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Q&A: Lowering cost per kilometre with effective lubrication

Transport operators are under increasing pressure to achieve higher standards of vehicle reliability and compliance with the latest safety and emissions regulation; all while minimising total operating costs to stay competitive. Here, we explain how choosing the right oils and greases for your fleet can play a key role in powering efficient fleets at the lowest cost per kilometre.

1. Why is it so important to choose a high quality lubricant?

High performance lubricants and greases play a vital role in reducing maintenance costs, improving fuel economy and increasing vehicle availability. However, many businesses underestimate their ability to deliver cost savings and productivity benefits.

In a price sensitive market, lubricants are often one of the first areas where costs are cut. In fact, a survey of fleet managers commissioned by Shell Lubricants revealed that only 52% believe lubricant product performance to be an important purchase consideration (1).

While buying cheaper oils and greases may achieve cost savings in the short term, the detrimental effect on vehicle components can prove more expensive over time. With one in three fleet managers admitting that errors in lubrication had cost their business over $100,000 in the last few years1, the impact of choosing the wrong lubricant is clear. The best value is found in choosing competitively priced, high-quality lubricants that deliver excellent component protection and, in doing so, can help deliver cost savings.

2. What is TCO and what savings can lubricants deliver?

Many companies are aware that evaluating and reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) can help them extract the best possible value from their vehicles over their lifetime. However, 56% of fleet managers do not expect high quality lubricants to help cut maintenance spend,1 which typically amounts to around 10% of total fleet costs.

When looking at making savings, it’s important to take a more holistic, longer-term view. For fleet businesses, this includes monitoring ‘cost per kilometre’ of the vehicle fleet, which can be influenced by vehicle availability, maintenance cost and fuel expenditure. This is used to evaluate the impact of lubricants not only on maintenance budget and processes, but also any costs related to lost productivity through vehicle downtime.

Vehicles are the lifeblood of fleet businesses, so unplanned maintenance periods can have a significant impact on a company’s efficiency, reputation and, ultimately, the bottom line. By protecting components against wear, deposits and corrosion while prolonging oil life, lubricants and greases reduce maintenance costs and maximise oil drain intervals; meaning a vehicles can be on the road for longer driving a greater profit for their business

With fuel costs amounting to as much as 39% of total fleet operating costs, a lubricant that helps deliver even a small increase in efficiency has the potential to greatly impact TCO. The latest low-viscosity heavy duty engine oils can ensure enhanced fuel economy without compromising on wear protection or oil life, delivering maximum efficiency and welcome savings on fuel costs.

Making seemingly small changes to lubricant procurement decisions can have significant impact on TCO. After following expert advice from Certas Energy and upgrading to a high performance lubricant from Shell’s Rimula product family, a national road haulage business made savings in excess of £45,000 on their yearly maintenance budget.

3. What are the main considerations when upgrading lubricants?

From heavy duty diesel engines to transmissions, axles and wheel bearings, every component of a truck or bus made by different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) has its specific lubrication requirements. OEMs define the minimum requirements for lubricants or greases, but not all products that meet these standards deliver the same level of performance.

There are also a number of other factors unique to fleet that can impact lubrication performance. A vehicle’s design characteristics; how it is fuelled; operational parameters; and surrounding environment – all of these considerations must be taken into account when choosing the correct lubricant or grease for your fleet.

As a result of these fleet-specific challenges, it’s vital that transport operators consult a lubricants expert with in-depth product and sector knowledge who can advise on the best solutions to fit their requirements.

When upgrading lubricants, it’s also vital that transport operators have the right management processes in place. Even the best product cannot perform to its full potential if it is not applied and managed correctly, so having effective lubricant management systems can help deliver value from improved productivity and reductions in lubricant consumption, maintenance and operating costs.

4. Are there any additional benefits of high performance lubricants?

As well as minimising maintenance costs and downtime, the latest lubricants also help to keep emissions low by protecting the performance of exhaust emission systems. Using a lower quality lubricant can degrade equipment such as catalysts and diesel particulate filters, leading to compromised systems which can contribute to greater emissions. Furthermore, blocked DPF have also been shown to increase fuel consumption.

 Using a high performance lubricant such as Shell Rimula Ultra E Plus 5w-30 not only ensures that a vehicle complies with legislation by prolonging the life of exhaust emission systems, it can also contribute to greater fuel efficiency and reduced costs per kilometre.

5. How do I choose the right lubricants for my fleet?

When it comes to achieving TCO savings through high performance lubricants and greases, one size does not fit all. Fleet managers must evaluate the needs of their business by developing a unique TCO programme to realise low-cost, long-term product reliability. This is where the Certas Energy team acts as an expert partner for transport operators.

Our technical experts are committed to understanding your fleet’s individual needs. With combined expertise and unrivalled product knowledge through our long standing partnership with Shell, the leading global lubricants supplier, we work to create a tailored solution to fit your specific requirements and help keep your fleet running smoothly.

Shell’s technical partnerships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) helps to ensure that lubricants and greases are optimised for the latest vehicles to improve reliability and productivity. Shell Lubricants works closely with a number of key OEMs to develop products that are technologically advanced and can meet and exceed equipment needs both now and in the future.

This close collaboration enables Shell to secure vital OEM approvals on products including transmission oils Shell Spirax S6 ATF A295 and Shell Spirax S6 ATF ZM. These oils are designed to keep transmission components protected so they keep working effectively mile after mile. Having been tested over 20 million kilometres and put through extensive laboratory tests, users can been confident these oils work hard to protect their fleet.

With guidance from our expert team and access to Shell’s extensive range of innovative products, customers can have confidence that their fleet is operating at optimal performance.

Shell Lubricants brings world-class technological insights to its products and services, which are designed to help maximise equipment efficiency, prolong vehicle life and reduce downtime to deliver substantial customer savings. For example, the new CK4 Engine Oils from Shell Lubricants represent the latest innovations in engine oil offering improved oxidation resistance, shear stability and aeration control to meet the new standards replacing the current API CK-4 heavy duty oils. Ultimately, optimising lubrication can have a significant impact on component life, maintenance costs, and unplanned downtime, so it can contribute to cost savings far higher than the price of the lubricant itself. By keeping one step ahead, Shell and Certas Energy can offer customers a service that is cost-competitive but, most importantly, ‘total cost of ownership’ aware, helping fleet operators unlock the financial opportunities that effective lubrication can provide.

To find out more about how lubricants can deliver TCO savings to your fleet, visit

[1] This survey, commissioned by Shell Lubricants and conducted by research firm Edelman Intelligence, is based on 395 interviews with Fleet sector staff who purchase, influence the purchase or use lubricants/greases as part of their job across 8 countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Russia, UK, US) from November to December 2015.