It’s that time of year again—the weather is cold and it’s time to prepare for a long winter of heating our homes and scraping the snow and ice from our vehicles’ windows. Memories of last winter’s long stretches of bitter cold return to our thoughts.
On cold days, few things are more comforting than a dependable engine and its heater. Most drivers, particularly those who regularly operate in colder climates, know about the need to use fuel other than straight #2 diesel (2-D) in the winter. However, problems still arise each year as truckers running 2-D drive from warm climates to the colder states or begin operating equipment that had been fueled with 2-D in the summer but sat idle until winter.
Each winter, Acuity helps truckers who experience problems related to gelled-up fuel. And it’s not just the lost time and money that are problems—it’s the uncomfortable situation of being broken down on the side of the roadway in below-zero temperatures.
Fortunately, several options are available to truckers operating in cold temperatures, including using #1 diesel (1-D). Because of the different makeup of 1-D, it does not gel in cold weather. However, it is more expensive and has a lower energy content than 2-D. Most fuel stations offer winter-blend fuels that combine the two to help with the expense and energy content.
“The colder it gets, the more 1-D people put in,” says Cliff Johnson, Trucking Specialist, Acuity Insurance. . “In particularly cold weather, people sometimes use 80 percent 1-D. However, with 1-D running 50 cents per gallon more than 2-D, it really adds up.”
There’s also a considerable performance penalty with 1-D in regard to its lower BTU content, which becomes a concern as the percentage increases in the blend. Cold-flow improvers can be a more cost-effective option than higher percentages of 1-D. “Typically an additive will cost anywhere between 1.5 to 3 cents per gallon,” says says Everett Osgood, Market Manager - Fuel Additives at MidContinental Chemical Company. “Fuel blending and additives can be very effective at improving low temperature operability of a fuel to combat these problems by lowering the cold filter plugging point (CFPP). Also, additives reduce the risk of fuel line freeze up or fuel filter icing.
Additives can be used year-round. Owner-operator Brad McAnarney began using an additive in February 2013, carefully documenting his truck’s performance, before and after.
“I improved my fuel mileage over 0.8 miles per gallon over the course of a year,” McAnarney says. “What that means to me, averaging 3,000 miles a week, is a significant savings in fuel costs.”
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell just what type of fuel a supplier offers. The best practice is to be informed. Know your company's policy on cold weather fueling, and ask what the station’s fuel blend is, if there are any additives used, and what temperatures the fuel is rated for. With this knowledge in hand, you should stay rolling down the road in comfort, no matter what the temperature.