Commercial Trucks Going DIFM?


Whereas a majority of car owners once performed their own engine oil changes, today most pay someone else to do it for them. A new study says the same shift may now be occurring with commercial truck operators.

Kline and Co. said its Opportunities in Lubricants North America, 2002-2004 – Volume I, suggests that the do-it-for-me segment of the heavy duty engine oil market may be primed to expand, thanks to quick lube centers for trucks and truck stops angling to attract fleet operators that until now have performed their own maintenance.

The stumbling blocks for quick lube centers and truck stops to this point have been the range and quality of services and price, Geeta Agashe, director of Klines Petroleum and Energy Practice, said in announcing the study last week. But these [obstacles] are now being removed.

Unlike passenger car owners, most trucking fleets still perform their own repairs and maintenance. But according to Kline, a consultancy based in Little Falls, N.J., the benefits of outsourcing oil changes and other preventive maintenance are becoming more apparent. When business is slow, outsourcing allows haulers to avoid costs of operating their own facilities at less than capacity. When business is growing, they save on costs of expanding to accommodate that growth.

Klines study pegs the market for installed lubricants for commercial trucks at 30 million to 35 million gallons in 2002. That projection includes truck dealers and general repair garages, as well as quick lubes and truck stops. The latter two types of businesses currently account for 13.8 million of those gallons.

The study says quick lubes and truck stops are positioned to attract more oil changes, though not at the expense of dealers or garages. Chains of service centers are using direct sales efforts to court fleets that currently conduct their own maintenance. Many have expanded the range of repair and replacement services they offer and now perform tasks such as on-site oil analysis. Some are also able to communicate maintenance information back to fleets quickly, a service that Kline cites as critical to haulers.

Quick lubes and truck stops have also made progress toward easing concerns about the quality of services and lubricants by partnering with major lube suppliers and original equipment manufacturers. Shell owns Speedco Truck Lube Centers, which primarily offer Shells Rotella brand of heavy duty engine oils. ExxonMobil and Volvo Trucks North America both own stakes in Petro Stopping Centers, which feature Mobils Delvac.

Kline said Volvo has helped transform Petro centers to nearly full-service garages that can perform almost any task for Volvo trucks. Likewise, TA Travel Centers have aligned with Freightliner to provide parts and warranty service.

Brand loyalty is huge in this industry, and these partnerships provide assurance to both fleet managers and owner-operators that their equipment is being serviced properly with quality products, Agashe said.

Looking ahead, Kline expects quick lubes and truck stops to become even more cost competitive.

The price points offered by quick lubes and truck stops are already low enough to attract some interest from trucking fleets, Agashe said, and theyre likely to go down further as some chains plan to expand and competition heats up. Although the overall market for commercial automotive lubricants is mature and is expected to remain flat, the quick lube and truck stop chains are expected to take a bigger slice of the pie.

Information about subscribing to Opportunities in Lubricants North America 2002-2004 is available at

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