By Steve Whaley
For many years, alternative fueled vehicles, in particular, propane autogas, were often viewed as an aspirational goal rather than a priority. But as new emissions regulations have tightened and environmental concerns have been raised, alternative fuel vehicles, including propane autogas vehicles, have moved from a “trend” to a need. As a low-cost, low-carbon energy source, more and more fleet owners from coast-to-coast are transitioning to propane autogas.
The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) connected with a couple of these fleet owners to get a closer look at their experiences from learning about propane autogas to adopting it into their fleets.
McAbee Trucking, Inc.
McAbee Trucking, Inc. has been delivering mail for the United States Postal Service for nearly 50 years. In recent years, Lisa McAbee, owner of McAbee Trucking, Inc., made the decision to move into alternative fuels for her straight box truck fleet and leading the way on developing industry sustainability goals. While reducing emissions was a primary goal, McAbee also needed to ensure her fleet would maintain its impeccable reliability with customers and its on-time dispatch rating of over 99% by the USPS.
In 2019, McAbee connected with PERC to start learning about her options to convert her class 6 box trucks to propane autogas. McAbee worked with Roush CleanTech and a local Clean Cities Coalition to implement a demo vehicle program for one month. Within one week, McAbee started to notice a difference compared to her diesel fleet. The vehicles were quieter, easy to refuel, didn’t leave a strong odor, and were cleaner for the environment.
Before the end of the demo, McAbee placed an order for six vehicles. Over the next year, she kept in regular contact with the team to ensure the transition was smooth. Since 2021, McAbee Trucking is growing to 26 Ford F-750 propane autogas trucks in the fleet. So far, McAbee has experienced a 70 percent reduction in total ownership costs compared to diesel. Her drivers have commented how much they enjoy driving the propane autogas trucks instead of diesel because they don’t smell like diesel throughout the day. She’s also been able to maintain her on-time delivery rating without missing a beat. Best of all, McAbee is reducing harmful emissions throughout the Carolinas to provide a cleaner environment.
“As a business owner, I continually look for ways to add safety, improve day-to-day operations, advocate for environmental preservation, and save money,” said Lisa McAbee. “Our propane fleet vehicles accomplish all these goals. I want my legacy to be lowering my carbon footprint for my grandchildren so we can save our environment as quickly as possible. Propane autogas is the way to accomplish it.”
Broward County Transit
When deciding on the right energy solution for Florida’s Broward County Transit, Paul Strobis, the director of paratransit, had several factors to take into account. First, the vehicle range. With a 471 square-mile county, Broward County Transit provides more than 900,000 trips a year across 11.5 million miles. Second, the environment. Broward is nestled between the fragile Everglades and coral reefs, so the energy source had to reduce emissions. Finally, the cost. The energy solution couldn’t drive up the cost of achieving a high-volume, near-zero emissions fleet.
Strobis started researching and quickly found, the only energy source that could achieve all of these goals at once was propane autogas. To help make the case to the county, Strobis worked with PERC to gather the data he needed.
Broward County started with just transitioning a portion of its fleet and adding a few refueling stations. Strobis worked closely with his local propane supplier to determine the county’s refueling needs. Propane suppliers will work hand-in-hand with fleet owners to create a customizable refueling option.
After operating the initial vehicles, it became clear propane autogas was providing the cost, environmental, and operational benefits the county needed, and more adoptions were necessary. Today, more than 73 percent of the paratransit agency runs on propane autogas with more than 120 Ford E-450 DRW cutaways, 102 Ford transit cutaways, and 44 Ford Tauruses. The county also has six propane autogas fueling stations. One benefit of propane autogas infrastructure is that it’s designed to scale as a fleet grows, just as it did in Broward County.
“When you compare the types of infrastructure, this is the most cost-effective infrastructure you can have and it’s so mobile,” Strobis said. “It’s wonderful.”
From 2015-2022, Strobis estimates propane autogas saved the county nearly $13.4 million and reduced CO2 emissions by 11,975 metric tons. Additionally, Strobis is able to easily achieve over 300 miles per tank for each vehicle, allowing him to service the county without issue. All in all, propane autogas has risen to every challenge thrown his way.
McAbee and Strobis’s experiences are not unique. Many fleet owners that do their research by talking with PERC, OEMs, local propane suppliers, and their Clean Cities Coalition experience these same results: lower operating costs, cleaner emissions profile, and impeccable reliability. Propane autogas allows fleet owners to make a clean fleet a reality, not just an aspirational goal.
Fleet owners interested in learning more about propane autogas vehicles to visit Propane.com/Fleet-Vehicles.
Stephen Whaley is director of on-road business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.