Truck Fleet Prefers Bi-Fuel Propane System
July 2015, by Amy Winter
As gas and diesel prices climbed to $4 per gallon, Shawn Still started looking at alternative fuel options for his truck fleet.
“We have a lot of heavy trucks and were getting massacred on fuel costs,” said Still, general manager of Olympic Pool Plastering, a pool renovation and plastering company located near Atlanta. After researching alternative fuels, Still found Force 911, a local certified installer for aftermarket bi-fuel propane systems. Force 911 installs Prins bi-fuel engines from Alliance Auto Gas.
“Force 911 showed us the fuel savings with a bi-fuel engine for a small truck like an F-150,” said Still. “We then started converting some of our F-150 and F-250 trucks.”
But up until three months ago, Force 911’s bi-fuel conversions were limited to smaller trucks. To convert the company’s larger trucks (F-450s, F-550s) to propane, Still purchased new trucks from Ford and then Roush installed the dedicated-propane systems in Detroit. Currently, Olympic Pool Plastering’s fleet has switched 14 of its 35 trucks to propane. The other trucks were either not eligible for conversion — either due to age or had diesel engines.
“Overall, switching to propane has been a fantastic move for us,” said Still. “I don’t regret doing it.”
There are both pros and cons to the different propane systems, but for Still the bi-fuel engines have been a better choice for his fleet. In fact, because Force 911 can now install the bi-fuel engines on large trucks, Still is considering reverting some of his dedicated-propane trucks to bi-fuel systems.
“I wish that we had waited for bi-fuel engines for the bigger trucks, but we didn’t know when that was supposed to come,” said Still. “But now that it’s here, we are thinking of reverting some of our dedicated-propane trucks to bi-fuel engines. We have asked Ford how much it would cost to take the dedicated-propane systems off.”
For Still, the bi-fuel engine is a better choice for his fleet’s out-of-town work projects. With the crew trucks putting on 30,000 miles per year, many job sites are several hundred miles away. This can prove a problem when trying to find propane refueling stations along the route.
“Our drivers hate going out of town in one of our dedicated-propane trucks,” said Still. “They want to be able to do the job and come home the same day. We try to map out possible propane refueling stations on the routes, but sometimes these stations might not have enough propane to fill our trucks. At a small hardware store, we can wipe out all its available propane that it usually uses for refueling grills.”
The gasoline option in the bi-fuel system means the drivers will be able to get home if they run out of propane and can’t find a refueling station. “It’s nice being able to switch back to gasoline if the propane is all used on a trip.”
For local trips, Olympic Pool Plastering’s trucks can refuel at its on-site refueling station.