OEMs Press on Heavy-Duty Upgrade


While most stakeholders acknowledge that the next generation of heavy-duty engine oils cant roll out sooner than March 2017, representatives from the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association are continuing to press for the PC-11 category to launch during 2016.

At the Sept. 25 meeting of the PC-11 New Category Development Team, the subject of when the American Petroleum Institute could begin licensing the new oils took center stage. The likely deadline, March 1, 2017, has been acknowledged by leaders of other stakeholder groups involved with engine oil development – but not by the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, the key trade group representing the heavy-duty engine industry.

The engine builders representatives have not formally agreed to the later date although they recognize that their desire to have API begin licensing by April 2016 is not doable. The most specific they’ve been in that regard is to say that they would very much prefer the date to be sometime in 2016 rather than into 2017. To date no specific compromises have been formally proposed or approved.

According to Shawn Whitacre of Chevron, APIs guidance of March 2017 for PC-11 first-licensing is as accurate as can currently be predicted. In large part, this is because the engine sequence tests needed to measure the new oils performance are still being vetted. They have to undergo a structured precision matrix which runs each test dozens of times with a hand-picked slate of reference oils. The data from these tests then will be analyzed, and the test limits established to define PC-11 performance.

The precision matrix for the Volvo/Mack T-13 engine test, which is pacing this category, commenced on Sept. 15. It measures bearing corrosion, oil oxidation and nitration. At the Sept. 25 NCDT meeting, Greg Shank of Volvo estimated that the T-13 matrix would wrap up on or around Dec. 22.

The second new engine test for PC-11, Caterpillars C-13 Oil Aeration Test, was formally approved by the NCDT for matrix testing, pending some last-minute refinements to improve its robustness. Caterpillar anticipates the C-13 matrix will commence in mid-October and be completed by the end of November.

Whitacre noted that statisticians anticipate working through January and February to analyze the matrix data. The official NCDT timeline now indicates March 5, 2015, as the milestone for completing this analysis, and for the start of a nine-month technology demonstration period. The subsequent three months would be used to negotiate and formally approve the final specification – possibly in first-quarter 2016. API then mandates a 12-month waiting period before licensing begins, which would last until the first quarter of 2017.

The reality is that there has been a disconnect between the EMA’s desired first-license date – originally set at Jan. 1, 2016, and then eased to April 1, 2016 – and the NCDTs projected timeline for at least two years. The earliest documented timeline was published in September 2012 and projected a viable first-license date of July 1, 2016, in the belief that the precision matrix tests would begin in November 2013. As it turns out, the matrix tests started 10 months later than that. The timeline has been collapsed a bit to reflect more realistic timing for matrix completion and the associated data analysis, but even so it still converges on March 2017, as Whitacres calculations confirm.

Meanwhile, lubricant and additive industry members speculate that should the March 2017 date become a reality, the heavy-duty OEMs may well opt to introduce their own next-generation oils as OEM brands. That move would give them the improvements they want from PC-11 and be more in keeping with their desired timeline.