Go-Ahead Group, Optimum Oils & Q8, Leeds, UK

Optimum Oils, Q8Oils’ Strategic Partner for the UK bus and coach market, is supplying the vast mix of buses and locomotives in Go-Ahead Group’s UK operations with Q8 lubricants and Optimum antifreeze.

Optimum offers a second tier management service for specialist lubricants specified primarily by OEMs during the initial bus and locomotive warranty periods.

Optimum oils closely monitor the requirements for performance lubricants, which are driven by OEM’s specifications to ensure that where possible, Q8Oils’ grades not only meet but exceed the specification. The benefit to Go-Ahead is the “One Stop Shop Approach” that helps to reduce the number of suppliers Go-Ahead has to deal with, which in turn, makes Go-Ahead more efficient.

Frank Darch, Technical Support Manager for Go-Ahead London stresses the importance of not merely supplying lubricants and antifreeze at the right cost; but also ensuring that lubricant grades comply with the latest edition of the ever changing OEM specifications. He adds that drain periods in particular, are monitored closely in London’s aggressive transport environment where operational hours are predominant rather than kilometres travelled.

Based in Go-Ahead’s Merton office, Frank says the eighteen garages in south, south west, south east, and north London are responsible for servicing over 2,000 vehicles involving all major engines, gearboxes and axles and, as part of the service, identifying reasons for failures. This involves aspects such as oil monitoring and analysis. He writes the servicing requirements for all Go-Ahead bus types, which are numerous due to mergers, takeovers and acquisitions over the years. These documents are then passed to each of the garages to ensure that every vehicle in the Go-Ahead fleet is serviced to the same high standards and is signed off on a service check sheet. The service documents record and define the length of time that oils and lubricants for engines, gearboxes and axles stay in the units between services, to ensure that Go-Ahead achieves the best possible service life.

Says Frank: “We have used other suppliers and oils over the years but for the past nine years we have been very happy with the Optimum and Q8Oils strategic partnership.”

Optimum provides the most effective Q8 oil for each application, carries out monitoring and oil analysis regularly and recommends and carries out trials on new products where appropriate. They also help to ensure that Go-Ahead maintains the prescribed oil change intervals, especially in engines where optimising oil change intervals is vital to optimising engine life. Optimum and Q8Oils also provide updates on new products and arrange trails if they believe a new product will help to improve the performance of the Go-Ahead fleet. Says Frank: “We are currently running trials of a new grease specifically designed to repel water washout during chassis washes. It is typical of the way Go-Ahead and Optimum work very well together to get the absolute best out of the Q8 oils and lubricants, and in all the years we have been using Q8Oils products we have never had an issue, despite having engines that are twelve years old. I think that proves the efficiency of the Q8Oils products.”

Oil monitoring and analysis is one of the main services Optimum undertakes for Go-Ahead and from the data received the service intervals are worked out for each bus. This is a key function in the relationship and Frank believes it results in the excellent engine life Go-Ahead achieves for its fleet. Whilst engines themselves have changed dramatically in the 25 years since Frank began his job, and modern engines are now so good, he insists that they still need the best oils to keep them operating and in the best condition. Optimum will deal with specific issues within a garage or on an individual engine, gearbox or axle and this is where their service is vital, providing expertise and oil analysis to solve problems for the eighteen Go-Ahead garages. And as Frank explains: “Whilst oil has a finite life we rely on Optimum to give us the best advice and ensure that the technology within the Q8 oils we use, helps us achieve the best balance of performance and operational life.”

Go-Ahead is using Q8 T750 in most of its London garages and whilst all Go-Ahead buses are serviced every four weeks, oil change intervals for engines, gearboxes and axles/differentials are carried out to different schedules according to mileage, route, age, etc. Some gearboxes may need oil changes once or twice a year and others, especially the newer gearboxes, will have much longer intervals. But with so many different vehicles, operating schedules and routes, it is vital that schedules and the oil change intervals are strictly maintained.

In the Go-Ahead operation an annual oil change for 2,000 vehicles just isn’t an option so the service teams rely on their own experts, working with Optimum, to schedule when individual vehicles and even individual engines, gearboxes and axles, need oil changes. Because it is a partnership, Optimum work closely with Go-Ahead to decide as a team when oil changes need to be carried out.

What also influences the schedules are the significant variations in the routes and mileages of vehicles. Even within individual garages in London the differences are extraordinary. Whilst this is understandable with transmissions, for engines the hours they are actually running on their routes need to be monitored as well as mileage. The impact of all these factors can be identified during oil analysis programmes and the data received definitely helps Go-Ahead to achieve the very best from the Q8 oils, from their engines and transmissions and therefore, their vehicles. And it does work. The Go-Ahead quality system can interrogate individual vehicle schedules and the figures are impressive – some of the change intervals of the Q8 oils, especially on the more modern vehicles, are running for incredible intervals between oil changes.

With new vehicles, where engine and transmission life can now reach fifteen years and more, service intervals are initially determined by the warranty, but once that expires, oil analysis is undertaken to set benchmarks for future service intervals, dependant on performance during warranty and with input from Optimum .

Summing up, Frank Darch says “Everything we work on together is very focused and specific to achieving our needs, which is why the relationship with Optimum supplying Q8Oils is so successful and has lasted as long as it has.”