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AltoGas

ELIMINATING DIESEL DOWNTIME

Michigan propane marketer, AltoGas, keeps one crane truck at each of its five plants to transport and install propane tanks, a key part of ensuring its customers are continually served during the winter months. But in over a decade of using diesel-powered crane trucks, AltoGas was averaging three to six months of downtime per vehicle during those high-demand periods.

MARKETER COMPANY PROFILE

AltoGas is a family-owned business that has supplied residents, farmers, and businesses of south-central Michigan with propane for over 30 years. Based in Alto, Michigan, the company has bulk plants in Alto, Charlotte, Edmore, Zeeland, and Benton Harbor.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM SCOTT UNDERWOOD, OPERATIONS MANAGER, ALTOGAS

1. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GOOD, LOCAL MAINTENANCE CONTACTS, OR PUT IN THE TIME TO BUILD THOSE CONTACTS.

One of the main obstacles AltoGas found in incorporating propane autogas into its fleet was getting maintenance technicians on board with the fuel. It was one of the reasons the company started with propane autogas bi-fuel vehicles versus dedicated systems. By flipping the switch to run gasoline-only, technicians could see that the vehicles are actually very similar to the vehicles they knew.

2. RESEARCH VEHICLE AND FUEL SYSTEM SPECS TO ENSURE TOP PERFORMANCE.

With local maintenance technicians educated and eager to learn more about propane autogas, AltoGas plans to incorporate dedicated propane autogas vehicles into its fleet, starting with its bobtails. The company is researching chassis and fuel systems that not only help it move toward that goal, but also remove several pain points it experienced with diesel. The company’s diesel-powered bobtails were built on a heavy-duty, over-the-road chassis with a large tank. The vehicles’ weight and height had actually caused damage to some customers’ driveways and trees. Additionally, the heavier bobtail tanks were too large for the company’s needs. To find a solution, the company is considering a propane-powered bobtail that will also ensure optimal performance and keep routes adequately supplied.

3. SHARE YOUR SUCCESSES.

In addition to incorporating propane autogas into AltoGas’s daily operations, Underwood is chairman of alternative fuels on the Michigan Propane Gas Association’s board, which has helped share news of the fleet’s success and benefits across the state. Seeing propane autogas vehicles around town also led the company to add several new propane autogas customers, including the city of Charlotte, Charlotte Public Schools, and Eaton County. By May 2019, demand was great enough that AltoGas built a 24/7 accessible public refueling station.

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