If there’s one thing the last few months have shown us, it’s that business-as-usual can be uprooted without warning. Companies have been quick to research best practices, develop a new normal, and create strategies to remain resilient. No one is rolling over and giving up, but they are instead finding new solutions to these challenges.
For many food, beverage, and snack companies that offer direct-store delivery, the new challenge is adapting to increased demand at retail stores. These industries are moving faster than ever before, and productivity is more important than ever. In response to these challenges, many fleets are reevaluating their best practices and operational efficiencies, including their fuel choices, to develop ways to navigate this new normal.
It’s why now is an ideal time for fleets to learn from one another.
Recently, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has heard from several fleet managers asking if PERC has resources available to learn more about how propane autogas can benefit fleets during these tumultuous times. In response, PERC created a centralized collection of online learning resources. These resources provide an opportunity for fleets that are familiar with propane autogas, and even those that aren’t, to start their research into developing a new normal that can increase productivity and cost savings, while reducing emissions.
I’d like to kick off that research journey for direct-store delivery fleets by answering some of the top questions the Propane Council receives about propane autogas delivery vehicles.
How expensive is it to operate a fleet with propane autogas?
The cost of a propane autogas vehicle itself is typically slightly higher than comparable gasoline or diesel vehicles. But delivery fleet managers know the initial purchase price of the vehicle is only a drop in the bucket when you consider the lifetime costs. That’s where propane autogas can save businesses money.
With low fuel and maintenance costs, propane autogas provides bakery delivery fleets with the lowest total cost-of-ownership and a return on investment within 24 to 36 months—or less—with higher mileage vehicles, like those that are involved with direct-store delivery. The average fuel costs for propane autogas are 30 to 50 percent lower than diesel, and because propane autogas is a clean energy source, the engine will be less costly to maintain because it does not need the expensive exhaust aftertreatment needed on a diesel engine.
Fleet managers can also take advantage of several financial opportunities to transition to propane autogas, like the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit and other federal and state grants. Fleets should check with their area Clean Cities Coalition to learn more about what funding may be available where they live.
What is the availability of propane autogas?
Propane autogas is a domestically produced fuel. More than 60,000 miles of pipeline and thousands of fuel dealers make propane autogas readily available throughout the United States.
Fleets don’t have to worry about how they’ll receive fuel or refuel their propane autogas vehicles because there are a plethora of scalable and customizable refueling options, many of which can be easily adapted to any bakery fleets’ needs.
For direct-store delivery fleets that are returning to a distribution center daily or several times per day, fleet managers may prefer to install a customizable onsite refueling location. Fleets can oftentimes lease a propane tank, pump, motor, and dispenser from a propane retailer to keep costs low.
This refueling solution has worked well for Alpha Baking Company in Illinois. With an onsite station, drivers are able to easily refuel and get back on the road. Plus, the company was able to work with its propane supplier to ensure that whenever the propane tank hit 30 percent capacity, the supplier would deliver more fuel.
For fleets with limited space where a propane tank installation isn’t viable, public refueling stations, mobile refueling, and temporary refueling options are available.
What is the emissions profile of propane autogas vehicles?
Sustainability is an important value for many bakeries, and that shouldn’t stop at the door. Propane autogas vehicles can significantly reduce harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions compared to diesel. While the total amount of emissions reductions depends on factors like the engine, size, and class of the vehicle, I do want to highlight some of the noteworthy emissions reductions for propane autogas’s most popular delivery vehicle classes.
For class 4-7 vehicles, there are engine manufacturers that produce an ultra-low NOx propane autogas engine that is 90 percent cleaner than EPA standards, certified to the optional ultra-low NOx emissions standard as defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for heavy-duty engines with 0.02 grams per brake horsepower-hour, and is certified as near-zero emissions. In light-duty vehicles, propane autogas can reduce NOx emissions by up to 36 percent compared to diesel.
After transitioning 22 step vans to propane autogas, Alpha Baking Company reported it was able to cut emissions by 50 percent by switching from diesel to propane autogas. For every one of the 35,000 miles it drives weekly at a single location, the company is reducing emissions.
This is profoundly important because NOx emissions are a known trigger for issues like asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems. Lowering these emissions is not only beneficial for the community, but it’s especially significant to the health of drivers that are sitting in these vehicles all day.
These resources are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s available for fleets to start learning more. I encourage fleet owners to check out these resources at Propane.com/Autogas-Learning or reach out to me directly with any questions they have.