Fuel is the energy that drives any fleet. Fluctuations in fuel price can mean big changes in fleet operations. For businesses that run diesel fleets, DEF is equally as important as fuel, and managing DEF supply is equally as critical to successful operations as managing fuel supply.

To keep NOx emissions in check, most manufacturers have turned to Selective Catalytic Reduction systems that inject Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) into the exhaust to break down NOx into nitrogen and water. DEF is 32.5% urea and 67.5% de-ionized water. While simple, it’s a specialized fluid that, like diesel fuel and oil, isn’t just sitting around waiting to be scooped up and put into diesel vehicles. It needs to be manufactured, and is subject to the laws of supply and demand on both the manufacturing and consumer end.

Fuel is a more stable, measured commodity. DEF prices are predicted to fluctuate over the next few years as new diesel emissions standards are phased in. Analysts expect DEF consumption to surpass 1-billion gallons annually by the end of the next decade. This poses challenges for fuel retailers as well as fleet managers to manage their supplies so they stay consistent and consistently-priced.

On-road and off-road fleet managers face different challenges when managing DEF supply. For on-road fleets, management is simpler – they can rely on bulk tanks as well as truck stops, many of which now have dedicated DEF pumps. For off-road fleets, remote worksites mean dedicated tanks and pumps are not an option, so, for many customers partnering with a distribution partners such as Lube-Tech with the capacity to fill a variety of containers including jugs, totes and even tank trucks come into play. More important is keeping DEF and the dispensing equipment clean. Like the fuel system, DEF systems have precise mechanical parts and any dirt can cause malfunction or damage within the machine’s dispensing system.

DEF consumption is expected to increase as older equipment is phased out and fleets are pressed to meet emissions standards. Most important for on-road and off-road fleets is finding a partner who can supply DEF consistently and reliably. The DEF market is still evolving and navigating it with someone dedicated to your fleet’s best interests is key to successful long-term fleet fluid management.

DEF Checklist:

• DEF distributors such as Lube-Tech will insure your DEF solution is 32.5-percent urea. Among other things, this insures the solution stays consistent at all temperatures and offers optimal performance.

• Changing DEF filters is critical to keeping the system operating properly. Typical service interval for an on-road fleet application is 300,000-miles. Check service schedules for other applications.

• DEF systems can be flushed with distilled water to clean.

• DEF has a shelf life and storing at higher temperatures will shorten that life. Stored at temperatures below 80F it will safely last up to one year, above that its life can be as short as three months. DEF should be stored out of direct sunlight and away from contaminants. Optimum storage temperature is 77F. Avoid storing DEF at temperatures above 95F.

• DEF should have dedicated containers and dispensing equipment. You may notice a white powdery substance on DEF equipment. This is urea left over from DEF that has leaked out of dispensing equipment and evaporated. Use water to clean off any urea buildup so it does not end up in the fluid system as this can cause clogs.

• Getting quality DEF is key to keeping any system operating at its best. Poor quality DEF is equally as bad as a poorly-maintained system.