Storage, handling are new fleet issues
Temperature, dilution can affect product quality
For fleets running 2010 and newer equipment using selective catalytic reduction to curb emissions, diesel exhaust fluid storage and handling have become issues. All fleets with such trucks need to keep their drivers informed about DEF, and bigger fleets with large terminal facilities should understand that while having an onsite tank can save big dollars on purchasing costs, it also means an extra piece of equipment to manage.
At what point should a fleet consider its own DEF tank? Chad Dombroski, director of Yara North America, recommends a 1,000-2,000-gallon storage tank for a fleet with 10 to 13 trucks, while a 3,000-4,000-gallon tank would work for a fleet with 26-40 trucks. A larger fleet with 80-160 trucks likely would need a 5,000-6,000-gallon tank.
Bill Mulligan, vice president of development, facilities and environmental compliance for Pilot Travel Centers, believes few fleets dispense the fluid exclusively from their own tanks. It costs about $225,000 to fill a DEF tank when delivered by a typical 5,600-gallon tanker, and even the largest fleets normally have their own DEF tanks only at their busiest terminals, Mulligan says.
Pilot has 1,100 service islands with combined diesel/DEF pumps where a driver can pump diesel fuel into his fuel tanks, and then pump DEF from a different nozzle on the same pump. The two purchases will show up as a single transaction on any of several national fleet credit cards, with complete information on how much was spent on each fluid and the quantity.
Pilot also offers 1-gallon and 2½-gallon DEF containers for $5.99 and $13.99, respectively, but most fleets prefer drivers purchase it in bulk from the pump because the price is far more favorable at $2.59-2.79 per gallon. DEF’s cost also raises the issue of theft: Drivers should keep their DEF containers inside the vehicle and not fastened to the back of the cab.
DEF also is relatively heavy: Two 2½-gallon containers together weigh about 50 pounds, raising at least the possibility of a workman’s compensation claim.
Fleets in colder climates have additional DEF concerns, but although the fluid starts to crystalize at about 13 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s no permanent deterioration even if it freezes solid, and it can be thawed out and used.
Freezing affects only the ability to pump DEF, says Alan Smith, business development manager for Brenntag North America. “It’s not that you’ll have to replace fluid that has frozen – just that drivers won’t be able to refill their tanks until all parts of the supply system thaw out.”
An onsite DEF tank is an extra piece of equipment to manage.
Pilot’s DEF tanks are underground and maintain a temperature of about 60 degrees so the product inside doesn’t freeze or get too hot. Piping and hoses exposed to outside temperatures are wrapped in heating tape so the fluid can be dispensed even in frigid temperatures; piping at any terminal installation in colder areas needs to be equipped similarly.
Small amounts of DEF held in nonheated lines will freeze first, and a large tank filled with DEF will freeze over a long period of time. Supply lines should be heated even in southern climates where temperatures can drop below 32 degrees during winter, but a large tank there might not freeze depending on the duration of the cold weather, Smith says.
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