The Simplest Job

Does it make sense to outsource oil changes for fleets?


"We put together a 'usage history' for each of our vehicles," he explains. "We look at how long the vehicle takes to get 6,000 miles, then we assign it into one of four different maintenance slots."

Alliant Energy divides their maintenance calendar into four slots: two months, three months, four months and six months.

Once a usage history is done on a vehicle, it's assigned a slot and is scheduled for oil maintenance for that time frame.

Because their fleet is spread out across such a large area, nearly 90 percent of their oil needs are outsourced.

"We send our vehicles for service everywhere from big name companies to the small 'mom-and-pop' shops," says Krueger. "That gives us some flexibility when it's time for that vehicle to get its oil changed and it's cheaper and faster than sending it to one of our service centers."

For those Alliant vehicles fortunate enough to be near an Alliant Energy fleet service center, most, if not all, maintenance is done in-house.

"We have a vendor that supplies our oil needs for the 10 percent of our fleet that we service in-house," explains Krueger.

"We keep two types of oil to service our gas engines and diesel engines. The vendor is in the loop in terms of our maintenance schedules and knows that he needs to keep us inventoried at all times."

"I wouldn't let just anybody do it," says Shell Lubricants OEM technical manager Stede Granger, "but if I was going to outsource my oil changes, I would make sure I checked out the company, make sure they do things right, and most of all, make sure they use a good, well-known product that meets all the requirements and specifications."

The advantage to outsourcing, Granger says, is that an oil change shop has labor dedicated to changing oil. "If your technicians are busy with all the repair work that needs to be done, oil changes are sometimes put at the end of the list," he says.

AUTOMATED UPDATES

John Gillenwater, transportation administrator for Aurora Casket Company, located in Aurora, IN, is also a fan of outsourcing the oil maintenance on his 240 nation-wide, light-duty vehicles.

"We have an automated process in place so that when a vehicle hits 5,000 miles, it's immediately flagged for maintenance with the field office," Gillenwater says.

Aurora's maintenance records are kept at its home office and the company is adamant about updating mileage on a daily basis. Reports are sent from the field offices to the home office. If a vehicle is due for an oil change, the home office will alert the field office by e-mail.

Since most of Aurora's fleet is made up of Ford vehicles, Gillenwater says the easiest way to tackle the task of oil needs is to take them directly to the dealer.

"It isn't practical for us to have an in-house maintenance program," he says. "The dealers are intimately familiar with the needs of the vehicles and are able to provide the service the vehicles require."

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

Tony Petrino, lead technician, US Postal Service Maintenance in New Jersey, says the solution to their oil needs arrived in the form of a government contract.

"Everything we use is recycled," he explains. "The government signed a contract with a major oil company to provide the Postal Service with recycled engine oil. The recycled oil works as well as anything else we've used."

The Postal Service's vehicles aren't known for putting on lots of miles in a given year. According to Petrino, most vehicles in the inventory are due for an oil drain on average about once every six months. The maintenance schedules are staggered so that vehicles are going through their periodic maintenance at different times.

But as he explains, the Post Office is not above outsourcing its oil service requirements if the need arises.

"If a vehicle is out on the streets and it eclipses its mileage, we'll have them stop at a local service station to get it done," Petrino says. "We're very careful not to have vehicles over their mileage."

TAKING SAMPLES

Oil sampling is available to ensure that vehicles are running at peak performance. Many manufacturers and oil companies will analyze samples taken from vehicles to ensure the oil being run through the engine is doing what it's supposed to.

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