With nearly 100 in attendance, the first regional PQIA Lubricant Quality Summit on September 14th, in Wickliffe, Ohio, was deemed a success by attendees, speakers, supporters, and sponsors.
The theme of the PQIA Summit was “Taking it to the Streets” and by all indications, it hit its mark by raising awareness about the quality and integrity of lubricants in the market and shining a light on both good and bad motor oils, transmission fluids and other lubricants. Attendees said they valued the diversity of the program, the highly relevant presentations and expertise of the speakers, and the opportunity to network with others in the lubricants industry.
PQIA President Thomas Glenn opened the Summit, with discussion about the PQIA program and its mission to serve the consumer of lubricants by testing and reporting on the quality and integrity of lubricants in the marketplace. While Glenn’s presentation provided some shocking examples of poor-quality, engine-damaging motor oils and transmission fluids in the market, he emphasized that the test results for most of the lubricants examined by PQIA are consistent with their labeled claims. At the same time, however, Glenn pointed out that it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the basket and there are some off-spec, obsolete motor oils currently on the shelves that consumers should absolutely stay away from.
Below is a summary of the presentations that followed Glenn’s opening remarks and presentation:
Martin Birze, Regional Business Manager – Passenger Car Motor Oils, Lubrizol provided an insightful presentation about changing fuel injection methods, and the wider adoption of turbocharged, gasoline direct injection (T/GDI engines). Birze noted that these engines represent a significant portion of vehicles on the road today and their population will substantially increase in the coming years. To this, he added, industry specifications such as ILSAC are working to address the performance gaps; however, the time and complexity of gaining standard consensus across all stakeholders, and the development of new engine test methods remains a challenge.
Importantly, when asked how the use of some of the off-spec motor oils PQIA has seen in the market could impact the performance of T/GDI engines, Birze’s response was clear and rather easy to comprehend. He said that some of the off-spec passenger car motor oils PQIA showed as examples at the summit would likely result in rapid “catastrophic failure” of the T/GDI engines. Further, he added the failure would more than likely be seen as the piston(s) breaking into pieces. With that, PQIA points out that it will be increasingly important to get off-spec motor oils off the shelves and educate the motoring public about the importance of using the correct motor oils for their cars.
Ian Macpherson, Marketing Director ATF & Industrial, North America, Afton Chemical gave an excellent presentation about how fuel economy goals have and will continue to drive vehicle manufacturers to tailor and optimize automatic transmission designs across the industry. Because of this, Macpherson says, the aftermarket ATF industry is fraught with complexity, labeling and logistic challenges and opportunities. According to those in attendance, one of the big takeaways from Macpherson’s presentation is that significantly more effort can and should be made to help educate installers and consumers about the differences in ATFs, and that one size does not fit all when buying ATF.
Macpherson also provided information and insights about the recently-approved revisions to the National Conference on Weights and Measures’ (NCWM) Handbook 130. He pointed out that the revisions recognize the role of multi-vehicle ATFs in the service-fill market and will help to ensure labeling and performance claims are adequately substantiated.
The Keynote Speaker, Maura Schreier-Fleming, Principal of best@selling, gave a presentation focused on selling value over price in the lubricants business. Maura spoke to the challenges of selling on value, finding value to sell, and making it easier to sell value. In addition, she emphasized the importance of talking less and listening more in the sales process.
Shawn Whitacre, Staff Engineer, Engine Oil Technology, Chevron Lubricants presented an outstanding overview about the benefits of API CK-4 and API FA-4 Heavy-Duty Motor Oils and how they are enabling the Next Generation of Low Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Diesel Engines. Whitacre’s presentation started with the background and motivation for the new HDEO categories and was packed with information and insights about regulations, the costs and benefits of the standards, changes and trends in HDEO viscosity grades, shearing, engine durability, drain intervals and other issues critical to diesel engines and HDEO. Whitacre’s presentation concluded with a look at the road ahead with regards to improved fuel efficiency, off-highway demand, and opportunities to revisit performance requirements of current categories.
Ron Hayes, Director, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Division of Weights, Measures and Consumer Protection
Mr. Hayes has been a member of National Conference on Weights and Measures since 1984, and served as chairman in 2014-2015. He is a member, past chairman and currently vice-chair of the NCWM Fuels and Lubricants Subcommittee. He has been a member of ASTM International Committee D02 since 1985.
The presentation by Mr. Hayes started with an overview of the actions the State of Missouri Department of Agriculture, Division of Weights, Measures and Consumer Protection has, and continues to take to protect consumers in the areas of motor oil, automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and antifreeze. There was no doubt after hearing about the state’s program that the state of Missouri is a leader in protecting consumers from off-spec, improperly labeled lubricants.
The second part of Hayes’ presentation focused on Tractor Hydraulic Fluids (THF), a lubricant in high demand in the mid-west and other states with a large agriculture industry. Mr. Hayes’ discussion included some eye opening data about off-spec THFs in the market and obsolete “303” THF fluids. Importantly, Hayes noted that whereas THFs labeled as “303” are readily available in the market, they have been obsolete for over 40 years. Moreover, specifications for such fluids do not exist.
This subject was also addressed during the panel discussion later in the day. When taken together, Mr. Hayes’ presentation on THF and the panel discussion make it clear that farm tractors are at risk of damage due to the proliferation and use of “303” fluids.
Rob DeRubeis, the Program Manager Weights and Measures, Michigan Dept. of Agriculture & Rural Development provided an update on Weights and Measures Law Act 283.
For many attending the PQIA Summit, they say DeRubeis really drove the point home about the state of Michigan’s efforts to protect consumers from short measure/mislabeling motor oils when he showed a slide summarizing some of the Motor Oil cases his department has addressed. These include three criminal investigations, 22 warrants issued against four defendants, four felony convictions, and fines/restitution of $712,301. And for those who understand visuals better than words, DeRubeis displayed pictures of some of the off-spec motor oil products the department has tested. In PQIA’s view, to describe some of the motor oils DeRubeis showed as “ugly” would be too kind.
It should be noted that Michigan is also a state at the forefront to protect consumers from off-spec, improperly labeled and obsolete motor oils.
Doug Rathbun is the Bureau Chief for the Illinois Department of Agriculture Bureau of Weights & Measures
Cutting to the chase, Doug made it clear that the state of Illinois is going to get tougher on “bad” motor oil being sold to motorists in Illinois. Rathbun said this is an important consumer protection issue and the state’s inspectors will check for motor oil violations in the normal course of their everyday inspections. Further, they will continue to respond to specific consumer complaints. To this, he added that “Bad Oil” constitutes two different issues. One is motor oil not labeled per SAE’s guidelines. The second are motor oils labeled per SAE’s guidelines, but do not meet the purported specification.
The Petroleum Quality Institute of America has published several articles over the past few years about the number of off-spec motor oils it finds in the Illinois market (mostly in the Chicago region). To this, PQIA tips its hat to Doug Rathbun and his team for taking action to address the issues. Glenn says PQIA is seeing positive changes in the Illinois market and remains hopeful that we will see a continued reduction of “bad” motor oils and transmission fluids in the state.
The summit concluded with a panel discussion. The panelists included Ron Hayes, Robert DeRubeis, Douglas Rathbun, and John Steigerwald, President, BECHEM Lubrication Technology and Former Chair of ILMA’s Ethics Committee.
John Stegierwald, representing ILMA, was invited to start the panel discussion by highlighting ILMA’s commitment to quality. In doing so, he noted that each ILMA member annually affirms its adherence to the Association’s enforceable Code of Ethics. Further, Steigerwald emphasized the importance of collaboration during the panel discussion and pointed to its presence on the panel as an example. In addition, he pointed out that ILMA is working closely with the NCWM to encourage regulations that eliminate obsolete motor oils and transmission fluids from the market.
Another important takeaway from the panel discussion is that we as an industry need to take a good hard look at the use of the terms “synthetic” and “synthetic blend.”
The next PQIA Lubricant Quality Summit will take place in the first quarter of 2018.