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Castrol survey shows uncertainty about oil top up

  • 24 August 2007
  • By Roanna Avison

Driver knowledge about oil and whose responsibility it is to top up a truck between services is not something that any fleet manager should take for granted. Research from oil manufacturer Castrol shows that opinions are mixed and that some driver education may be called for. Laura Johnson, heavy-duty lubricants marketing manager for the UK and Ireland at Castrol, explains: “We spoke to the drivers because we wanted to get the real picture, which will give us the information to start top-up conversations with fleet managers.”

She adds that most trucks will consume just over a litre of oil a week and failure to top up will cause damage to the engine and reduce efficiency because when the oil is low the what’s left in the sump has to work harder. She adds: “Leaving the oil until the light comes on will not only mean that engine damage has already occurred, but means the driver have to take time to get the oil, either form the depot or a petrol station or wait for a breakdown service to arrive and that takes time which eats into the time the truck is available for work.”

Johnson stresses the importance of using the right type of oil, particularly as Euro-4/5 engines require different oil to older models .However, Castrol’s research indicated that most drivers did not even know the Euro standard of their vehicles so they would have no chance of choosing the right lubricant.

Vehicle checks

Judging by this survey 39% of drivers believe checking the engine oil level is a top priority before setting off on a journey, along with checks on tyre pressure (36%), tyre tread depth (13%), bulbs (8%), windscreen washer level (2%) and engine coolant level (1%). However, only 68% of drivers admit to actually making those daily checks on engine oil 65% check their bulbs 60% look at tyre pressure 60% check engine coolant 58% check the windscreen washer reservoir and 51% check tyre-tread depth (see graph).

These figures suggest that Vosa’s system of roadside checks tend to keep British drivers on their toes – in Ireland, which lacks these checks, 28% of drivers check their oil 23% check the bulbs 24% check tyre pressure 19% check engine coolant 16% check the windscreen washer reservoir and 17% check their tyres before setting off. Johnson says: “In Ireland it’s normal for a driver to check to vehicle once a week, where most UK drivers will check their truck daily.”

Servicing and repair

The research indicates that 42% of UK trucks are serviced in-house, which is close to the Irish figure of 45%. Johnson says that if an operator is servicing his own vehicles it is easier to get the right-top lubes: “If the truck goes out to a dealer or independent workshop to be serviced it is more difficult for the fleet manager to choose the right oil.” In the UK 42% of trucks are serviced by a franchised dealers compared with and 20% of Irish trucks the remainder are looked after by independent workshops.

Topping up

About 30% of drivers carry oil in their cabs, but in both the UK and Ireland 20% have car oil. In the UK 54% carry truck oil and 26% don’t know, while in Ireland 63% have truck oil and 17% don’t know. Johnson warns: “While some oil is better than no oil, car oil is not designed to be used in trucks.” Of the 312 UK drivers interviewed 54% had never topped up a truck, compared with 29% among Irish drivers.

Despite this, and the fact that most drivers were unsure of their engine’s Euro spec, 80% of UK drivers and 96% of Irish drivers claim they would know what engine oil to buy, even if it was not already in their truck. However, only 6% of drivers in the UK and 33% in Ireland buy oil themselves. Knowing when to top up is a key task for a driver. Castrol’s research shows that 61% of UK drivers and 77% of Irish drivers top up after an oil check but 46% in the UK and 53% in Ireland are willing to wait until the oil light comes on.


While daily vehicle checks are down to the driver, 41% (UK) and 53% (Ireland) believe this is not the case and believe the fleet manager should make these checks. Similarly, 43% in the UK and 50% in Ireland believe it is the company’s responsibility to top up the vehicle with oil, rather than something the driver should do.

UK driver profile

  • 86% are full-time employees
  • 5% are owner-drivers
  • 9% are temporary or part-time.
  • 52% have had their current jobfor over five years
  • 12% for four years
  • 13% for three years
  • 11% for two years
  • 12% for one year


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