many fleets are doing the proper maintenance on their engines. However, if a fleet has maintenance problems, chances are good that VideoCheck™ is going to find them. He says a good example of that is a recent inspection of a school bus fleet with over 400 units that was using a competitive product.

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