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, CEO and president 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 autogas systems. Force 911 installs Prins bi-fuel engines from Alliance AutoGas.
“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.”
Currently, Olympic Pool Plastering’s fleet has switched 14 of its 35 trucks to propane. The other trucks were not eligible for conversion — they were too old or they had diesel engines.
“Overall, switching to propane has been a fantastic move for us,” said Still, even though conventional fuel prices have moderated. “I don’t regret doing it.”
In terms of fuel savings, Still is paying $1.08 per gallon after applying a federal tax credit on propane fuel. And that price is locked in for a year.
Because propane is a cleaner burning fuel, the engines tend to last longer. Still says his trucks are running like new at 100,000 miles. “We are saving money on fuel, but the bigger benefit is the wear and tear on the engines,” said Still.
A consideration when fleeting up, Still selects a truck model type that Force 911 can convert to a bi-fuel system.
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 Ford trucks and then converted them to a dedicated propane system using another supplier.
For Still, the bi-fuel option 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 want to be able to do the job and come home the same day,” said Still. “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.”
For local trips, Olympic Pool Plastering’s trucks can refuel at its on-site propane refueling station.
Because of Olympic Pool Plastering’s close proximity to Force 911, the bi-fuel conversions have been more convenient for the fleet. According to Still, his trucks can be dropped off at a Force 911 location and the installation will be completed within a few days. Converting the dedicated-propane systems took longer because the conversions take place in Detroit.
“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.”
Still has even gone to his original supplier to see how much it would cost to take the dedicated-propane systems off.