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Driver health alert

On Route magazine learns why Corteco has been talking about how workshops can make a positive difference to both driver health and fleet operating costs.

(First published by On Route 2 Feb 2016)

Workshops love to help operators to save money on their next maintenance invoices, but if it means trading trading down by extending the life of components that really should be changed, nobody really wins.

On Route says Corteco is telling distributors about an investment that could help operators reduce service and operating costs over a much longer term and help workshops to trade up at the same time. It’s a move that makes sound operating sense and helps satisfy the requirements of good workshop practice.

IMG_0926 - Version 3 all about a simple measure that might help reduce driver exposure to a range of airborne irritants on a daily basis – irritants that can trigger the exacerbation of certain respiratory issues such as asthma, for example. Given the cost of agency drivers and the disruption to delivery schedules that absenteeism can cause, driver health is an important consideration for every operator.

Driver health issues

The case for improving driver health by replacing the cabin filter on a more than once a year appears to be very strong. According to Corteco, medical experts say allergy sufferers are 30% more likely to be involved in accidents, while tests carried out by skin and allergy specialists show that without appropriate protection, the concentration of pollutants inside the cab can quickly build up to a position where it is six times higher than it is outside, at the kerbside. Meanwhile, evidence from studies into the causes of asthma show that spores of pollen can be removed from the air by a clean, fully functioning cabin filter.

IMG_0925 - Version 2 (1)Corteco is well placed to comment. It is the UK distributor of micronAir cabin filters manufactured by its parent company, the Freudenberg Group (one of the worlds leading manufacturers of OE cabin filters for the automotive market). The micronAir cabin filter range has part numbers available for most trucks on UK roads. References include the popular truck and bus marques from ERF, DAF, Iveco, Mercedes Benz, Renault, Scania and Volvo, plus those from the more specialist bus marques such as Van Hool, Dreiha and Neoplan.

So if air quality inside the cab can be significantly improved by more frequent replacement of the cabin filter, with the result that driver health does not decline, where are things going wrong?

Corteco sales and marketing manager Steve Jarnet says vehicle manufacturers recommend regular replacement and and most workshops will replace the cabin filter as part of the regular service routine, but that’s becomes a problem for many drivers:

“For most drivers, this means a new cabin filter just once a year. The problem for many drivers is that vehicle operating environments are not always the same. The driver of a tipper lorry that collects loads from a cement works is at risk from exposure to higher levels of dust than the delivery driver in a congested city centre. In turn, urban drivers are exposed to higher risks from road and traffic pollution than a colleague making deliveries along a rural stretch of road.”

Practical functions

A cabin filter protects the occupants of the cabin, but there are different types. As long as it conforms to OE standards, a ‘standard’ cabin filter does far more than remove pollen spores. It contains a medium of specialised hi-quality non-woven fabric that delivers the small particulate filtration power required to keep the inside air clean. A cabin filter with ‘activated carbon’ features the aforementioned medium, but delivers a more thorough kind of protection. It also protects occupants from odours and pollutant gases that can irritate those to sensitive to them. Once again, this only applies if it is designed and made to conform to OE quality tolerances.

Corteco points out that, while an over-used cabin filter cannot provide sufficient air quality control for drivers who spend all day in the cab, it can be particularly bad news for those using sleeper cabs who are sensitive to airborne irritants. There are vehicle maintenance issues too.

Detrimental to maintenance

Most modern fleets feature a high-performance heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) system where a cabin filter controls the quality of the air by removing harmful irritants. Clogged cabin filters reduce airflow and are much less efficient. Clogged filters mean that the HVAC must work harder. This implies that in order to maintain protection at the required level, a cabin filter installed in a vehicle operating in environments likely to include high levels of dust particles, in a quarry environment or on a building site for example, should be subject to a more frequent cabin filter replacement schedule.

The alternative is poorer quality air inside the cab and a declining performance of the HVAC Compromised demisting properties and consequent impaired visibility add greatly to driver safety risk. Moreover, clogged filters and overworked HVAC components, increase wear and raise the potential for premature HVAC component failure.

Corteco’s own sales figures show that the volume of oil and air filters installed on the same service replacement cycle easily outstrips the number of cabin filters sold.

That suggests cabin filters are, more often than not, ignored or replaced far less frequently. Dealerships dominate the cabin filter installation market and they fit far more cabin filters each year than workshops in the independent service sector.

It is likely that in the independent sector, in order to save operators money, the cabin filter is an item likely to be left unchanged for prolonged periods.

Faced with the prospect of losing more drivers through absence as a result of illness caused by allergy or respiratory conditions, it’s unlikely that the operators would agree. For fleet operators, replacing cabin filters on a more frequent basis would seem to be the most practical course. …ends

 


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