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Penske Keeps Fleets Powering Through Winter Conditions

When heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures are in the forecast, schools and businesses are likely to close, resulting in a snow day for kids and adults everywhere – well, almost everywhere.


There are no snow days for Penske’s talented team of technicians and drivers. For them, their work takes on a whole new form.

With roughly 267,000 vehicles operating and receiving regular preventive maintenance across Penske’s leasing, rental and logistics business units, vehicle uptime is essential – especially during the coldest months of winter.

Prepping Vehicles for Harsh Weather

Proper fleet maintenance is crucial to making sure trucks are in tip-top shape when they face the harsh elements. Preventive maintenance (PM) happens throughout the year, but winter brings with it additional factors that require Penske technicians to be as, if not more, meticulous when maintaining Class 8 tractors.

“The typical, everyday checklist consists of testing the vehicles’ batteries, windshield wiper blades, tire conditions and fuel tanks,” said Bob Douglas, Penske’s vice president of field maintenance of the Northeast Region. “What we check for in the winter is what we do in every other preventive maintenance year-round. Our trucks could face all kinds of weather all across the country.”

Whether it’s a truck driving through snow in the Rocky Mountains or rain in the Pacific Northwest, technicians do their part to make sure each truck is carefully inspected and ready to go, especially in dropping temperatures.

Mike Hasinec, Penske’s vice president of maintenance systems and support, said that as part of the PM check, it’s critical that technicians check the engine block heaters and fuel water separators when outside temperatures take a dip. However, when roadways are icy and more snowfall is in the forecast, checking the vehicle’s tires is one of the first things they check before each vehicle takes the road.

“The tire tread thickness should be a minimum of 5/32 inches for winter driving,” Hasinec said. “Our drivers check the mud flaps regularly and ensure the tire chains are in proper condition.”

It’s What’s on the Inside that Counts

Just as freezing temperatures call for the proper inspections of the trucks’ outside parts, Penske’s maintenance technicians also pay close attention to what’s inside the truck, specifically the fuel filters. Drivers need to ensure they’re using fuel that has been properly winterized for the area.

Unlike most cars and trucks that take gasoline, Class 8 trucks take diesel. Diesel fuel acts differently than gasoline. It’s a middle distillate containing a wax known as paraffin, causing fuel to gel as it cools.

“Colder temperatures can be a problem for these types of trucks because they have saddle tanks with one line from each going into the engine, which can freeze,” said Ed Touma, Penske’s director of energy and fuel supply. “When that occurs, it can clog up a diesel fuel line and cause the trucks not to start.”

Engine failure can result from the filter freezing. To prevent this from happening, Penske pre-treats fuel with additives across hundreds of its locations in cold-weather areas to help prevent or limit gelling.

Penske uses three levels of treatment based on the average temperatures of the given region. This blend consists of fuel additives and kerosene to help keep the fuel in a liquid form at a lower temperature, also known as the cold filter plug point (CFPP), so it can pass through a filtration device.

“You want the CFPP to be lower than the outside temperature, so it doesn’t freeze,” Touma said. “All of our loading docks in northern locations have those additives available for our trucks, and our blending process goes on from November through March.”

There are many keys to keeping fleets in top condition through the winter months, and when the temperatures drop, Penske’s team continues to rise to the occasion.

Penske offers a variety of maintenance options to help keep your fleet and business moving in rain, sleet, shine or snow. We can customize a contract maintenance program to meet your specific fleet needs. For more information, contact one of our helpful maintenance experts, or call 1-844-376-4099 to learn how Penske can help you.

By Chris Abruzzo