00:00 00:00


Filter Out Contaminants with Fleetguard

Learn how to Filter Out Contaminants from Your Business and Your Commercial Vehicle

Episode 324:  In this episode, we talk about contaminants that need to be filtered out – out of your business and out of your commercial vehicle air and fuel system. In our That’s Not Heavy Duty segment, Jamie tells the story of an irate and unreasonable customer and talks about a solution he found for customers that are impossible to please.

Our featured guest is Jay Stephenson, North American Training Leader at Fleetguard. We discuss how high-quality filtration products are essential for preventing unscheduled downtime and costly maintenance issues. With the rise of counterfeit parts being sold online, Jay emphasizes the importance of buying genuine parts and not just ‘racing to the bottom’ on price. We also discuss how Fleetguard is unique because they make their own filter media to ensure quality.

Learn how to Filter Out Contaminants from Your Business and Your Commercial Vehicle


Sponsors of this Episode

Heavy Duty Consulting Corporation: Find out how many “fault codes” your heavy-duty parts business has. Meet with us today. Visit HeavyDutyConsulting.com

Hengst Filtration: There’s a new premium filter option for fleets. If you’re responsible for a fleet, you won’t believe how much using Hengst filters will save you. But you’ve got to go to HeavyDutyPartsReport.com/Hengst to find out how much.

Diesel Laptops: Diesel Laptops is so much more than just a provider of diagnostic tools. They’re your shop efficiency solution company. Learn more about everything Diesel Laptops can do for you today by visiting DieselLaptops.com today.

HDA Truck Pride: They’re the heart of the independent parts and service channel. They have 750 parts stores and 450 service centers conveniently located across the US and Canada. Visit HeavyDutyPartsReport.com/HDATruckPride today to find a location near you.

Disclaimer: This content and description may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, The Heavy Duty Parts Report may receive a commission. 

Transcript of Episode

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and this is the place where we have conversations that empower heavy-duty people.

Welcome to another episode of The Heavy Duty Parts Report. In this episode, we are going to hear from a manufacturer of filter products, and in that interview we’re going to talk about why it is so critical that we use high quality filtration products in our commercial vehicles.

We’re going to round out the conversation at the end of the episode where we’re going to talk about how it is so important to filter out bad customers. So stick around to the end to hear about that, but let’s get to our featured interview.

In our featured interview with Jay Stephenson from Fleetguard. We’re going to cover several items that I think are very important. So just to kind of get you into what this episode is all about, I want you to look for these things. We’re going to talk about how clogged filters can help where there’s upstream or downstream problems.

We’re going to talk about why it’s vital to have clean fuel in your system. We’re going to talk about how it’s very important to invest in high quality filtration and not get into that price game where it’s just a race to the bottom.

We’re going to talk about what makes Fleetguard specifically unique, and we are going to talk a little bit about telematics in maintenance and how that can be used in conjunction with their filter program.

This is a really excellent interview. I hope you enjoy it, listening to my featured interview with Jay Stephenson from Fleet Guard. My guest today is Jay Stephenson. He is the North American Training Leader at Fleetguard. Jay has over 11 years of experience in the world of engine filtration. This is a gentleman that has a lot of experience and knowledge and I can’t wait to have an opportunity to talk to him.

He currently works, as I said, as the North American Training Leader for Fleetguard, and he’s based out of Nashville, Tennessee area, and he supports customer training on the important aspects of heavy-duty engine filtration and cooling systems solutions. Jay, welcome to The Heavy duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Jay Stephenson:

Hey, thanks Jamie. Great to be here. Excited to talk today.

Jamie Irvine:

All right, so today we get to talk about filtration. I’ve been looking forward to this. Before we get into that, can you just tell me a little bit of the story of how filters, yes, actual filters can cause a fleet to have unscheduled downtime.

In my experience selling parts, things like transmissions blowing up or differentials going or brake failure, something like that that would cause these roadside events. What about filters? What role do they play in unscheduled downtime?

Jay Stephenson:

Yeah, that’s a great question Jamie, and I think one of the things that’s really important to keep in mind at the outset of this entire conversation, the filter is a bit like a fuse in an electrical system or think about the breaker switch flipping at your house. It’s really indicative of something else that’s happening in an engine system or part of the equipment system.

So usually when something goes wrong with the filter, really the filter’s doing its job and it’s catching the brunt of whatever happened in that system. So there’s a few different ways. Obviously that filter can be involved in this downtime or unplanned downtime event.

One of the ways that can happen, the obvious way that would happen is from a maintenance perspective where the filter’s not doing its job at capturing contaminants and keeping that system free and clear of debris. So maybe in that instance you’ve got, we’re going to talk probably a little bit today around fuel systems.

I have to imagine perhaps the filter that’s been on that engine for some time wasn’t really doing a good job at removing those contaminants going into that fuel system.

And so over time you see progressive wear, progressive damage to the point where now that injector isn’t working the way it’s supposed to and maybe it leads to an actual engine down event. So that’s an instance where the filter’s not doing its job and it leads to that unplanned downtime.

The other side of that coin though is sometimes you see, and we’re seeing this more and more in today’s world where unplanned downtime is actually tied to the filter doing its job of removing contaminant, but there’s so much contaminant that we see premature plugging issues and that truck now is being shut down or that piece of equipment is being shut down because this filter is simply plugged.

And so now we’re seeing fault codes and various things like that. So there’s a couple different ways that it can happen. Usually it’s by the filter doing its job capturing something that happened in the system and people are quick to want to blame the filter, but hey, the filter did its job and it caught the thing that happened in that system.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, I have to be careful that you don’t blame the symptom, right? The upstream issues is really the cause of the problem, and I think that’s a good point that you want to look at the filter and say, okay, what is this telling me about what’s going on elsewhere in the system?

I also, as you were talking about the filter, maybe not doing its job, I remember a few times in my career selling parts where a customer had bought a filter and they hadn’t paid attention to the micron levels, right?

So yes, it fit, it was the right, it screwed on correctly, it sealed correctly, but it wasn’t the right filter for the application, and then that caused problems. And I think that that’s something that as the complexity of equipment continues to evolve, we have to pay more and more attention to that. Don’t you agree?

Jay Stephenson:

Yeah, absolutely. We live in an environment today where everyone’s very cost conscious. People are looking at the figures trying to pay attention to their expenses, and what we’ve got to remind folks and what everyone should be really vigilant is think big picture, right?

I know you’ve talked before on your show about race to the bottom, and if you get into that mindset of racing to the bottom, that’s going to get you in trouble pretty quickly.

You may not see premature issues cropping up right off the bat, but over time, if you have that truck or that piece of equipment long enough, it’s going to come back around and bite you.

So making sure you’re using regardless of its filtration or what other products you’re putting on that truck, on that vehicle, you want to make sure you’re using high quality products that are designed. If it’s not the OEM, at least it’s a brand that’s up in that echelon.

It’s a known commodity. You want to be really careful about the products you use. As you brought that up, one of the things I was thinking about that we’ve been seeing a lot more in the last handful of years is counterfeit product.

And again, for people that are shopping online, look, I’m as guilty as the next person at e-commerce shopping and buying things and ordering it online and sending it to my house.

But when it comes to heavy-duty truck parts, people are tempted to go online and shop for the best deal they can find on a product, maybe thinking they’re even getting a legitimate brand, and then when the product shows up, they put it on the engine, they have problems, and now they realize, hey, this product, it wasn’t even legitimate from the start.

So I’ve tried to save some money in this race to the bottom, and now I’m paying for it maybe paying two or three times more than I would have if I’d just done the right thing from the get go.

Jamie Irvine:

And that’s actually a good point. A company like yours that works with their distribution through either the OES channel or the aftermarket side of the business, you work with your distributors to give them the data that they need to, for example, put all of that information on their e-commerce site.

So when someone is looking at evaluating one of your filters, all the information they need is there. A lot of times that’s missing with the counterfeit or people who are just trying to sell a lot of product really quickly and they haven’t taken the time to get all that data and put it there.

So if you are shopping online, there’s nothing wrong with that, but make sure it’s a supplier that has the data from the manufacturer and you’re making sure that you know what you’re buying.

That’s so important. We work with our clients in that regard all the time when they’re trying to shift from the traditional distribution model where they’re relying on a lot of that tribal knowledge that parts people have built up over 30, 40 years and they’re switching to a digital sales channel.

Well, the data is worth gold because if you get it right, it works. If you don’t, you can put your customers in a position where they install the wrong part and that can have catastrophic consequences. Speaking of all of this, when I think about the changes that are happening in the industry, I think about the changes to the actual fuel and the hydraulic fluid and those things.

So let’s talk about that for a minute. How is evolving fuel quality causing challenges for operators who have to maintain diesel engine fuel systems and really it’s on them to make the right decision for the filtration solution that they purchase? Let’s talk about that first and then I think we’ll probably get into biodiesel after, but let’s just talk about evolving fuel quality to begin with.

Jay Stephenson:

Yeah, it’s fascinating and really as you think big picture of everything that’s going on the trucking industry, heavy duty diesel fuel filtration really is at, it’s kind of the battle line. It’s kind of the edge, the frontier of all of this work. And so when you think about what we do as a filtration manufacturer, a lot of our time is spent on fuel filtration.

That’s kind of a pressing need. And so for fleets that are having to deal with the challenges that come with fuel quality concerns, it’s been a little bit of a journey to get even where we are today, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel coming into the industry. I guess that’s 2006 timeframes somewhere around there.

What we saw early on with the introduction of high pressure common rail fuel systems and ultralow sulfur diesel fuel was these systems are very sensitive to contamination and very fine particulate.

So when you think about the debris and contaminant that finds its way into diesel fuel, we’re concerned with particles as small as four micron in some instances, and that’s half the size of a human red blood cell. I mean really small stuff, but that’s again, it’s related to, it’s all tied back to the extreme pressures these fuel systems run at.

There’s very tight clearances. The tolerances are very tight between some of these components in these injection systems. And so for the fleets, it’s really important to manage that fuel quality.

I think for fleets that for anybody that may be listening, that has your own fuel supply. So if you have your own bulk fuel tanks as much as you can possibly do to clean and treat that fuel at the source for every vehicle that may be filling up out of there, that’s great. You should do that.

It’s an investment that’s worthwhile. You have the ability to manage that a little bit better than the customer that’s just filling up their truck at a truck stop down the road. For those folks that are filling up just over the road, it’s really just a total gamble every time you fill up. You could get a tank of pretty good fuel, you could get a tank that’s absolutely terrible.

And so that’s where that roll of the dice becomes even more important as you think about the filtration that goes on that system. So for your stage one, your fuel water separator, your fuel processor, really important, your stage two, that final filter that’s actually on the engine, very important. You don’t want to skimp on these products in taking care of that fuel system.

If you again try to go race to the bottom, it’s going to lead to some negative effects and obviously the fuel system’s not working right. There’s a lot of other things that are going to be affected by that fuel system not working right. The engine’s not going to run right, and you’re going to see a lot of other potential problems.

So that fuel cleanliness, it’s a really big deal. Like I said, it’s kind of the front lines and the battle for making sure these engines run properly and you’ve got to use fuel filtration that’s really designed to get all the way down to those very fine particles all the way through its service life

Jamie Irvine:

Because you’re operating in this dynamic environment. So you’ve referred to this race to the bottom several times. For those who are listening who maybe don’t know what we’re talking about, we’re talking about sacrificing quality to try to get a lower purchase price on a product and then getting the negative effects that come from that. And when you’re a distributor and you’re fighting other distributors who sell the same product, you’re just cutting price, cutting price, cutting price.

So then eventually you can’t cut price anymore on the quality products, and the only option you have left is to serve or to offer your customers lower quality products, which then again drops the price. So the purchase price keeps going down, but the net effect on the company is that the total cost of operation can skyrocket, especially if you get a downtime event.

So just for those people who maybe were wondering what we were talking about, that’s the definition of this race to the bottom, and when I think about that, I think about the evolving environment that we’re in. You talked about the lottery that you pick.

Sometimes you win with the fuel, sometimes you don’t. If you’re over the road, if you can control it yourself, that’s great, but what about the advancement in things like biodiesel, right? Are we going to see a time when biodiesel will be a reliable option to help us lower emissions? What problems historically have come with biodiesel and where are we at right now with that?

Jay Stephenson:

Yeah, biodiesel is fascinating. So biodiesel inherently for those that have been around a while, it’s not new. Biodiesels have been around a long time. They’ve become a little bit more prevalent in the last couple decades.

Part of the reason for the use of that is obviously we’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint as a globe as humanity, and so this is a fuel source that helps with some of that, but it does bring some challenges about, and that bio word too biofuels, it’s a little bit of a loaded term because there’s a couple of different things sort of in that space as well.

Maybe we’ll touch on renewable diesel in just a second, but as you think true biodiesel, part of the challenge that comes along with biodiesel is that it’s largely unregulated. There’s a lot of variety of the quality and consistency of those fuels out in the marketplace today, globally, as you think about how those fuels are made.

So FAME fuels fatty acid methyl ester fuels, you’ve got a lot of variety of feedstock. So some of that organic content can come from plants, some of that can come from animal fats, and so there’s just a wide variety of different ways that those fuels can be put together.

And so as a result, it’s very, very difficult for filtration companies like Atmos, making our Fleetguard products as well as other people in the industry to really get a concise handle on how to manage those fuels. They all behave a little differently.

They’ve all got a little different quality and character traits to them. And so as far as what you use, it can have a very differing effect of how it’s going to affect the filtration on the engine. The other thing about biofuel is biofuel inherently is very much likes water. So there’s already water content in ultralow sulfur diesel fuel that we have to deal with, but bio really likes water to the point that it’ll even absorb water moisture out of ambient air.

So it creates a lot of issues, especially if your fleets running in colder temperature climates during winter of in your neck of the woods for sure, right? Biofuels tend to not perform very well in those environments. And the third challenging part of biofuel is the contaminant itself beyond water actually is very different.

So when you think about ultra-low sulfur diesel that we talked about earlier, a lot of very fine particles, kind of spine abrasive particles, kind of hard particles. That’s what we typically see in traditional diesel fuel. With biofuels what we’ve been experiencing with our fleet customers in the field is a lot more soft contaminants, so kind of gels and soaps, if you’ve ever heard of those things or seen those things.

It’s really a chemical byproduct of biofuel interacting with the fuel system. So at high temperatures, high pressures, they’ll actually generate these soft contaminants that create plugging issues, premature plugging issues on fuel filters.

So I’m not here to say that bios is bad or anything, but it does present its challenges.

If you’ve seen anything in the news about renewable diesel, that is a technology that’s come around a little more recently that actually uses similar feed stocks, but the processing of it is a little different for the end result product, and so it kind of works as a biofuel, but it actually doesn’t really have a lot of the negative side effects that come along with biodiesel, so seems to be more of an adoption of renewable diesel.

I just read an article the other day that there’s more infrastructure being built even here in North America for producing renewable diesel.

So that seems to be more of where things are trending, where biofuels, traditional biodiesel is dropping off. Renewable diesel seems to be the way of the future, and it’s not giving us maybe some of those negative side effects we see with biodiesel.

Jamie Irvine:

Right so what I’m taking away from that is like when you’re specking a truck or a trailer for the vocation, you have to work with your manufacturers and suppliers to set that up for success.

It sounds like when it comes to fuel, you’ve got choices to make and certainly one of the choices you need to make is a high performance filtration system that really will meet your needs based on what you’re doing. So that’s a great takeaway. You mentioned contamination before in the fuel system. Let’s talk about some of the other systems.

So let’s talk about how the air intake system on a diesel engine can impacted if we make a poor decision with filtration and the role that contamination can have in damaging our engine.

Jay Stephenson:

When I think air filtration, one of the big things that comes to mind just from a practical perspective is reminding people how an air filter works.

So when air filter actually tends to become more efficient through the course of its life until it starts reaching that point at which it’s becoming too restricted and then we need to replace it. And so that’s traditionally been a little bit of a guessing game for many fleets.

A lot of times when I’ve gone in and talked with fleet customers or gone into shops and say, Hey, how do you guys, do you change your air filters? Or how do you know when to change them? A lot of folks are just changing ’em on a set interval, Hey, we change these filters every six months, or we take the filter out and look and it looks dirty, and so we change it.

Really both of those ways are not very good ways to determine when to change your air filter. If again, if we understand how an air filter works, it’s actually becoming more efficient through the course of its life right up until it isn’t. So if we’re just changing it every six months, we’re really guessing we might be changing the air filter too soon.

We might be changing the air filter too late, and both of those can have negative consequences for you as a business, you you’re going to be spending more money on air filters if you’re changing ’em too often and actually probably introducing more dust into the system if we’re changing it too often, we’re changing it too late and then we’re causing that engine to have to work harder.

So we’re going to see fuel economy drop off, all those kinds of things. So that’s a little bit of a guessing game.

And then as far as visual inspection, if we’re just looking at the air filter and it looks dirty, really doesn’t tell us anything, right? I mean, it could actually have quite a bit of life left and we’re just throwing away a good air filter.

I guarantee many of the fleets out there are probably throwing away good air filters every week on their trucks. So the use of a restriction gauge is really what you want to use. We’ve got some solutions that make that even a little bit better.

If you want to go look on fleetguard.com, we’ve got an LED restriction gauge that makes it just a very quick visual changes color based on the restriction of the filter. And so that’s a nice easy tool to make that service event, I guess most streamlined. You really get every last drop of life out of the filter before you need to replace it.

But that’s a good takeaway for me I think on air filters. The other thing I would mention is cleaning. It’s a little taboo maybe to talk about that. We know what goes on in the marketplace. A lot of fleets take their air filters out, they blow them out with compressed air hoses.

Hopefully they don’t do this too often, but we know people will beat it on the ground or knock it on the side of a tire trying to knock the dirt out of it. It’s really not advised and not just Fleetguard, but other filtration manufacturers would say the same thing.

We don’t recommend cleaning air filters, and it’s not because we just want to sell more air filters. It’s because you actually have a really good chance of damaging the filter. Air filters, Jamie, right? They’re made of cellulose paper. It’s paper media. I don’t know about you, but I can tear paper pretty easily.

I’m not a super strong guy, but I can tear paper pretty easily, and all you have to do is create a pinhole in that air filter and now that path of least resistance has been created, and that’s exactly where dust is going to bypass and go through the system.

So again, that’s in your best interest as a fleet. Don’t clean your air filters. It’s really not recommended. You really just want to replace with new at the time that you need to replace it.

Jamie Irvine:

I hope you’re enjoying our interview with Jay Stephenson from Fleetguard. We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.

Are you deferring maintenance because of filter cost or availability or worse yet, are you trading down to no name filters to try to save a few bucks? Either way, you are rolling the dice. The good news, there’s a new premium filter option for fleets Hengst Filtration.

If you’re responsible for a fleet, you won’t believe how much using Hengst Filters will save you, but you’ve got to go to heavydutypartsreport.com/hengst to find out more. That’s heavydutypartsreport.com/hengst. Head there now.

At Diesel Laptops, they go way beyond diagnostic tools. They are your complete shop efficiency partner from diesel technician training to complete repair information, parts lookup tools and robust technical support. They are there to support you every step of the way. Learn more and download your free starter pack today by visiting diesellaptops.com. That’s diesellaptops.com.

We’re back from our break, and just before we get back into our featured guest interview with Jay Stephenson from Fleetguard, I wanted to mention that we are looking for forward-thinking parts distributors to join a special beta program. If you are interested in this, this is exclusively for listeners of The Heavy Duty Parts Report.

So if you want to provide your customers with parts visibility that has never been achieved before in the heavy-duty parts industry and you want to dramatically reduce the number of phone calls your parts counter has to take every single day, reach out to us to talk about whether or not you would be a good candidate and a good fit for our beta program.

So to do that, head over to heavydutypartsreport.com/jamie, links are in the show notes of our website.

So if you want to check that out, you can either just type in heavy-duty parts report.com/jamie, that’s going to take you right through to my calendar and you can book a meeting with me. Or if you go to the show notes on our website, there’ll be a link there that you can just click and it’ll take you right through.

Alright, let’s get back to our interview with Jay Stephenson from Fleetguard. So let’s talk now about the fluid systems. We already talked about fuel. Talk to me about engine oil and contamination and then we’ll move on to hydraulics, but let’s just focus on oil right now.

Jay Stephenson:

Sure. Yeah. So from a lubricant’s perspective, this is another area that’s quite a bit over recent years because of the advancements of lubricants technology in general.

So all of these changes, these step changes that kind of come along as we go through these emission cycles through the various OEMs building their new engine platforms. Well, just like the filtration has changed alongside those engines, obviously the fluids have too. And so the lubricant technology has gotten dramatically better.

So 2017 was kind of the current classification we’re in today from the API American Petroleum Institute and those CK4 and FA 4 oils, they were a significant jump in technology from the outgoing category where we would see oil degradation with the previous category caused by that oxidation process, which that’s really your limiting factor of oil life.

These newer oils, they’re about 60% better at resisting that oxidation process than the previous category, and we’re not that far out from the next oil category 2027 coming around, and I expect that jump to happen again where these oils are going to get a lot better.

So how does that impact filtration? Well, from a lube filtration perspective, you want to have a lube filter that is high quality, it’s going to keep that oil clean, but ultimately the lubricant you use is really going to have the greatest effect.

I would say this is another instance where if you can use the best quality lubricant possible for your engine, that’s going to really help you extend those service intervals, see the best possible, really optimizing that fuel economy with that engine because that’s what these engines are designed for. We’re just going to go grab the cheapest oil we can find.

Probably not going to give you the same benefit that a oil’s going to break down more quickly. So the quality of the lubricant has a big impact on the filtration. If we use a really high quality lube oil, that’s going to pair really well with a newer type of lube filter for today’s engines.

Most of the OEMs are really interested in creating extended service interval capability, and I know it really varies fleet to fleet. Some fleets don’t really have an interest in seeing extended service intervals.

Some do, some really want to push that interval out 60, 70, 80,000 miles depending on what the OEM recommends, but making sure you have a lube filter that’s designed for those extended service intervals is really important. If you just go grab a cheap oil filter and you want to run 80,000 miles, those two things may not pair well together. So some things to keep in mind from the lube system.

Jamie Irvine:

What about reverse compatibility? So I know in the 2017 change and as I was switching fleets over, they were worried about this. I say, look, I have a mixed fleet, I have new equipment, I’ve got older equipment. And we said, don’t worry, this new product that’s coming out is reverse compatible. With filters is that a thing or is it really by part number by engine year? And then that’s as long as you follow that information, you’ve got the right filter.

Jay Stephenson:

Yeah, I know generally from our perspective, especially as we’ve been OEM on Cummins engines forever, basically we do play that backwards compatibility game. So as you think about a 2024 engine and the lube filter that comes on that if you want to consolidate your inventory and move to maybe a single part number, if you’ve got a range of engine platforms that go back in time, generally they’re pretty backwards compatible.

That’s not typically too much of an issue. On the lube side of things, you’re really not going after fine particles the same way you are with fuel. So it’s really just about having a filter that is going to provide that kind of low flow restriction.

So we get the oil flowing through it pretty easily, and then obviously having the capacity is that oil hopefully starts to degrade down the road that that filter is going to be able to kind of manage that contaminate well. But yeah, backwards compatibility generally is acceptable on the lube side of things for sure.

Jamie Irvine:

Okay, so let’s talk about hydraulic systems. They differ from engine oil, the air system obviously. Talk to me about some of those differences and what are the best practices to avoid contamination in those systems?

Tell you, as someone who used to remanufacture hydraulic components and we would sell products and then we would get these warranty claims and almost all the time it came back to a contamination issue. So what can people do there?

Jay Stephenson:

And as you think about each of these systems, they kind of have unique things about them. I would say the hydraulic system is really more similarly tied to the fuel system. Think about the way they operate very high pressures.

You’re going after very fine particles. And so a lot of the same concerns we’d have on a high pressure common rail fuel system, we kind of have those same concerns on a hydraulic system. We want to make sure we’re using really high efficiency filters that are going to be able to go after those really fine particles.

So we’re not probably going to spend much time today talking about micron ratings and beta ratios and things like that, but when you get into the hydraulic world, those things become very important. And so making sure you’re specking that system with a filter that meets that performance rating of being able to remove those very fine particles, that becomes really critical.

Those systems, they don’t really tolerate contamination much better than a fuel system. So that’s very important, right? Again, you don’t want to skimp on the products you’re putting on those systems. Hydraulic systems, as you probably well know, those can be pretty complicated. And repairing those systems is not a simple fix.

Like sometimes hard engine parts where you can go in and just get a tech on there and working at it and fix it relatively quickly. I mean, you can swing an engine pretty quickly. Some of these hydraulic systems are pretty complex and they can take a lot longer and they can be very expensive to repair.

So this is again, one of those instances where just bite the bullet from the beginning, use a high quality premium product that’s going to really protect that system and you’re not going to have to deal with this stuff later on.

Jamie Irvine:

So the need to evolve filtration solutions has grown, I would say almost on an exponential level over let’s say the last 10 or 15 years. What steps has Fleetguard taken to make the product keep up with the needs of the innovation in the systems?

Jay Stephenson:

For us, we’ve had obviously a great benefit over our entire company’s history of being a part of Cummins up until very recently. And so being tied that closely to an engine OEM, we’re very early on in the process of these engine developments, new platform changes, and obviously we have other OEMs that we partner with today.

Really though for us, I think one of the main differentiators to our business and what has really set us on a path for success is our ability to manufacture media internally. So that’s a kind of unique thing in the marketplace. Most filter companies don’t make their own filter media. So the material that actually goes inside of a filter, of course media is what it’s all about.

We are media nerds here around fleet guard. That’s what really makes a filter perform and do its job. And so for the fact that we’ve been making our own media in-house since kind of the late 1980s, early 1990s, we’ve got a lot of experience in developing these technologies, really pioneering media technology.

And so the innovations that have happened in that space have really unlocked a lot of doors for us to give our customers really the best possible outcome as far as total cost of ownership. So not only the protection they get, but extending service intervals and really being able to tailor solutions specifically for their application.

So I’d say media is definitely one of the main areas that we’ve really innovated and they’re still innovating through time. We’ve gone from melt blowing technology in the late eighties, early 1990s, which we still do today to an electro spinning process.

Now we’re getting into a melt spinning process, and these are all proprietary processes that are pretty unique to our business, and so it really gives that competitive edge to our customer. I think the second thing though, where we’ve really innovated is bringing the telematics aspect, the digital connectivity aspect to filtration.

Historically, you’d go put a filter on an engine and you have no idea what’s happening with that filter until there’s a problem, right? Until something happens, like we mentioned at the beginning until that fuse pops, well now we’ve actually got capability for providing our customers, our fleet customers with real time insights into what their filters and their oil is actually doing on the engine at any given minute.

So for a fleet that has a truck down the road, we can alert them the moment we see their oil break through a parameter where it’s not supposed to be.

We see some sort of abnormality. We can tell that customer right off the bat, hey, something’s happening, something’s not right with your truck. You really need to either shut that truck down or get it to a terminal, get it to a repair place as quick as possible. That way they can avoid that catastrophic engine failure.

So this is kind of a space we’ve been in for a little while. People may not be aware of that, but this is kind of the future as you think of filtration, information is power, and the more data and information we can put in the hand of the customer to let them make better decisions, ultimately that’s going to help them run their business better.

Jamie Irvine:

So give me an example of where all of this has come together to really support a customer. Tell me the story of the situation they were in and how you were able to deploy all of these solutions on their behalf and make a real economic impact in their business.

Jay Stephenson:

So a couple examples come to mind. We’ve got one, this kind of ties maybe back a little bit more with the biofuel discussion, but we had a large OEM customer with fleet, large fleet customers all over the world operating different continents, and they were having a lot of premature plugging issues with their stage one, their fuel water separator filter on their trucks.

And this was a global problem. It was happening on every continent. They were running vehicles and it was happening with biofuel. So back to the biofuel discussion, and they were trying to figure out, okay, why is this happening?

These filters are rated to go about 90,000 miles and they’re plugging at about 20,000 miles or 30,000 miles. What’s happening, right? I mean, think about the cost of that to your fleet if you’re having to stop that truck two or three or four times as often as you thought you were going to because the filter’s plugging.

And so what we were able to do is we were able to partner with the customer, they were actually using somebody else’s filtration. We were able to partner with this OEM and really dig into the science of it, kind of take our filtration science approach to the situation.

And what we learned is that through those biofuels, actually the fuel system for this particular engine OEM, it was creating this perfect storm where it was actually cooking the fuel in the fuel system, these biofuels, and it was creating these carboxylates, these kind of soaps, these gel-like contaminants, which immediately would run in and plug that stage one filter up and cause short life.

So what we did is we kind of went back to the drawing board and we looked at the product they were using, we took what we know about making filter media, and we were actually able to recreate those soft gel contaminants in a laboratory setting that matched up fingerprint DNA kind of thing to what we were seeing in the real world.

And then we went back to our media manufacturing capabilities. And because we make this stuff in-house, we were able to pair and match layers up and work on a solution that was going to not only capture the contaminant better than it was before, but extend that life out longer than what they were seeing.

So we were able to go back to the OEM with their fleet customers and really give them a solution that was better than what they had before and helping ’em kind of solve that premature plugging issue. So maybe an example on the Fit side of things, Fit is our filtration intelligence technology.

So this is our telematics for engine consumables large refuse customer here in North America. They operate all over the US and Canada, nationally, internationally, a large refuse fleet. And they were experiencing pretty widespread issues with oil cooler failures.

So of course, again, huge cost to the business have to get those things fixed. You got downtime, you got unhappy drivers, unhappy, everybody involved. And so we were able to partner with them using our telematics system, and we were able to basically get quite a few of their vehicles outfitted with these sensors.

And so what it was doing is measuring the oil quality in real time. And as soon as we started seeing any of these abnormalities happening, we were able to flag that for the fleet, tell ’em, hey, this particular truck we’re starting to see abnormalities in the oil.

They would shut the truck down, they would actually take an oil sample, send it off to the lab, and it was confirming, hey, you’re getting potassium, you’re getting sodium, you’re getting molybdenum, and that is a dead giveaway that you’ve got coolant getting in the lube system.

And so for them, this has been a huge game changer to their business where they were just waiting for things to fail. Now we’re telling them, hey, something’s going wrong here.

They can actually get the truck in for service, replace the oil cooler, replace the parts that have been affected before, catastrophic engine failure. So that’s made them very happy. This is still an ongoing thing we’re doing with that particular fleet, and it’s really changed the way they think about maintenance.

Jamie Irvine:

So Jay, you’ve given us a mini masterclass on filtration today. What’s one thing that you want people to remember from today’s conversation?

Jay Stephenson:

Yeah, I think back to, I’m using your catchphrase and I apologize for doing that, but back to this race at the bottom, engine technology is just going to continue to get more and more complicated for folks again that have been around the industry any length of time, you’ve seen these changes happening and it’s going to continue to happen. And so you really want to make sure you’re taking care of the system the proper way.

Use the OEM product, use a high quality premium product in the event you’re not using the OEM, you want to really avoid that race to the bottom. And I’d say largely the other thing you’d want to do is really partner with a filtration company that is going to be able to dig into the filtration science and really help you understand your problems.

Because as all these complexities come about, inherently there’s a lot of nuance and it’s not, it’s just going and grabbing that off the shelf filter technology that worked 20 years ago, that’s probably not going to fare too well for you.

So being able to partner with somebody that can really bring the technology, bring the innovation, bring that experience, and know-how to the conversation, if they’re going to be able to tailor a product for you that’s going to give you what you want and really give you the benefit that you need for your business and maintaining that fleet.

So tailor made solutions are going to go a lot better than just going with what you learned on 20 or 30 years ago.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine, and we’ve been speaking with Jay Stephenson, North American training leader at Fleetguard, a brand of Atmos Filtration Technologies. To learn more about Fleetguard, go to fleetguard.com. Links are in the show notes.

Jay, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience and expertise today. Really appreciated that conversation, and thank you for being on The Heavy Duty Parts Report.

Jay Stephenson:

Yeah, thank you, Jamie. It was a blast. Appreciate it.

Jamie Irvine:

I hope you enjoyed our interview with Jay Stephenson from Fleetguard. Make sure you go and check them out. As I mentioned, links are in the show notes to take you right through to their website. I wanted to conclude today’s episode with our segment that’s not heavy duty in this edition of That’s Not Heavy Duty.

I wanted to talk about how when we were going through Covid, if you remember, everyone was frazzled and some people were scared, and many workplaces who were still open for essential services had to put up signs that said something along the lines of abuse will not be tolerated. Now, one quick search on YouTube, and you will come up with hundreds of videos of people freaking out at businesses, which really illustrate the point.

There’s usually a lot of bad language in those, so I can’t exactly put them in the podcast, but if you do that YouTube search, I’m sure you’ll find examples of what I’m talking about.

Now years ago, there was an old adage in business that the customer was always right, however, this has proved to just not be the case. And when I was running my contracting business, I know that we encountered from time to time upset customers. I’ll tell you one quick story.

My crew was working on a commercial building and there was also a townhouse that we had to do, so it had residents in it. And this one resident of the townhouse became very, very upset about water from the pressure washers getting on his plastic deck furniture, that’s right, exterior plastic deck furniture designed to be outside in the rain.

And he was freaking out about us getting water on it when we were pressure washing around his unit. What he did is he came out and he unhooked the water from one of the power washers causing the pump to burn out, and it caused hundreds of dollars and it created a huge problem.

And I remember thinking at that time, because I wasn’t on the site, when I got the call, I remember thinking like, what did my guys do to make this guy so angry? And when I heard the whole story, I just realized that this individual was just completely unreasonable. And despite him being a customer, he was definitely not in the right.

So what I learned from this is when my employees told me that a customer was being unreasonable, I really had to take the time to investigate, to find out exactly what was going on and to really evaluate the situation case by case.

If we did something wrong, it was really important to apologize, come up with a plan to fix the problem immediately. But in cases like this where it was completely unreasonable, it was definitely important that I backed my employees up. And over time we developed a strategy when we identified these kinds of customers.

We actually sent them to our competition, and I just had no use for dealing with people that were going to be so unreasonable. And so over time, we developed an ideal customer profile, and not only were we looking at certain demographics and psychographics, we were looking at the behavior that made them a truly great customer that fit into our culture and what we did. In essence, we filtered out the bad customers.

And I really think when you’re running a heavy duty business, whether you’re strictly on the parts side, even if it’s manufacturing or distribution, if you’re working on the parts and service side, you’re encountering a large group of customers that maybe span over several different verticals.

And within that, there is an ideal customer profile that you should be looking for. And you should be filtering out customers that don’t pay, that are abusive to your staff, and all of those kinds of things that these unreasonable types of people do to your employees.

When you step up as the leader of the company and you filter those kinds of customers out, then you are really doing a lot to improve morale. You’re showing your employees that you stand behind them and that you will not tolerate that kind of contamination in your business.

So when you think about being heavy duty, I want you to think about being willing to stand up for your people, doing what’s right and not tolerating that kind of abusive treatment from anybody.

And I personally know a lot of heavy-duty people who take no guff from anybody, and I know that that is the heavy-duty way. Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode of The Heavy Duty Parts Report. We couldn’t do any of this without your support. I wanted to just encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, head over to heavydutypartsreport.com.

Click the follow button so that you can sign up to our weekly email. We only send out one email a week so you never miss out on our content. Also, if you are listening on the podcast player of your choice, if it gives you the option to follow and to give us a five star rating and review, we really would appreciate it. We’ve heard that this will help us expand our reach. At the very least, make sure you hit that follow button.

And if you’d like to watch the video version and you’re on our YouTube channel, hit that subscribe button and the bell notification. So once again, you don’t miss out on any of our content. Thank you again for listening, and as always, I want to encourage you to Be Heavy Duty.

Share this:


Receive a weekly email with links to the latest episodes.

You Won’t Believe How Much You Will Save.

Your Complete Shop Efficiency Partner.

Provide Your Customers with Complete Parts Visibility.

The Heart of the Independent Parts and Service Channel.

Your Ultimate Destination for Heavy-Duty Parts.